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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Here's the weather forecast for the next 10 days in Tennessee. I guess we're going to freeze to death. But we will see snow! Though probably not enough for sledding.

I've ordered the lumber and it will be delivered Monday morning. The total came out at $938. The cost of lumber has gone up almost 12%. The Tennessee sales tax of 10% kills you also.

I'd like to get the frame for the roof finished in the next 10 days, so that all I've got to do on a future trip is put up sheathing and metal. But it's rather a farfetched goal, considering how slow I work alone, and the span's 36 feet.

Next year by this time I'll have a stove in the cabin.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Drifters': Part I

Part I of Drifters is now complete. Drifters is the multi-year story of our experience with the Gila Wilderness.

The girls and I are heading up to Tennessee to continue building the roof New Year's Eve. It looks like we may have a full 10 days - I should get a lot done. The girls hope it snows.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Barn Roof Begins


This past weekend we drove up to Tennessee to get going on the roof for the barn. We left Friday morning and the wood was delivered that afternoon.

I've decided to abandon my gambrel roof idea for the barn - though it is the classic barn look. Here's the original drawing:

The faint upper roof line is the standard dimension for a conventional semicircular gambrel roof [except 2 pitches, not 3] - mine was to be modified and a little lower, I wouldn't be storing hay. Something always bothered me about this gambrel roof look, and it's not an easy roof to construct, with the different pitches over such a span [36']. Attaching the sheathing and metal to the steep lower pitch especially would be a hassle.

But it wasn't until Rafael and I went up a few weeks back, and he mentioned the great 360 degree view from the upper story of the barn. Then I got to thinking . . . I could actually do something else to take advantage of that, like simply build an upper story with a gable roof. This is what I came up with:

The pitch is 1/4, just like the cabin, 2x6's 24 o.c. on a 9.5' span. There are four post and beam walls to support the roof, those on the outside composed of doubled 2x6 studs 4' o.c. The inner post and beam frame will support the rafters midway, and be composed of tripled 2x6 posts 12' apart, with tripled 2x8 beams across the top of them. The upper rafters, instead of meeting at a ridgeboard, will be joined in a truss, composed of a pair of rafters, an 18' 2x6 collar tie, with a king stud to connect them midway. This truss will be made on the floor then raised into place. I'll put in knee braces beneath the upper story to take the weight of the interior posts.

Here's a materials list and cost estimate of what I need beyond what I've already had delivered, which was just the wood for the outside walls:

This building's 36' x 36', and at two stories 2,600 square feet. Every step of the way is Herculean next to the cabin. The design I've adopted is simple, straightforward, and something I can build alone. I think it's strong also, and will look good. Continuing the modified post and beam on the upper story will allow us to purchase doors and windows later and fit them in easy - things that at the moment we do not have the money for at all.

As far as the exterior look, I've sort of left 'barn' territory, and it's more of a conventional 'house' - i.e a giant box. But we're still doing the front upper story deck, the large barn doors, and with shed-roof additions / covered patio options for the perimeter, that will make it far more interesting ultimately, as well as functional.

The weather in Tennessee was perfect, sunny, cold the first night, then wonderful, like an Indian Summer. Friday afternoon I put down my sole plates and laid out where the posts will go as well as took measurements for them. It gets dark early, and cold, so I spent the evening shaping my doubled 2x6 studs in the cabin with a 1400 watt work lamp right behind me - they give out not only light but tremendous heat, and it kept me nice and warm. I first cut the boards with my new chop saw I got for my birthday, then cut out shoulders with a circular and jig saw to take the 2x8 beams. I stayed up till nearly 11, but got a lot done . . . and the only drawback was all the sawdust inside.

Saturday morning Rachael and I started putting in the studs. Here's the first:

Here's the view of the cabin as we worked:

A bird had been living in there, it had gotten in via the open soffits. There was some bird poop also - I wonder if she'll try to nest in there? I'll have to close in the soffits soon. It won't be fun putting up plywood upside down 15' in the air, I know that. And there's all the vents of course.

