Back to the land...

This blog is an account of our experiences trying to homestead in Eastern Tennessee. We've bought almost ten acres with power and a well, and a small shed for the well pump. Half the land is already cleared.

This year we haul out 10 tons of trash from an old burned down home. We plant a large garden, and fruit trees, and build a compost bin specifically for humanure. We build a small pad for a gazebo up under the oaks, and begin building our house/barn, with grading, a stone foundation, a concrete stem wall, and the modified post and beam frame. Everything is done by hand. We also dig four thirty foot swales across the top of the clearing and plant the berms with blueberry. A lot of work, and a lot more to go . . .

I'll also cover the process of picking out a piece of land, the negotiation, and "where to begin?" phase, at least how it all went for us.

[YEAR 2] - We build the shell of a 16'x25' two story cabin from scratch . . . check out how it was built.

[YEAR 3] - We try to finish the cabin . . .

[YEAR 4] - I move up permanently to the property to homestead full-time . . .

[YEAR 5] - Rachel and I try to make it as homesteaders . . with a wood cook stove, dairy goats and a cow, finish the barn, expand the garden, fence pastures, plant more fruit trees, build a flock of healthy layers, grow our own animal food - in other words . . . WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK . . .

[YEAR 6]
'Homesteading in Tennessee' is now HOLDOUT FARM. Check out our new farm website. We produce premium quality raw dairy products from our fodder-fed goats, pastured eggs, organic fruits and vegetables, and offer a seasonal list of classes on Permaculture Homesteading.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Garden

Everything I've planted in the garden is a seedling I started back in early April, in old pots I found in the forest. The frost of April 29th wiped out everything I'd planted so far in the bed, at least so I thought. The beans were gone, but the corn made a comeback:

The mustard greens and chard I plant in the first bed take off:


The chard gets a blight, and discolors, but later recovers. However the leaves remain bitter. The mustard greens are mild and excellent, and we put them in nearly every meal.

The tomato seedlings have now reached the stage where they're ready to plant:

We're out of bagged topsoil and compost, and I'd like to try something different rather than go buy more. The girls and I go gather loam from the forest. There's a rich peaty soil that can be found in large quantities around the base of dead trees. Whether it's nutricious or not I don't know, but it seems to me the main difference between good potting soil and average dirt is loft. There's a lightness, a fluffiness, which allows roots to spread and breathe. So the girls and I each get a 5 gallon bucket full of loam and dump it all in the wheelbarrow.

There's a pasture up at the top of the hill from us. I take my backpack and we walk up our creek to its source. The spring is mostly dried up now, it's no longer flowing. On top of the hill at the edge of the woods is an almost infinite supply of manure. I grab the stuff that's old and composted - it has a dry texture and usually things are starting to grow in it. I collect a whole backpack full of manure - it's surprisingly heavy - and hike it down to the garden. I dump this also in the wheelbarrow and we stir it around with the loam.

This 50/50 mix of loam and composted manure (totally free!) is what I use to plant the tomatoes. I first cut out two beds (scrape clear the concrete footers and shape the edges of the beds), then till with the spading fork. There's very little weeding necessary. As I till the spading fork tends to get tangled up with weeds which I can throw somewhere else. I don't encounter any stubborn roots. But there's still a lot of broken crockery and other junk from the fire.

I take the hoe and cut two troughs down the length of each bed. I plant the tomatoes about 18" apart in both troughs. I have a few metal coils, and for the rest I use charred stakes from the woodpile:

Here's a close-up of a planted tomato. Surrounding it are little clay lumps forming a U on the downslope side of the bed, to help water pool when it falls:


I water the garden about 4 to 5 in the afternoon. I feel like if I water in the morning, most of it gets evaporated by the sun. Likewise at noon. And I worry if I water too late in the evening, the plants' leaves won't get dried out by the sun and they'll head into the night wet and cold and limp. So I imagine 4 to 5 is the best time. The book HOW TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES recommends this. The garden gets blasted with sun from about 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Water pipes were run underground to the middle west edge of the garden (this was an old homesite), and I find the place where it sprays out when I open the valve. We hope to ultimately run a whole network of soaker hoses throughout the beds at some point. This way when we want to water, all we have to do is open a valve, instead of dragging a hose from place to place. And also it's better to water plants through seepage beneath the leaves, than bombarding them with a synthetic rain day after day.

