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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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buying Raw Land

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Almost 10 acres in perfect setting - Beautiful Morgan County TN land at great price and owner financing available. Price: $45.000 Cash/Bank Finance or $50,000 with Owner Finance.


Acreage in Tennessee's still unspoiled Morgan County and at great terms. This Tennessee land is offered with owner financing- NO BANK QUALIFY: Contract for deed with $5,000 down, $475 a month for 12 years, 7.5% APR, $50,000 total sales price. Cash or bank financing, $45,000. This is land only. 9.3 beautiful acres facing the Cumberland Plateau. Surrounded by mature trees with pasture lands in the center, this perfect setting has a well, septic system, and electricity on site.

The land also has a creek running through it. It is very private. It is perfect for horses, to bring your own trailer, or build a home.

Contact owner


Above is the original ad for the property we bought that we came across last June (07') on EAST TENNESSEE LAND FOR SALE BY OWNER. It was a four hour trip to check it out from Atlanta, so one Sunday we drove up.

Buying a piece of raw land is not an easy process. Especially for something such as homesteading, where you're in it long-term, it's not just an investment on the side. It's difficult to figure out the exact spot on the globe where you want to permanently settle down. In our case we would have never guessed we'd end up in Tennessee. You have to be open-minded, let "fate" or whatever take its course, not get too attached to one area, and you need a lot of patience. Cash helps also.

The #1 thing of course to figure out is where you want to be. For us that was very difficult. We bounced all over the place. Southwestern Oregon is a mecca for back-to-the-landers, especially south of the Rogue River and west of Ashland. But it's difficult to find smaller parcels, they are expensive, there are restrictions, and like any place out west, it's rough country. Mild for its latitude, but still rough.

We'd spent years camping and traveling throughout New Mexico. Southwestern New Mexico is about as remote as it gets. We were fixated on this little town called Gila. The 500,000 acre Gila Wilderness is right behind it, the people are great, we stayed in a commune there for a while, Seeds of Change at one time grew their seeds there, it's got a lot of beautiful things going on. We were absolutely certain this is where we should buy. But as with anything out west, again it's difficult to find smaller, affordable properties (that aren't part of a subdivision, with its restrictions). And there's also the water issue. It's highly unlikely to find something affordable with year-round flowing water, drilling a well can be very deep and costly, and there are also water rights you have to look into, because the area is so dry. And if you're not a diehard desert-lover, or come from somewhere else (in our case we're from Pennsylvania), it can be difficult to adjust to living out there forever. Most available properties out there are barren, barren parcels, desert pavement, with a bush or two. We came to the conclusion that the best land in the Southwest is found in the wilderness areas, and those are free. You've just got to live like an Apache.

Florida was another option we seriously considered. The area south of Tallahassee is wonderful, with a million acres of forest, the best canoeing, a ton of wildlife, and perfect beaches. We dreamed of having a tropical garden, with figs, and olives, and avocadoes, and building a Mediterranean villa. And the advantage to looking for raw land to homestead in the East, is that you have thousands and thousands of small parcels to choose from, as the land was all cut up long ago. And just about any spot in the eastern U.S., due to its particular climate, can be turned into a paradise. And the pristine Florida aquifer is just beneath the surface. Some books say you can reach it by pounding a long pipe into the ground.

We drove down to look at two properties. One was two acres for 17k. From the photo it looked pretty nice, flat and open. But as obvious as it sounds, the key to buying raw land is to go and look at it. The more properties you look at, the better you know what you want, and don't want. You can't just daydream, and look at photos. The whole way to the two acre parcel looked great, it was scenic, an almost mountainous part of Florida, which we didn't know even existed. But as we got close the area took a turn for the worse. It was a vast desolate trailer park, the people were not just unfriendly (I got out to ask directions), they were chilling. And the land itself was sand covered in scrubby pines, where you couldn't see but could clearly hear all the people living in trailers behind you.

The next parcel was one acre for 12k, right at about our budget. As usual the area is beautiful, and well-kept, until you get right to the property (this was our experience with looking for raw land, over and over). The area got pretty trashy, and there was our flat acre off to the left. My wife didn't even want to bother getting out of the car, but when you go this far, it's good to at least get out and walk the property. Give it a chance.