It took us all day to put one full wall of doubled studs up, 10 posts in all 4' o.c., and brace them plumb. Here we're just getting started:

Here they're in, all the way to the back, on the west side:

Here's a shot from a different angle:

It's funny to contrast the upper and lower stories. The lower story's servicable, but it was the first carpentry I ever did - I'd never even cut a board with a circular saw before! I've learned a lot over the last 2 years. If only I could learn how to work faster! I know a pneumatic would help - I'm thinking about getting a trim gun and compressor for when I get to the sheathing - hammering in all those ringshank nails every 6" takes forever. And it's hell on your arm.
Here's the nice view we'll now have out the west wall, with picture windows, instead of looking at the inside of a gambrel roof:

Though you can only see the gazebo now in the distance, under the white oaks, that south-facing slope will one day have a passive solar home built out of dirt [adobe/earthbags]. It'll be a lovely view.

I ran out of daylight, and decided to take the night off and visit some neighbors. We had a great time chatting and eating Thanksgiving leftovers.

Sunday I started putting in the 2x8 boards on the shoulders which will make the beams for the rafters. Here's some in:
For the first time I've ordered the wrong boards. I knew I needed 40' of length for each run of 2x8 beam, and that the joints on either side of the stud shoulders needed staggered - what I forgot was, that the boards needed to be in 4' increments, and as long as possible! I'd ordered only 8 and 10 footers. I can use some of them, but will need 12 and 14 footers to complete the job. A 2x6 top plate will cap the beams once all the 2x8's are in.

I loved how I could use the clamps to pull the crown down out of a board to get it perfectly level. Getting the beams dead level on top will make gang-cutting the rafters and getting a good fit a cinch. Here are some clamps at work:

The end of this 2x8 only needed to come down a hair to touch the shoulder, but there was no brace to attach one end of the pipe clamp to. So I used another clamp tight to the board for the clamp to work off of. It worked great.

Since I'm going to be continuing with the framing soon, I only sealed the flats with Thompson's water sealant - which were the sole plates, the stud shoulders, and the tops of the studs and beams - everything else will shed water. I also put in the sole plates on the east side of the barn, sealed them, and cut to length all the doubled studs for it with the chop saw. The next step here is making the shoulders - it's nearly half a day to cut them and screw the boards together. I ran a line from one set of sole plates to the other 36' away on the other side of the building, put on a line level, and was happy to see they were dead level with each other. I guess using a laser level for the lower story did the trick.

I've used 3" drywall screws for everything. I picked up a 25lb bucket of them for $56 at Home Depot on the way. It sounds like a lot . . . but that's only $2.28/lb, and screws are so much lighter than nails, I hardly made a dent in what I'd bought, the hold is incredible, if something's wrong the screws back right out, and they can be reused. I'm a big fan of screws. The downfall is how slow they are to use. If I ever get a framing gun, it would probably be diffcult to go back to the tedium of installing screws.

Here's where the barn is so far:

I took a shot of the garden, the dead grass and mint, with the old sunflower stalks:

When we first showed up at the property, nearly 50 doves blasted out of the garden - I think they were eating sunflower seeds. Someday, someday, someday, we will have an oasis.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I've pulled 'Drifters' and am rereleasing it in a super-condensed edited version, so that I can fit in all three parts. For what it's about, scroll down the sidebar for the blurb. In a sense it's a sequel to 'June'.

Part I covers the time we were dropped off in the Gila by a shuttle, and hiked in to live off a spring miles from the nearest trail when Rachael was only 4 weeks old, and started a hogan. We stayed three months.

Part II covers our return in a jeep when Rachael's 2, delivering Brooke on our own, hitting every trailhead, hiking in, living off hot springs, blowing the motor fording the river, and run-in's with fellow drifters. Our money lasted about 6 months.

Part III is where we get it down, stick to the river valleys and gather wild food, get together with some truly hardcore inspiring people, pick desert willow seed to support ourselves, sell mushrooms, make baskets, and almost settle down.