I never got a chance to plant potatoes, so I build an aboveground potato bin. I don't have seed potatoes, just regular potatoes that I've let sprout in a paper bag in the dark. I cut the potatoes down into chunks, each with a couple of eyes, and let them dry a day, before I plant. The potato bin is something I get from AN INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE. Instead of wood I use old concrete blocks to form an enclosure. I put in a mass of rotting leaves and leaf mold. I set the eyes in. Then cover it all with straw. The directions state that as the plants sprout and rise, and break the surface, you keep building up your enclosure and burying them higher with straw. And when the potatoes are ready in the fall, instead of digging through hard soil you just reach into the straw and pick them out.

Here are my bins:

You can see a little sprout coming up in the photo. I actually had to wait three weeks for that. I'd given up on the bins as a hopeless waste of time, and was sure the potatoes had rot, until I saw that sprout one day. Here's a closer shot:


Shortly after that sprouts from all the eyes started busting through. It seemed like nearly every other day I was having to pile the straw higher.

As far as our mail-order trees go, the persimmons have done nothing, the redbuds have put out lots of tiny red leaves; one of our sumacs is getting big buds (the other was run over by the dumptruck that delivered the gravel); the juneberries have buds, and the mulberry is just a little bare twig in the ground. The blueberries up at the swales don't look good. They really get blasted up there. But the blueberries down across from the garden are fine. Our peaches are hanging on, the foliage is turning form purple to green - might be a bad sign, I don't know.

Giant puffball mushrooms have sprouted up everywhere we've cleared with the weedwhacker. I wish I wasn't always so exhausted from working - I'd gather them and use them in our meals. Some are as big as footballs. Here's a pic:

Our five little baby birds have grown up into fatsos. It's amazing they can all fit in the nest. Just look at them:

They chirp constantly for food whenever we enter the shed. Their parents are tearing their hair out trying to get them enough - we see both the male and female, constantly in and out, in and out, bringing them insects.

I decide to try feeding them myself one day. The cicadas are still everywhere, and sluggish. Rachael and Brooke played this funny game when they first emerged. They'd each hold a cicada in their hand - one that was no longer white, it had gotten its colors, but was just creeping around and hadn't flied yet - and then they'd each throw their cicada and the cicada would take flight with a whirr and they'd compete to see who's cicada went the farthest.

So I take a cicada and climb up the ladder in the shed. I hold out my hand with the insect, and as soon as my hand approaches all their eyes get big, and suddenly they explode out of the nest and start flying all around the shed. Some shoot out the door. I'm dismayed at what I've done, but at the same time, it's amazing how well they can fly! They had outgrown that nest a long time ago!

That whole day was a whirl of flycatcher activity. The parents were sort of giving a crash course in living outside. They'd perch on the braces and girts of the barn, the babies sometimes sidling up to them begging. Sometimes a lone baby would fly back into the nest and sit in there by himself for an hour. But after a few days they all were gone.

Except the parents. It was no more than a week or two later that we saw the female going in and out of the shed again. I climbed up the ladder, and sure enough, 3 more eggs:


There was no way I was ever going to get a door on that shed.

A bluebird has nested in the birdhouse I brought up, and she also has 3 eggs. We laugh and call them egg wars. But the flycatcher and bluebird pay no attention to each other.

One day I catch the big black rat snake going through the grass, and he's actually getting ready to climb the tree where the bluebird's nesting, to get at her eggs. I pull his tail a couple times, and he takes off into the logs behind the shed:


I spot a scarlet tanager, a male, bright red, singing from our healthiest oak. He sounds a lot like a robin. We have a whole famliy of giant pileated woodpeckers that live here. They're as big as crows. I'll often see them shooting over the barn, or pecking at dead trees. Once swallows cruise around low over the garden. Many songbirds will perch on the coils and stakes. We need to put up a lot more birdhouses. They make a place feel so full of life, and they keep down the insects.

One afternoon we spot a huge turkey hen walking over the swales, with a whole troop of chicks toddling after her.

The nights are unbelievable when it comes to life. Treefrogs are raging in the trees. Crickets chirp. Fireflies are everywhere, flashing. Screech owls will wail, off and on through the night. Occasionally I'll hear a barred owl. The whipporwill (maniac bird), starts up right at dusk, and sometimes will sing for hour after hour after hour, at a pace that can only be described as frenetic. It is incredible what energy he puts into it. Bats start zipping around over the garden, also about dusk, scooping up tons of insects. Our garden has been virtually free of insect pests, besides two potato beetles I picked off the potatoes, as well as some neon orange larvae on the undersides of their leaves. There were a few worms in the corn, and that's it. The two great garden insects, the ladybug and praying mantis, have just showed up ever since the plants got big. We've found 2 mantids in the corn, and many types of ladybugs have come through.