And it was actually a very promising acre. It was a field that had been cleared a few years back, there were oaks in the back, it had a nice vibe. We could have done a lot with that acre. All the homesteading books tell you to try and get five acres minimum for living 100% self-sufficiently off your own land, but there's a lot you can do with one acre, that's open, and level, in a place like Florida. The downsides were how close and tight the neigborhood was, our neighbors to the left would be practically right on top of us. Sure we could build a fence, but we'd still hear each other. The immediate area also had a certain squalor to it, dogs barked constantly, and we decided to pass. Somebody'd dumped their dead dog off right in the middle of the property. We were also reconsidering Florida in general, with the bugs, and heat, and overall unfamiliarity.

The conclusion we came to after trying Florida was to stick to what we were used to, where we come from, the Appalachians, a place with four seasons. I had in my mind this image of a field, with a barn, and nothing around, silence. When I started looking through LAND AND FARM.COM, I came across some amazing finds. There were parcels in the 3k to 5k/acre range throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. We started to look more specifically at local sites for Tennessee, and my wife found EAST TENNESSEE LAND FOR SALE BY OWNER. The very first page had the "Almost ten acres in perfect setting. . . " Photos can be deceiving, and in fact, when it comes to buying raw land, I can guarantee you the photos will be deceiving. We checked out some properties in North Carolina where after standing on the land, and looking in all directions, you'd swear the photos had been airbrushed.

But this ad grabbed us for several reasons. That it had water and power on site, half was cleared (huge steps towards developing your raw land, as clearing and putting up power poles and drilling a well will cost several thousands). There was a flowing creek on it, and best of all it was owner-financed. Only 5 thousand down, and the place is ours. 10 acres!

The next step is to call the owner, which I did. Never bother looking at any property where you haven't verified with someone over the phone that the land is still available, it fits the description, and of course have a list of questions about things not covered in the ad which are important to you. Key things for us were information on the well, the creek, why he's selling it (he said he'd planned on building a cabin on it, because of its great views, but now has a baby coming, and there's a change of plans - as touching as this story is, never believe a seller, they'll say anything). I found out the creek only runs during the wet time of year, it is not year-round, which was a disappointment, but good to know. I had the seller mail me a copy of the plat (the county map showing all property boundaries and the parcel sizes around it). All the bordering properties were large acreage, which is ideal, for everybody has a lot of space, and development will be minimal.

The property seemed worth taking a look at, and the seller seemed reasonably credible. So we decided to run up there one Sunday morning. If only at the least to rule another area out.

Eastern Tennessee impressed us with its hardwoods and big rivers (very like Pennsylvania), and there was quite a lot of woods and empty land. The exit for the highway which went to Sunbright (where the land was) had signs for Frozen Head State Park, the Obed Wild and Scenic River, and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. This was our kind of place.

The whole last stretch the area remained impressive, with large tracts of undeveloped land, mostly woods and hills, with great views, and even the rural land was very clean and mostly modest owner-built homes, rather than mobiles. The three-mile road to the property had just been paved with fresh asphalt, very convenient for trying to get places, instead of going down a bumpy dirt road. And it was very scenic. Finally the pavement ended, the road turned to dirt, and there was the driveway up to the right for the property. Another ideal scenario, the road in front of you is dirt, and goes nowhere, which means minimal traffic, yet the pavement is close when you want to go somewhere.

As soon as we crested a little hill the view blew us away, especially after so many years of looking at disappointing parcels. The barn that had been started was huge, the clearing stretched for acres and was loaded with plants and high grass, no barrenness here. And the trees were all hardwoods, wheras from the photo I figured they'd be pines. I much preferred hardwoods. Some big trees in the clearing that had been left were oaks. And the entire property had a southern exposure, which meant we'd stay nice and dry and could grow anything.

We walked the border of the property, checked out the creekbed, totally dry, but they were in the midst of a drought. I had a gut feeling about this place, as we walked the back of the clearing. Your instincts are everything. I then stumbled upon a huge patch of lowbush blueberry, covered in blueberries. They weren't ripe yet because it was only June, but it was a great find. I looked around and discovered blueberry everywhere, it covered the entire hillside.