Chapter 1 is finished and is called Birth.

Chapter 2 is Cherry Creek.

Chapter 3 is The Spring.

Chapter 4 is Snow.

When I go over this material, and compare it to our present homesteading, I have to admit it was a great life and feel tremendous nostalgia. If it weren't for having older kids, and trying to achieve some kind of compromise, and put other people first, I'd pack my truck and be gone by morning. Where to? Wherever.

Homesteading is rewarding in many ways but also very hard work. And quite expensive. You've got the cost of the land, the cost of development, the cost of taxes and utilities that never goes away . . . and the Herculean labor involved in trying to make it modern and comfortable. I'm not down on it, just being realistic. City life is living in a bubble. Everything goes on in the bubble, you die in the bubble. Homesteading is definitely out of the bubble, but somehow still connected to the bubble, with obligations, and neighbors, and work. The same sort of treadmill, but outdoors rather than in.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Permaculture: Another Round of Fruiting Shrubs

We picked up the fruiting shrubs north of Cookeville late Friday afternoon. The lady at the nursery's got a puppy she found that needs a home, so we let the dogs play for a while. Mishka actually jumped out the window of the car when he saw the puppy let out of his cage. But he was well-behaved and they got along well.

Friday night was cold in the cabin, even though I ran the space heater on max all night. But we did have good sleeping bags and futon mattresses.

I warmed up in the morning out digging the holes for the shrubs. I decided to plant most of them in front of the large clay berm back from the barn. The soil of the berm is almost pure clay from digging out behind the barn, so it's not really suitable to plant. I instead went with in front of it, where the fruiting shrubs will be south-facing, yet on a cool moist slope that goes down to the creek and is always wet. The berm will reflect heat and shield them from north winds. It's also an 'edge' environment, on the border of woods, which is highly productive in Nature. Here I planted the 2 azarole [hawthorn], the 5 juneberry, the 2 gooseberries and 2 currants, as well as the medlar.

You can see in the photo above the holes I dug with the pick. I poured a full 5 gallon bucket of water in each hole and let it drain before I put the shrubs in. This took about 5 minutes. I turned the sod upside-down and used it on the downslope side to help hold rainwater in. I covered the roots with a mix of the local soil and half a 40lb bag of topsoil for each plant, then tamped around it with my shoe to take out air pockets. Each plant then got wantered with a couple of gallons as the next few days are forecast to be dry.

I'll wait a year before I fertilize them with our humanure compost, as the topsoil looks pretty rich.

Here the shrubs are in:

I planted the 2 goumi [autumn olive] in front of the cabin near the other autumn olives, and the cornelian cherries over by the blueberries and the transplanted mulberry, at the other end of the same slope as the other shrubs.

I then mowed the lawn, and used a bag of grass clippings to mulch each shrub. I had planned on getting some newspaper to lay down first to actually sheet mulch around the plant, but I forgot it at the store. The woman at the nursery recommended sheet mulching an area you intend to cultivate before you plant, rather than planting in raw ground and then trying to amend it after. In the future that is the course I'll follow, instead of just throwing things in the ground and hoping for the best [fast-food approach]. Even if I just dumped grass clippings wherever I eventually intended on planting a tree or shrub that would help. The area would get nutrient-dense, retain moisture, and earthworms and healthy bacteria would move in as the grass decayed. Though I'd forgotten the paper for mulching around the shrubs, the grass has such a matting effect that even without it it tends to keep down weeds and hold moisture in.

I got finished with this late Saturday afternoon and moved on to finishing the floor of the barn:

I should have ripped these thin sheets of flooring down at my father's and created a tongue on each with his table saw, so I wouldn't be stuck doing it up here with a circular saw. But I didn't. Cutting out tongues on the long 8' edge of each sheet of flooring took forever - I even had 2 pieces in a row I screwed up on and cut the tongues right off of. Very frustrating. And then once they were fashioned and ready to go, it's not like I could just pop them in. No, they had to be shimmed all over the place to fit over the modified beams, and stay flush and level with the rest of the floor. And of course my rough homemade tongues didn't want to go in the grooves and had to be beaten repeatedly with the hammer - finally I had to resort to using a clamp and block to pull them in. It all took way more time than it should have, but at least I got through it and can now move on to the roof.