But what has to be unique to this property, and must have the greatest impact on the garden, are the toads. Once the sun sets, they come out in tremendous numbers. Many live underneath the footers in the garden. During the day we can reach down through one of their holes and touch their squishy bodies. But we almost have to be careful how we walk after dark, there are so many of them. You can spot them hopping all around. They scatter all over the garden beds. The girls love to gather them and carry them around.

It all started with one toad in the pumphouse in early April, who I moved down to the creek. That night I found him back in the pumphouse, and assumed that's just where he wanted to be. But as it got warmer more and more toads started appearing, till now they're everywhere. Their holes are in the floor of the barn, they're up in the gazebo, in the pumphouse, everywhere. The girls have taken so many photos of them. I'll just post two:



Female wolf spiders, which are already big enough, are now covered in spiderlings. Their bodies are now so huge with this mass of what must be hundreds of spiderlings, that they look more like tarantulas. They're also now slow-moving, like tarantulas. You want an intimidating-looking spider, this is it. We see them all the time. And one night something horrible happens. Brooke is out catching toads outside Rachael's tent. She says, "Hey Rachael, want a toad?" and she throws one into her tent. But it's not a toad at all. It's a wolf spider covered in spiderlings, and the spiderlings scatter. They are now all over her tent, and Rachael's crying. We have to leave her tent open for a day for them all to clear out.

Our fireplace has been taken over by wasps. They nest in the concrete blocks. But they don't bother us. They come and go while we sit in there and are very peaceful. But Patty's uncomfortable with it. She's allergic to stings. She was stung by something when we were up camping in the mountains one time and had a severe allergic reaction. But the wasps aren't going anywhere. They've also nested in the pumphouse. They could have a beneficial impact on the insect population, though they are themselves nuissances.

The ticks seem to thankfully be on the wane. But I'm noticing some deerflies now, orbiting. They give a painful bite. I've moved up to the gazebo, and am no longer in a tent. I have power up there, so I can run the fan and light. I run the fan all night to keep the biting gnats and mosquitoes down, which always come out at evening, even in the desert.

Here's a few more shots of the garden as of mid-June. Here's the broccoli:


Squash flowering:

The corn, with tomato in the bed behind it:

The greens, chard and kale and mustard:

Here you can clearly see the concrete footer pathways, which are now cut out to the third bed:

1 comment:

Victoria said...

Ohhh the TOADS!!! Most evenings they were deafening! =|

Garden looks awesome!!

