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The Lure of Homesteading

June 17, 2013

Early in our nation’s history the lure of free land was used to entice people from the more settled eastern areas of the country to the western regions that needed development. Each Homestead Act promised what seemed like vast acreage to an Easterner, 640 acres was typical, but ended up offering a different reality in the parts of the country with reduced rainfall.whiskey_springs_cabin.Par.69782.Image.700.170.1

While no longer an offer of free land, homesteading has been through several cycles of popularity in my lifetime. In the 1970s, the “hippie” culture enticed people back to the earth and many farms, both collective or individual, were established in that era. Some still exist and are quite financially sound. Another round occurred about twenty years later when a significant crash in the Stock Market sent people back to gardens to supplement their food budget.homesteading

Recently there has been another strong trend to homesteading. Concerns about the economy, American culture and environmental issues as well as  climate change are reasons many believe require an effort to become more self sufficient.  People who consider themselves homesteaders may live in urban areas or rural countryside. They may be off the grid or using public utilities. They have a wide spectrum of political beliefs and only a small portion of them are “preppers”.

I met a homesteader through this blog.  After I write a blog I usually spend some time marketing it, the better for people around the world to understand what we are doing at The Wild Ramp. On one of those marketing efforts I discovered Karl and Jenny Hayden. Like me, Karl grew up in New Jersey but also escaped. His path lead him to Colorado which he enjoyed but over time the work he was doing was less and less enjoyable. In addition, he and Jenny started to have some gastro-intestinal issues and once they found out about how the food at the supermarket was full of chemicals, they changed their diet.

They finally decided the only way to really control what food they eat was to grow it themselves. Searching for a place to call home, they found some beautiful acreage in Vermont and welcomed us into their home last week. Located in the northeastern section of Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom is one where local food has always been the norm and so they are finding that they are welcomed by their neighbors and really enjoying processing through their learning curve.

Karl explains how they’ve been managing in his blog.http://littleyurtontheborderlands.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/a-year-in-a-yurt/ They had a well and septic field installed.  The land was readied for a 30 foot-diameter yurt which was amazingly roomy inside.  A wood stove and chimney had its challenges and they seemed to be ready for the winter.  (Additional insulation will compete that for next winter.) With a solar panel providing power, the kitchen not only has the wood stove but an electric oven/range, refrigerator, and freezer.  A section of the yurt is sectioned off for bathroom privacy.  The rest of the space is open between the living room, kitchen and eating space, and the bedroom.  A wall of bookcases provides some space dividers.  They have a lot of books!IMG_2177

Karl had just recently finished his hoop house and planted his first garden.  I offered my 2 cents (worth about that much) of info I have gleaned from all my many visits to other farms as we spoke about predators and heat control and other things I know not from my own experience. IMG_2179

I told him I can’t wait to visit again, if not each year that Sam is at University of Vermont, at least at graduation time. I know that the farm will look very different then.

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They recently added some egg layers and meat chickens to the homestead. At the time of our visit the young poults were inside boxes in the yurt, but the chicken house was the next on Karl’s list of things to build.  Karl hopes in time to add some dairy goats and put his cheese making skill to work at home.

I’m looking forward to reading more about their adventures.IMG_2181

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2013 7:52 pm

    my husband’s maternal side homestead here back in 1906. it’s what landed us in this area as we returned to his roots.

    • June 17, 2013 8:27 pm

      Homesteading is not a cushy lifestyle. It takes a lot of work to tame an area and make it productive.

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