Here the west edge is in and sealed with Thompson's:

Here's the stairway:

I actually ran out of flooring for one part and used 2 sandwiched sheets of 7/16ths sheathing instead. It's fine because a sole plate and studs will go over this - no one's walking across it.

I took some photos of the view off the top but it's hard to see anything over the low-hanging sun - we had beautiful sunny weather and 70's every day. There were ladybugs everywhere . . . and quite a few flies and wasps up in the loft in the cabin, trying to get out the windows.

The view:

The berm with the shrubs mulched:

It was hard to get much of anything done in only 2 days. There's not only the 4 hour drive each way, but the packing and unpacking as well eat up a lot of time. In the future I'll take a whole week off. It's going to be a while though before we have the money saved for the next step - the barn roof. Just the lumber for the framing alone will be $1,200.

We've got to get some kind of bathing situation up there ASAP. Even if it's just a tub out in the grass, or an outdoor shower. Learning to bathe on a daily basis during our camping lifestyle, and gravitating to hot springs, gave us enormous stability. The same thing would happen with our homesteading lifestyle. So after the roof is over the barn and that building's protected, I think the plumbing for the cabin is next. The hurdle is water filtration. If filtering our well water is really going to be 2 grand . . . that's a major expense. I'm going to get it professionally tested first, and get a second and third opinion.

Here are some photos Brooke took before we left. One of Rachael clowning around, probably mocking me:

And one of me feeding the extension cord through the soffit so we don't have to run it through an open window:

To sum up . . . incredibly peaceful, relaxing, a night full of stars, many birds calling, it feels like home the second I get there . . . but still primitive, cold in winter, and no bathing after hard physical labor day after day has to change. We've got to make it more comfortable! How hard can that be?

[And the drive home was only 3 1/2 hours, so I can stop bitching about the 4 hour drive]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


We're heading up to the property this weekend to plant another round of fruiting trees and shrubs. This time I'll have my daughters with me, and the dog. I've ordered 5 juneberries, a medlar, a blueberry to replace the one that died, 2 gooseberries, 2 goumis [an autumn olive], 2 currants, 2 azarole [hawthorn], and 2 cornelian cherries from Hidden Springs Nursery, which I'll pick up on the way.

I've also got a few small perimeter pieces to install for the upper floor of the barn, before I can begin the roof. And if possible we're going to swing by a friend's on the way back down to help him identify the wild edible plants on his farm. I can't wait to get back up there, though I do hate the 4 hour drive [I hate driving period].

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pigeon Mountain

Friday is my birthday [35!]. People I work with wonder where I'm going to get drunk, whereas the reality is I'm going up to Pigeon Mountain to camp in the cold with a friend I met through my edible plant classes. We'll be gone for two days, and I don't plan on taking any food with me. The autumn olives will be in. And of course the walnuts and persimmons.

Pigeon Mountain in northwest Georgia is a wild protected mountain that we once camped on for months. It was the last place in the East we seriously tried to permanently live outside and disappear in. So going back should be an emotional experience.

I won't get a chance to get back to Tennessee to start building the roof till November.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Barn Floor


It's a four hour drive up to Tennessee, and I leave Saturday morning. I have a week to put the floor in.

The last hour up highway 27 is beautiful, the sycamore leaves have begun to turn and litter the road. It's cool and windy out.

When I first get up there I'm blown away by the cabin and how spacious it is. I've brought with me a couple of futon mattresses and an old couch my parents gave me - I first move these in and create a little cosy apartment on the bottom floor:

I open all the doors to let the wind blow through:

The cabin's in perfect shape, nobody's messed with it, and the weather hasn't affected it either.