Blog Index

10/30/08

BUYING RAW LAND

11/8/08

TRASH CLEANUP

11/10/08

WINTER IN ATLANTA

11/12/08

SPRING IN TENNESSEE

11/14/08

STARTING A GARDEN

11/15/08

BUILDING THE COMPOST BIN

11/15/08

THE FROST

11/16/08

GRADING THE BARN

11/18/08

DIGGING SWALES

11/19/08

PLANTING FRUIT TREES

11/19/08

BUILDING A STONE FOUNDATION

11/20/08

THE CONCRETE STEM WALL

11/21/08

BUILDING A SMALL 12'x12' PAD

11/21/08

THE GARDEN

11/22/08

BUILDING A DRIVEWAY

11/23/08

INSTALLING THE SILL PLATES

11/23/08

THE MODIFIED POST AND BEAM FRAME

11/27/08

FRUIT IN THE GARDEN

11/28/08

THE BARN FRAME

11/29/08

AUGUST IN TENNESSEE

11/30/08

HANGING THE JOISTS

11/30/08

CLEARING THE LAND

11/30/08

COUNTRY NEIGHBORS

11/30/08

THE HARVEST

12/1/08

PLANS FOR A CABIN

12/14/08

THE LAND IN WINTER

12/22/08

BARN UPDATE

12/29/08

WINTER PLANTING

1/4/09

EDIBLE PLANTS

1/10/09

WINTER TREES

1/12/09

WINTER TREES II

1/21/09

CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER

2/11/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN

3/26/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN II

4/2/09

1880 FARMHOUSE

5/6/09

HOMESTEADING / THE CABIN

8/13/09

THE POST AND BEAM CABIN

8/22/09

RETURN TO TENNESSEE

8/25/09

SITE WORK

8/30/09

DIGGING THE FOOTERS

9/4/09

THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/10/09

911

9/11/09

FINISHING THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/12/09

THE GIRDERS

9/13/09

FRAMING THE FLOOR

9/16/09

DECKING THE FLOOR

9/17/09

THE POST AND BEAM FRAME

9/19/09

THE RAFTERS

9/20/09

INSTALLING THE METAL ROOF

9/21/09

FRAMING THE WALLS

9/26/09

DOORS AND WINDOWS

9/27/09

TENNESSEE IN JULY - OUR LAST MONTH

10/2/09

TENNESSEE IN OCTOBER

10/10/09

THE BARN FLOOR

10/15/09

PIGEON MOUNTAIN

11/10/09

NOVEMBER

11/16/09

PERMACULTURE: ANOTHER ROUND OF FRUITING SHRUBS

11/22/09

DRIFTERS

11/30/09

THE BARN ROOF BEGINS

12/20/09

'DRIFTERS' PART I

12/30/09

WEATHER

1/1/10

NEW YEAR'S IN TENNESSEE

1/25/10

DRIFTERS: PART II

3/2/10

MY SISTER'S WEDDING

3/21/10

FERTILIZING WITH HUMANURE

3/28/10

THE ADDITION FLOOR

4/19/10

THE ADDITION

5/11/10

RUNAWAY

6/13/10

FINISHING THE ADDITION

.........................The Timeline.........................

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1992
-MAY . . . for Patty and I's first date, we skip school and go to the Pinnacle - a wooded overlook off the Susquehanna River.
-SEPTEMBER . . . I leave our hometown of Lancaster, PA for college - Penn State in Reading, 45 minutes away.

1993
-FEBRUARY . . . Patty and I both drop out of school, and camp in some woods behind a grocery store in Lancaster.
-MARCH . . . Patty steals her mother's credit card, and with it we take a train to Utah. We ultimately end up on the Northwest Coast, living in Port Orford, Oregon.
-APRIL - OCTOBER . . . We join a traveling carnival and work in it for 6 months. We sleep in the back of a Ryder truck, and go through California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. I run the guns, and Patty does the goldfish. We save $9,000.
-NOVEMBER . . . We return to Lancaster and are arrested for stealing the credit card.

1995
-OCTOBER . . . We bike from Lancaster down to Charleston, South Carolina. Patty wrecks in North Carolina, and a friend drives us the rest of the way. We live in Charleston for 2 weeks.

1996
-JULY . . . Our first daughter June is born in Lancaster, PA.

1997
-MARCH . . . We sell everything in our apartment, and hike out of Lancaster with backpacks and our 9 month old daughter. We reach the Susquehanna River.
-APRIL - JUNE . . . We get a canoe and paddle 500 miles up the Susquehanna River to its source. We camp on islands. We get a ride to the Erie Barge Canal and paddle west.
-JULY . . . We are arrested in Little Falls, NY. Our daughter is taken, we're charged with neglect, and we fight the courts for months. We are cleared of all charges, but never get her back.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We take a bus out to Ruidoso, NM and camp in woods just out of town. We return to Lancaster and camp in the Brickyard for the rest of the month.
-OCTOBER - FEBRUARY . . . We live in an apartment in the Amish community of Strasburg, PA. Amish go by in their horse and buggies every day.

1998
-FEBRUARY . . . Our second daughter Rachael is born. We try to deliver her on our own at home and fail. Patty ends up in the hospital with a c-section.
-MARCH . . . We get a ride from a friend down to Covington, Virginia. We stay a week, and look for places to camp in the surrounding national forest. We find nothing, and go to New Mexico.
-MARCH - MAY . . . We camp in the Gila National Forest, north of Pinos Altos, a mile from the nearest trail. We camp above a spring with an infinite view west. We start building a hogan.
-JUNE - SEPTEMBER . . . We live downtown in Santa Fe, NM. Patty markets her paintings, and I get a N.Y. literary agent for my first book 'Flesh Aflame'.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Crescent City, California, on the Northwest Coast, a mile from the ocean, on the edge of a bird sanctuary. It's great until the rains begin and we run out of money.

