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, January 21, 2009

Chattahoochee River

. We took a walk by Powers Island at Chattahoochee River National Rec. Area. We followed the trail on the east side of the river that gets almost no use. It's just quiet eastern woodlands, with rich bottomland forests along the river.

The diversity is pretty incredible. I could spend years there and not identify everything.

The first thing we stopped by was a sprawling evergreen heath called 'dog-hobble' (leucothoe editorum):

Brooke's sketching the leaves. Here's a close-up:

Very common in damp places in the South, especially the Southern Appalachians. I found it often along trails and streamsides in western North Carolina.
The leaves are reported as being highly toxic . . . which is interesting, considering its close deciduous relative sourwood's leaves are excellent food through spring and summer. Evergreen leaves in general are almost always inedible (it's how they last year after year on the plant).
I came across a patch of Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) while wandering up a small wooded valley. Here's a close shot of the stocking-shaped leaflets:
The young fiddleheads of this plant are unfortunately not considered edible.
I spotted a young southern magnolia (magnolia grandiflora) up the hillside, with its large glossy evergreen leaves:

I tried to get a good shot of the rusty hairs on the end bud, but it's kind of a blur:

Here's a moderate-sized beech, still surrounded by its coppery-orange leaves:

Here's an American holly:

A close-up of the spiny evergreen leaves:

The Ebbing's silverberry (eleagnus ebbingei) is absolutely everywhere. Not only is it all around our apartment complex, in bushes, as hedges, escaped and sprawling at the edge of the road - we found it over and over again in the bottomland forest beside the river. There were a few young slim shoots without berries, but most was full of the immature gooseberry-like fruit.
Here's one dense patch sprawling over the trunk of a sourwood:

The twigs, stems and foliage are speckled, and I want to believe this is some other type of silverberry. How can the exact same plant species be everywhere you turn, in all possible habitats?
But every silverberry we find is at the same stage of fruiting (brown immature berry), so they must all be the same. Autumn olive doesn't even begin to get a berry till late summer, and it isn't ripe until late fall. And it grows in full sun.
The same species of plants tend to do the same things at the same time of year throughout an area. It's an important part of identification. If all the red maples are flowering, and you see a tree nearby that looks like a red maple, but it isn't flowering, it probably isn't the same tree. This is usually the case. And what links all the different habitats together as far as the Ebbing's silverberry, is that each one is disturbed. When I headed off into the forest I stopped seeing them.

Rachael picks out a giant Eastern cottonwood to draw and trace the leaf of (each one picked out a plant to study as part of their schooling).
Here's a photo of its massive trunk, by far the biggest tree here:
Here's a shot looking up at the trunk breaking up into stout branches, another cottonwood characteristic:

The ground was littered with old leaves, very similar to aspen (which it's related to), round-toothed and spade-shaped. Cottonwoods are in the willow family, and really just gigantic broad-leaved willows. They grow in the same habitat (beside water), and have the same deeply fissured accordian-like bark (sort of like an air filter):

They also snow in early summer. They shed their cottony seeds in June, and with enough of them around, it really feels like it's snowing with fluffly seedheads flying and covering everything. It was something distinctive about living in Sante Fe in June, just walking the streets. We also encountered it paddling the Erie Canal back in 97', trying to get from PA to New Mexico. Not only was the air full of fluffy seedheads, they covered the water, covered everything in the boat, were on our clothes, in our hair. It was pretty magical.

Here's some wild onion growing beside the base of a tree. Excellent mild taste. Definitely worth harvesting and dicing up for a meal:

I catch some Canada geese nearby in the river:

Here's a crag with enough space beneath it to bed down for the night - a product of floods:

We follow a trail off into the woods to get a closer look at a huge mature southern magnolia:
Here's a close shot of the bark:

And a look up from underneath at the dense tangle of tropical foliage, a good place to stand out of the rain:

English ivy has totally taken over back here and it's like a jungle in places. Some trees' trunks are totally obscured by massive vines. Look how it's engulfed these trees:

Oregon grape is very common down in the bottomland forest and just up the hillside. Some of the plants are nearly ten feet high, with long craggy trunks terminating in a bract-like mass of spiny leaves with huge yellow plumes of flowers:

Petals are now falling to the ground. I've never tried the berries from this particular species (mahonia bealei - introduced - native to China), but I hope I get a chance to, it looks like it will be a good harvest.
Horticulturists refer to the plant as 'leatherleaf mahonia', or 'Beal's barberry' (it's in the barberry family, like Nandina), and it is seldom called an 'Oregon grape' here in the South - considering how far we are from Oregon.
But for me it's important to simplify and not have random unrelated names for the same plant. Oregon grape is a mahonia, this is a mahonia, they look identical, and produce identical edible fruit. It's like understanding that a cottonwood is a giant willow, and a tuliptree a giant magnolia - there are not really that many different plant families here in the U.S., and it's important to see plants in the context of their families, rather than all as isolated species.
Here's a deciduous greenbriar still full of blue-black berries:

I ate some, and unlike the usually tasteless greenbriar berries, these actually had a trace of sweetness. I wonder if it's carrion flower (smilax herbacea), as Couplan says the berries have a "date-like flavor". It's hard to know for certain without any leaves. And I don't have any great detailed guides to southern shrubs and vines anyway, which I need. All I've got is the Peterson's, and one to the Southern Appalachians.
But as I look around there are actually several masses of these greenbriars covered in berries. It would be a prime food source this time of year.
I also find chickweed:

So with the onion, the chickweed, and the greenbiar berries, and acorns scattered everywhere, you have everything you need to eat well.