I go for a walk and take some photos.
Here's looking past the garden towards the gazebo:
Mishka in the shade of the truck:

Our sunflowers, which are now full of sunflower seeds. We'll definitely have to plant an entire bed of these every year:

A cherry tomato plant sprouted up in our old humanure pile - it's huge and sprawls everywhere - you can see all the old tomatoes it had beared:

The soil in here is black, crumbly and rich. In the spring I'm going to use it to fertilize all our young fruiting trees and shrubs we've planted. The garden itself is going to get a makeover - we'll order sphagnum moss and till it in to the clayey soil to lighten it up, and top it off with a truckload of topsoil.
Here are a couple of peppers out in the garden, in the middle of mint:

All of the other bell peppers look like they were eaten . . . maybe the strong smell of mint kept animals away from these.
The various mints in the garden are not only thriving, they're simultaneously flowering and with seed at the same time! Here's a patch of basil:

Here is the pumphouse, still in fine condition, everything inside untouched and dry. I've got the old boards stacked up on pallets beside it:

Well I'm here to tackle the barn. Here it is at this point:

This is the side I'd cut out last year. I used the dirt to build the driveway:

And here is the back I cut out just 2 months ago before we left, and didn't get any photos:

This was a brutal week's work. I used the dirt to build a berm along the border of woods - all in all it's about 100 yards long:

The joists for the floor are still in good condition. They've grayed . . . but there's no decay. The very top of the joists which get the most abuse, from the daily settling of dew to direct sun exposure, show some weathering - but otherwise sealing the boards last September did the job and preserved the wood.
Here's a shot of the joists:

I'd handpicked these boards when I bought them to make sure they were sound, virtually knot-free, with as little warp and crown as possible. It took a couple of hours of picking through a whole pallet of 2x10's at the lumberyard, but it was worth it.
Here are a couple of more interior shots of the cabin - there's so much space I don't even use the loft:

Saturday I unpack, take photos, and cut the tops off the posts on the barn that stick up beyond the joists. For this I use a reciprocating saw with a demolition blade [cuts both wood and metal] because I encounter a lot of nails. I finish the cut with my hand-held electric planer to get the post down and flush with the joists. I also mow the grass till I run out of gas.
On Sunday I start putting in bits of plywood to bring the modified beams up and flush with the joists. Last year I'd first built the modified post and beam frame. I then hung the joists a little high so they wouldn't be sagging below the beams [I coudn't simply hang the joists flush with the beams all around, as much as I would have liked to, because even with the laser level the beams ended up almost 3/8" off level from one another].
I lay down long planks of both 1/4" and 7/16" plywood across the top of the beams to get them level with the joists. This had been my plan all along, but putting it in practice is more difficult than I'd imagined - the beams are composed of crowned boards and the gap from level changes constantly. I just make the best of it. As long as the beams stay below joist level, I can always shim underneath the flooring where any little gap remains.
I do this for a while until I realize I really need the flooring to see how it's going to lay before I can continue. It starts raining, so I take a trip to Lowe's to get a come-along to winch the sheets up, a couple packs of shims, carpenter pencils, and some platinum bits to try as drivers for driving screws.
Monday morning the 3/4" flooring arrives - tongue and groove Adventech. It's unbelievably heavy. I first build a ramp out of 16' 2x6's to winch them up.
Here's a shot of the ramp and the first few sheets in:
A closeup of the ramp, with the winch at the top:

From the side - these are 1x4's braced against the lip of the concrete stem wall, to keep the ramp from sagging under the weight:

The pieces of OSB keep the ramp boards from moving, and give some lateral support. The whole contraption is ugly . . . but it works.
Hoisting one sheet up at a time is a long process. I try 2 one time and it's nearly a disaster - one sheet falls to the ground while the other pins me to the joists till I can get it securely up on top of the barn.
I'm moving the flooring over to the ramp with a handheld panel carrier (cheap plastic tool). I then create a harness with a nylon strap and bungee cords, which I attach the hook on the winch to. The other end of the winch is attached to a chain which I've wound around and locked to the barn framing.
Setting up the harness is tedious, the winching is easy and slow - the difficult part is pulling the heavy sheet up over onto the floor of the barn by hand once I've winched it up. The whole process takes 15 minutes per sheet.
I use subfloor adhesive and 2" drywall screws to secure each sheet to the joists. This is easy . . . the problem is all the shimming I have to do wherever the modified beams are. The shimming takes forever. The joists are also not quite as perfect as the joists I put in the cabin - the 12' span has a bigger tendency to crown and so it's harder to get everything perfectly flat. But it turns out fine . . . it just goes very slowly. The platinum bits turn out to be a great buy - just one bit never wears at all, even when it spins out in a screw, and I use one for the entire floor. And they're only a buck and a half a piece. I never even got to try my titanium bits that I picked up at Walmart!
Here are a few sheets in from below:
From above:

I use a roughcut 2x4 to ram the tongues of the flooring into the grooves in the other. I'll also use a block and hammer to get them in. Some sheets are easier then others. What really gets old is all the clambering around the joists 12 feet up like a jungle gym. I'm always in some awkward dangerous position.
Here's the view from the top of the barn:
As the week progresses we have a lot of gray weather and rain. I spend one afternoon hoisting sheets up in the rain so I don't lose time - I'm always worried that at my current pace I won't get it finished by the end of the week. The leaves begin to turn also, and everything looks more fall-like.
Here's a shot overlooking the garden, towards the gazebo:

The sunflowers and pumphouse - you can see the trees changing at the edge of the woods:

There are 6 foot high asters everywhere. They've almost taken over in places. Our front yard is nothing but asters. Here if you look closely you can see how tall two of our autumn olives have gotten - nearly 8 feet:

It's sunny on Wednesday and I get a whopping 15 sheets in (having hoisted up 7 in the rain the day before gave me a big headstart). On Thursday it's mostly sunny again and I finish the floor. It looks great . . . and is going to give us a ton of additional living space once I put up the roof:

Here are a couple of shots of the great view from up here:

I do run out of flooring though, and could have used 2 more sheets. I have to remember to order if not 5% extra, at least a few additional boards in the future. You can see where I came up short:

This is the west side. Below is where the stairway will go:

I have 2 hours before dusk and I quickly seal the flooring while it's nice and dry. I use a 5 gallon drum of Thompson's water sealant, pour it into a painter's tray periodically and roll it out. It only takes 45 minutes to roll it out, and I have just enough to finish. Rain is forecast for the weekend so I rush to get the sealant in now while the flooring's dry so it will soak it up.
That night we have a light wind and no dew so this helps it all dry out and become sealed.
Here's the finished floor from below:
Here I've begun to brace the barn with the few 16 footers I get from dismantling the ramp:

The barn is now starting to look like something:

The next step is the gambrel roof.

On Friday I go around and weed the young trees, and go visit my neighbors. I leave about 3:00 for Atlanta. I've got to get back to Tennessee soon to start building the roof, and plant another round of fruiting trees and shrubs. I think this time I'll try medlar and kiwi. It will be some time in November.

The week up there, besides the brutal work schedule, has been fantastic. We have moonlight every night so bright I could keep working if I weren't so exhausted. Even the waning half-moon is incredibly bright. The frogs are gone (though I do encounter 1 big toad), but there are still crickets, and one night I hear coyotes. There's a bat in the cabin the first night, which is cool. The ticks are gone, as well as most other nuissance insects (though I do get 2 giant hornets in the cabin one night which I have to kill). Mishka runs off 2 stray dogs one evening [he spends most of his time on the couch] .

The property is really taking shape, I'm starting to see how we could live up here (the girls want 4 wheelers - I'm trying to talk them into horses), the only issue which really remains once the major building's done and the little comforts are installed is income . . . once we figure that out we're set.

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

-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.

-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.

-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.

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

-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.

-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.

-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.

-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.

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.

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.

-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.

-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.

-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.

-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.

-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.

-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.

-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.