1999
-JANUARY - FEBRUARY . . . We camp in the Uwharrie mountains of central North Carolina, and look for a place to build a winter home.
-MARCH . . . We get a canoe and paddle the Holston River down towards Knoxville, Tennessee.
-APRIL . . . We get dropped off in the Smokies and paddle Fontana Lake. We stash our canoe at Chambers Creek and hike in to the Smokies for a secret camp. Patty paints the creek, and we stay 3 weeks.
-MAY . . . We live in a trailer just off the ocean in Myrtle Beach, SC. The sky is beautiful after storms and we love the pelicans.
-JUNE . . . We camp in the Brickyard back in Lancaster, PA, saving money for an apartment.
-JULY - DECEMBER . . . We live in Lancaster and save for our trip back out to New Mexico. We also buy the jeep.

2000
-JANUARY - JUNE . . . We camp and travel all over the Southwest, from the Gila, to Organ Pipe, to the Weminuche in Colorado. Brooke is born in February in a motel in Deming, NM.
-JULY . . . We stay in condos with a friend in Aspen, Colorado. I do concrete work. We then go to California, and look for a place to live in the Russian River area.
-AUGUST - OCTOBER . . . We rent a small house in Tesuque, NM, just outside of Santa Fe. We hike up into the Pecos Wilderness. We become vegetarians.
-NOVEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Tucson, AZ, then drive to Crescent City and the Northwest Coast. The beautiful weather is over, and the rains have begun. We don't stay long.
-DECEMBER . . . We return to Pennsylvania, and live out of our car in the Philidelphia area while Patty works at a restaurant. We sleep in parking lots and rest stops. It's the coldest December on record for the area, with the wind chill it's -10.



2001
-
JANUARY . . . We head south for warmth, try the Chatooga area of South Carolina, then camp in the woods of northern Florida.
-
FEBRUARY - JUNE . . . We live in Asheville, NC, in the middle of the Southern Appalachains. We spend nearly every day out on the trails, hiking, and learning plants.
-
JULY . . . We get mountain bikes for touring, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies.
-
AUGUST . . . We camp in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, and do a 6 day fast.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We stay in Loveland, Colorado with a friend. We climb Long's Peak on the day after 9/11. We then drive to Vermont, and look for a place to live in the Burlington area.
-
OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Tucson, AZ, and try to become raw fooders.

2002
-
JANUARY . . . We hike in to Jordan Hot Springs in the Gila.
-
FEBRUARY . . . We bike in to Turkey Creek Hot Springs. We stash our bikes near the mouth of the creek, and hike the rest of the way. Many of the pools have been ruined from floods.
-
MARCH . . . We go to Vermont again, this time the Bennington area of southern Vermont. It's way too cold.
-
APRIL - JULY . . . We rent a house in Asheville, NC again. This time we have a large garden, and become 100% raw fooders. Every day I'm out hiking the trails gathering wild edible plants.
-
AUGUST . . . We cash out all our credit cards, and move up to Shining Rocks Wilderness in the Southern Appalachians, camping at over 5,000 feet. There are blueberry fields everywhere, and blackberry, and wild cherries. Not only are we mono-raw fooders now, much of our food is wild. I hike barefoot everywhere. We bathe in the pool below the falls.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Atlanta, and on a night full of alcohol I break my foot in 3 places. I'm told I'll be crippled with arthritis, and ultimately never walk again.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a furnished condo in Tucson, AZ. I cut my cast off prematurely with tin snips.

2003
-JANUARY . . . We camp off the Gila River at Box Canyon, just up from the city of Gila. I'm still on crutches. We meet Jabber-Mike, and Vet-Mike, and Doug. We trade juniper berries for Doug's black walnuts. We're still 100% raw fooders, and Doug teaches me the local plants.
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We return to Atlanta for free medical care so I can learn how to walk again. PT is hell.
-APRIL - MAY . . . We go back to the Gila and camp off the Gila River. We gather cattail, nettle, primrose flowers, and harvest prickly pear pads. We find the most perfect hot spring in all of the Gila, man-made, at Brock Canyon.
-JUNE . . . We fall off our raw food diet, and camp up at Black Balsam again off the Shining Rock Wilderness. We gather wild strawberries. We then camp above the Amicalola Falls in north Georgia for 2 weeks. We become committed to the idea of buying land.
-JULY - SEPTEMBER . . . We live in Woodstock, GA, just north of Atlanta. I do a 14 day water fast.
-OCTOBER . . . We paddle Fontana Lake in the Smokies, on our way to Nova Scotia. We find a great camp and gather wild persimmons, but ultimately abandon the trip.
-NOVEMBER . . . We go back to camping off the Gila River at Brock Canyon. I begin 'June'. We run totally out of money, and gather and clean 10lbs of desert willow seed to sell to a local guy in Gila. He gives us $20/lb, and we use the money to get back to Georgia.

