Cutting the trail up homesteading hill

Last month I was poking around online and a video popped up about a woman that was talking about how she quit homesteading after only a year. She was basically discussing how homesteading didn’t feel anything like she thought it would. You know, the whole living in a dark yurt with her three kids under five while there was a bear outside bit. She simply hadn’t known to expect the isolation or how the dark would feel all consuming. In the end, she went back to it after having taken a three month break. This dirty life simply got under her skin, so she returned homestead and dug back in.

Shortly after, I read this article at a moment that I simply just needed to hear it. About Grandma Gatewood, the first woman to walk the Appalachian Trail. The way she spoke about it was so intense and resonated so deeply for me. I could imagine exactly what it was like–walking up a trail that was so roughly cut and had turns that led to what felt like all the hardest ways to walk up it. My eyes got wet when she said, “I would never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn’t and I wouldn’t quit.”

There were moments in the beginning of our journey to cut our trail up homestead hill that I felt like both those women. The first years are so challenging and test you in a million ways, especially when you have never done anything like this before. The whole thing gnawed at me a bit for a couple weeks.

Then we received two separate letters from two customers who stayed here on immersion early last year. Now I meet a lot of folks with big homestead dreams – but those two female friends turned intended homestead roommates were likely the most determined to go homesteading ones I’d ever run across. They had hiked a 2,168.1 mile hill together some years before and were quite sure they were ready to walk up homestead hill with one half of the pair’s two year old. They drove across a couple handfuls of states to get here. They were also the first set of folks to ever show up that had a realty appointment to purchase land scheduled for the day after they left our farm on a mountain less than an hour from here. I knew these two were different right from the jump. Typical for us in February winter weather, our road was impassible. Not even blinking they threw suitcases and a two year old on their backs and damn near beat a huffing and puffing me up our insanely steep road to the tippy top of the mountain we homestead on.

Four days. That’s how long it took for them to realize they weren’t quite ready. It took only two hours with the two of them trying to work in the garden with a very excited over chickens two year old before I heard, “Wow, this is a lot harder to do than I thought it would be with her.”

They flew back out of this nest, and also pretty typical – we didn’t hear from them for a good while. Until an envelope showed up in our PO box last month–a check with a donation and a letter from one of them. The pair had left here, reevaluated and slowed down. Rented a place in a city only an hour from us and were putting pennies in a mason jar and continuing to seek out skills to tuck in their tool belts. Their homesteading dreams are still burning bright – but were lighting a slightly different trail to getting there. A trail that I’m sure will have less elevation gain than moving into a tent with a two year old in the Appalachians, perhaps before you are quite ready. A week or so later I got an email from the other half of the pair, just wanting to check in too and make sure we knew where they were at after a year after having been here. It was so incredible to hear from those two in particular–I’d had high hopes for them and that adorable little one that loved those chickens so. If anyone has the determination to crest homestead hill, they do. I simply cannot wait to visit their homestead one day. Here’s hoping we get invited!

It’s so incredibly important to me to share with folks what it felt like in the beginning–bushwhacking a trail up homesteading hill when we didn’t have any experience. Sure, we lost a ton of weight and that was great! But it was also incredibly difficult emotionally and spiritually to make mistakes and do everything the hardest possible way. Which we didn’t even realize we were doing until we were muck boot deep in it. It’s important to both of us to share how we walk up that trail now.

I love hiking around here, in the beautiful blue ridges that surround me. I love that you can often get glimpses of the great views that await you as you walk up a trail to reach a ridge line. Visiting other homesteads and seeing their set ups and having folks visit here feels like that for me–you can get these glimpses of their view and then you know better where to turn.

I’m so grateful we are that we are halfway through our fifth year and the trail is started to look more well worn and like an old friend instead of like a narrow path through a thicket of thorns.

They say thirty percent of folks quit the AT before they hit mile thirty. I know a lot of new homesteaders fold the first year. It truly doesn’t have to be that way–gaining just a little experience can go such a long way. So if you are feeling called to live this way, give it a trial run before you go all in. You could always just give a homestead you like the look of a holler, and see if you can come around for a visit sometime.

Here is their review of us from this time last year:

“We arrived at 8 Owls Farmstead on Saturday evening and discovered that our first homesteading challenge was carrying our luggage up the quarter mile long driveway to their house. Thankfully, Rain didn’t make us tough it alone and grabbed some bags! When we arrived at their house we were welcomed by a committee of friends and animals. We chatted for the next few hours about our ideas and goals and what brought us to the decision to start our homestead. They listened intently as we delved into our story. They talked about how they got started and were very open and honest about the challenges they incurred. We talked about what the next week would be like and what would be expected of us. Over the next few days we washed dishes, split wood, planted seeds, learned about the animals and got a small glimpse of what like would be like if we, too lived like this. Rain and Mika showed us all aspects of everything; from the, “what to do”‘s along with the, “what not to do”‘s. They would educate and work us and then give us much needed time to discuss how we felt with each other as we realized that our original plans needed some heavy modifications. They were patient and non-judgmental as we slowly began to realize that things would not be as easy as we had envisioned. They shared their knowledge, experiences and community with us – introducing us to their friends who also homestead so we could see that there was not just one “right” way to do it. They allowed us to ask seemingly endless questions, and answered them all as best as they could while explaining the why’s and why not’s, as well as provided us with countless resources. They really listened to all of our ideas and expectations and tailored our immersion in such a way that would benefit us the most. They wanted to help us achieve our dream the way WE envisioned it. We arrived at their homestead not knowing what to expect and we left with more than we could have ever imagined! We got back to New Hampshire with more realistic expectations on how to proceed. We felt slightly frustrated at the thought of slowing down, yet at the same time more confident that this dream is possible! We still have a long way to go, but we no longer feel like we have to do it alone. We truly feel like we have support and resources now to where we can refer when we need guidance. THANKS Rain & Mika! We couldn’t have dreamed of a better immersion!”

Five Stars *****

Sincerely,
M&M’s Happy Hippie Hiker Homestead (soon to be)

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Here is how you can both get some homestead work done at the same time – have a friend that can dance with your two year old while you dig 🙂 (The aforementioned ladies on a five day homesteading immersion in late February 2015)

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I’m accepting applications for a very limited number of 2-5 day immersions on the homestead this spring and we always take day volunteers–so if you want to try living this way on for size, give the owls a hoot and tell us why you want to visit! (We accept work and organic food trades for those low on cash) If you aren’t local to us, I know loads of homesteads that do this – so start poking around in your area and see who you can visit. Something as simple as a little experience might just make all the difference in the world.

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Here is me and the little cat – walking homestead hill our own selves in January of 2016 to get to work.

One thought on “Cutting the trail up homesteading hill

  1. I’m so glad you guys are happy and you have found fulfillment in your life,I love and miss you so very much You look so content and at peace ,take care I will talk to you soon.Popaw got you two cots,dont know how you are going to get them but there nice there what the soldiers use,Love to both of you Memaw

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