The most incredible thing about the land was the total silence we experienced. We could not hear or see anyone. No house in view, nothing but trees. And because a full five acres had been cleared, the sky was ripped open. To have such a big view of the sky back east is unusual. No question, this property was it. That's how you need to feel about the land before you buy it. If you have reservations to start, those will only explode once you try and live on it.

We took a short drive down the dirt road and found tons of blackberry. Trivial things to the average land purchaser, but to us as homesteaders, it was important. It was another positive sign that we could survive out here.

The next step should have been to camp the night on the property, to at least experience 24 hours on it, and get a feel for the daily rhythm there. It's something you could probably easily get permission to do, as a buyer, and should do. However we did not. We felt so strongly about it, and had been desperate to find land for so long, we didn't want to push the envelope, and go looking for something negative. It was also very hot and dry, and several ticks had dropped from the sky and were crawling on us.

The other thing we should have done was go meet some neighbors. They can be an invaluable source of information about your property and the area, and who your neighbors are is very important, it's good to see what they're like. Just because you're out in the sticks doesn't mean your neighbors are going to grab a shotgun once you knock on the door. It's not really like that at all, and in fact country people are far more friendly and hospitable than the average city-dweller.

But we didn't do this either, we drove home. I was certain this was it, and my wife felt good about it also, but this was a big mortgage to take on, we hadn't planned on it, and the land was rough, the sun was hot, the ticks were a nuissance. She felt a little ambivalence maybe about homesteading. It's one thing to fantasize about it, but to take a piece of raw land, and develop it from the ground up, is hard, brutal work, you've got to be gung-ho and determined.

The next day I called the Morgan County Courthouse to find out as much as I could about the property. We've been following the advice of the authors of FINDING AND BUYING YOUR PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, a book I highly recommend. In there they tell you to call the courthouse and find out what the building codes are, and zoning, and any planning the county might have for the area. You wouldn't want some industry or commercial venture going in right behind you. I found out that Morgan County has no building codes at all, truly incredible. And when I asked about what kind of planning or development the county had for the area, the woman in the Building Department just laughed. No they had no planning whatsover for the area. This was great news.

I also called to get information about the well, how deep, when it was dug, etc. This information is always put on file with some government agency. I found out the well was dug recently, 2001, they had hit water at 60 feet, and dug it ultimately down to 120 feet. I looked up everything I could about Morgan County online. It was one of the least populated, and most depressed, counties in Tennessee, but that was great for us. I also found a woman's comment from Florida - she had just bought over 70 acres in Morgan County, and she was raving about how unbelievable this place is, no building codes, 4k to 5k an acre, mild climate, great people, a perfect place to farm and homestead. She was going to raise horses.

My wife and I discussed it for a while, went over and over it actually, then moved on to the next step - the offer. Instead of accepting somebody else's terms, she copied one of the contracts out of FINDING AND BUYING YOUR PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, and modified it a little, and filled it out. The big question was what to offer. We were in a bad position, according to the book. We were a) desperate, and b) attached. We both really wanted this piece of land. Who knows how many other offers he's received? What if we don't get it and are back to square one?

I came up with the offer of $39,500. My reasoning was this - if I go too low in the thirties, he won't accept it. This seller, though his story appeared to be true about having a child on the way, had several other properties in the Knoxville area he was selling via owner-financing. So this property was an investment for him. He could sit on it, possibly as long as he pleased. So I felt if I went down in the thirties he would dismiss it out of hand. I thought if I went as high as possble in the thirties, there was a chance he'd go for it and sign the contract. The reason why I wanted a three up front and not a four was bargaining leverage. I felt if I started in the thirties, and he counter-offered, he couldn't go too high in the fourties. It is sort of like a game of chess. You analyze all the possibilities, and make your move. We faxed the offer and waited. The waiting part is of course torture.