2004
-JANUARY . . . We go to north Florida, and check out the sinks, and the aquifer springs, and paddle the Wacissa River.
-FEBRUARY . . . We paddle the Suwanee River in North Florida. Patty makes a basket out of greenbriar.
-MARCH . . . We camp in the pine flats of Apalachicola National Forest. We make baskets from grapevine, cordage from the retting of Spanish Moss, and a mat from palmetto. We camp here for 3 weeks with no money while we wait for our tax refund. We're 100% raw fooders again.
-APRIL . . . We camp off Owl Creek and paddle the river. There are free hot showers in a nearby campground. There's a great trail with wild blueberry, and we gather the new shoots of bracken. We later camp in Tate's Hell.
-MAY . . . We camp at Sand Creek in the Ocala National Forest, an hour east of Atlanta. I gather cattail in the Beaver Pond. I edit and type up the 'June' book at a nearby library for a literary agent.
-JUNE . . . We drive out to Oregon and camp off the Illinois River in the Siskiyous.
-JULY . . . We camp in the Adirondacks off Jones Pond.
-AUGUST . . . We camp in the Jemez Region of northern New Mexico. We gather wild mushrooms, and sell lobster mushrooms to chefs in Sante Fe. We camp at San Antonio Hot Springs for a week, and Big Tesuque Campground outside Sante Fe.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We go back to the Gila and camp at Brock Canyon. We gather desert willow seed again. We swim and play games in the river. We see tarantulas. I gather prickly pear fruit in baskets we've made from willow. We take a trip up to Turkey Creek Hot Springs.
-OCTOBER . . . We camp in the Oconee National Forest southeast of Atlanta, under persimmon trees in a field. We also camp up on Pigeon Mountain near Rocktown.
-NOVEMBER - JANUARY . . . We live in Atlanta.

2005
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We move to Portland Oregon. We paddle the Wilamette River, and go to the nude beach at Sauvie Island, just after Mt. St. Helens erupted.
-APRIL . . . We return to north Florida looking for land to buy. Everywhere is flooded, and there's been a lot of damage from the previous hurricane.
-MAY . . . We camp up on Pigeon Mtn. The weather's perfect, and there's more wild food here than anywhere else.
-JUNE . . . We go to Arizona, and camp in the Hannigan area of Apache National Forest. We ultimately try to get back out to Oregon, but car problems make it not possible.
-JULY . . . We return to Pigeon Mtn in Georgia. The blackberries are in.
-AUGUST . . . We stay in a campground off the ocean in Jacksonville, Florida, while we look for jobs and a place to live.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We move back to Atlanta.
-
OCTOBER . . . We abandon the jeep with 320,000 miles in a motel parking lot.

2006
-MARCH . . . the girls and I camp up at Pigeon Mtn, in a secret camp we've made.
-JUNE . . . the girls and I go back to Pigeon and camp longer, this time starting a wigwam from red maple saplings, muscadine vines, and grass I collect naked in the field with a small knife.
-AUGUST . . . the girls and I camp up at Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Every day we gather the wild blueberries and swim in the pool beneath the falls. We hike all the trails, and establish a secret camp in a grove of juneberries.


2007
-FEBRUARY . . . We look at property in north Florida.
-MARCH . . . We look at property in Asheville, NC.
-JUNE . . . We look at the 10 acres in Sunbright, and make an offer.
-AUGUST . . . We close on the Sunbright property, and take the kids to Disneyworld.
-OCTOBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property in Sunbright, and clean up the trash from the fire. I build a fireplace out of old concrete blocks.

2008
-APRIL - SEPTEMBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property. We clean out the rest of the trash, build a compost bin for humanure, plant the garden, and fruit trees, I dig the swales, do the stone foundation for the barn, and the stem wall, and the post and beam frame. We build a pad for the gazebo.

2009
-APRIL - JULY . . . The girls and I camp up on the property again. We build the 2 story cabin from scratch, plant another garden, and more fruiting trees and shrubs.
-OCTOBER . . . I put the upper story floor in the barn.
-NOVEMBER . . . The girls and I begin building the barn roof.