He did not accept our offer. But he did counter offer. He wanted $45,000 for it. This was pretty exciting. We were close. Then we went over and over whether we should just accept this, take it and run, or offer our own counter offer, which was risky. I wanted to close the deal and be done, who cares whether or not we pay an extra few grand, or 8%? But you have to remember it's like a game of chess, you have to analzye each person's position, and then make the most calculated move. You can't get all carried away with emotion. That will cost you. And not just in dollars. Some regret and a sense of feeling cheated may poison the whole transaction if later you come to feel it didn't go fairly.

We decided to counter offer. Our goal was to box him into a corner, where he had no possible counter offer. So this is what we did. We kept the same terms on the loan, of 35k, over 12 years, at 7.5% interest. But we upped our deposit to $7,500, instead of $5,000. The thinking here was that he might be in need of immediate cash, and this would be very tempting. By keeping the same loan terms we were showing we weren't interested in bargaining those issues, they were essentially non-negotiable. And by putting more money up front, we were actually reducing the amount we would ultimately pay for the property, because less interest. It was win-win, and it seemed to me he would have no other move but be forced to accept.

And he did. He faxed the contract signed, and called us to make sure we got it. We were actually on the way to the beach for a short vacation, so we didn't get the contract. But we were thrilled we'd got the property, so we decided to celebrate and take the kids to Disneyworld. We dropped a grand there, but overall it was a pretty good time.

When we returned we moved on to the next step - checking out the contingencies. We'd put two contingencies in the contract which would void it if they didn't check out. One was the title. My wife had arranged for a third party title company to go over the contract, investigate and insure the title, and take care of all the legal stuff. She'd written in to the contract that the seller would split the cost of this with us. So it ended up costing us each about $350. But you've got to protect yourself, especially in the case of owner-financing, and sort of do it by the book. Too much money's at stake. So as long as the title checked out as legitimate and the seller had no liens and the property had been fully paid off, that contingency was meant.

The other contingency was the water. We wanted to have a well inspection. We firstly wanted to make sure the well had water, if so how much, what quality, and what state was the pump in. If there were no water that would seriously devalue the property for us, and we would have to either alter or abandon our offer. The seller had given us 60 days to satisfy these contingencies.

I called around, and ended up hiring a guy who worked for a well company to go out and inspect it. His price was $180 and I thought reasonable. He'd drive out there and hook the pump up to a generator, monitor the flow, and do an analysis of the water quality.

He called me back and said he ran the water for an hour, it flowed at 12 gallons a minute, the pump worked fine. But he said the water had a slight sulfer odor to it (i.e. rotten eggs), and was very high in iron, it tasted like metal. He said these things were common for the area and could be removed through filtration. But the price on the filter? $1,800. This was a blow to us, and we reconsidered for a while. I wrote a short note to the seller telling them the results of our well inspection, and that we were not expecting this kind of cost, showing a little disappointment here. My hope was maybe they'd knock a little off the price for the cost of the filter, maybe come halfway. But they wrote back coolly that all the water in east Tennessee has sulfer and iron, and what do we want to do? It was obvious they were old pros at this, and weren't budging, as far as price. So I wrote back saying the contingencies were met, and let's set a date for closing and signing all the paperwork.

This was done a month later, and we didn't even have to go up there. The title company took care of everything, via fax and phone. The property was now officially ours. Now it was time to start working on it.



As a postscript to the above, when I was looking for the original ad for this property, I went to the website EAST TENNESSEE LAND FOR SALE BY OWNER and came across their page of testimonials. And half way down this is what I found:

Hello Ron
I just wanted to write a short note to say Thank You. I listed my property located in Sunbright TN back in the beginning of June. We are scheduled to close on the property August 6, 2007. We had several people contact us, and we had three people making offers, before we accepted an offer very close to our asking price. Your website Easttennland.com allowed us to sell our property very quickly. My wife and I thought it was very reasonably priced. Thank Thank you for telling us about your website.
Sincerely, Neil Whiticar


So that whole time we were negotiating with this guy and he had other offers! We were actually competing with other buyers! We had thought this property was going nowhere, that this area was dead in the water, that these sellers were desperate and would latch on to anything. It just goes to show you that land is always hot, and the prices keep escalating.

[For more info on buying rural property, see How To Buy Raw Land]

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.
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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.
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SEPTEMBER . . . We move back to Atlanta.
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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.