The main purpose in coming to this side of the river was to gather bamboo to use as pins in our straw bale cabin. The bamboo grove covered about an acre, with plants over 30 feet high. We'd tease the kids and tell them to look for pandas as we walked by. We even thought of actually stashing a stuffed panda up high in the bamboo for fun, so they'd see there really are pandas here . . . but never did it.
However, to our surprise, the bamboo is gone:
I'd like to think somebody came out and harvested it for building. But the reality is, being an invasive, the forest service probably came out and cut it down and hauled it off to the dump - or burned it. Here's what's left of the stumps:
Too bad. Sprouts are already shooting up vigorously in places.
At least I've found a small colony of bamboo close to where we live that I could use. But I'd have to either harvest it at night, or ask for permission.

Mishka finds a large pincer down by the river - do crayfish get this big?

Here's the Chattahoochee River, broad and shallow through here - shoals:

Above the bamboo grove is an old homestead. There's a stone pumphouse, a lot of metal scraps, several stone walls, and an old metal gate.
Below the pumphouse water's seeping out of the rock - it's probably why this spot was selected for a well. With our long cold spell these seeps have formed icicles:

Here's s shot looking outside from behind the icicles:

Here's a large rhododendron:

An ironwood (carpinus caroliniana), in front of one of the stone walls:

Ironwood is a small tree with a very muscular fluted trunk - unmistakable. Though the bark is smooth like beech, it's in the birch family. And what's interesting is they hold on to their leaves -something I didn't realize before. But the leaves are smaller, darker, and have a more serrated edge - very different from beech. I found a whole colony of ironwood on the hike out all holding on to the their leaves - crisp and shriveled, as if the trees had been burned.
Here's a bud on the rhododendron:

The old capsules:

Here's a giant three-chambered sink I came across on the hike up to the pumphouse:

It still looks servicable, and would be a neat thing to have on a farm property. If we were up near Sunbright I'd take it with us.
Here's a shot of the stone pumphouse:

The inside:
A great view from up here:

I come across lots of interesting metal scraps up in the old home-site. Probably enough to make a roof out of if you knew how to weld. There's also an interesting evergreen shrub with tiny hairy leaves I wasn't able to identify that's all around here. And a giant 10-12 foot Oregon grape covered in blossoms.
Back down off the trail, in the bottomlands, the multiflora rose is getting its new leaves:

This common thorny plant is typically considered a nuissance. But from an edible plant perspective, it's solid gold. It's got the best hips of any rose I've ever tried. Small and candy-tart to sweet. Larger hips tend to be very seedy, and the flesh is insipid - the key is to dry it.
I gathered several baskets-worth of hips that were in great abundance off the Guadalupe River in northern New Mexico. They were absolutely everywhere - it was a blowout harvest, along with the grapes, and gambrel acorns. But trying to process them fresh took forever - the flesh is so sticky. So I moved on to drying them. This was going well until the mice who were nesting in the air filter box of our jeep began stealing them. They also stole heaps of our gambrel acorns, and stashed them everywhere. At least they left the apples alone.
Here's a vine strangling another vine, giving it a dose of its own medicine:

There are actually three separate vines climbing up this poor tree.
Here's an old fireplace:

There's only one steel band over the cavity supporting all the stone above. It seems to be doing a good job - hasn't buckled. But the entire fireplace has rocked way back from frost heave. It was obviously not built on any kind of foundation. I wonder if bottomland soils heave more than most because of their high moisture.

Here's something Brooke spotted, a slim vine with a burst pod full of fluffy seeds:

I remember this from soutwestern New Mexico. It's a climbing milkweed called 'milkvine'.
Here is a large hackberry, with its unmistakable warty bark:

A shot of the upper part of the tree:

There are several hackberries down here (celtis spec.). I'm not sure where it got the name 'hackberry' - which seems to have a negative connotation - because the berry is one of the best edible foods out there. Trees can be absolutely covered in tons of tiny pea-sized orange-red berries about late summer. Over the fall they turn darker and almost black - the fruit at this point is more date-like and not as pleasantly tart . . . I prefer it orange. The berries can remain on the tree very late into the year, depending on where you are. In southwestern New Mexico, where the trees are common along the Gila River valley, there was still plenty of fruit in January.
What makes the berries such a great wild food, besides their abundance and long harvest, is that both the flesh and the seed is edible. The berry is like candy - both sugar and fat. It's a little hard on your teeth crunching the seeds after an hour or so - but so is candy. And we've found hackberry just about everywhere we've gone. Off Owl Creek down in Florida, the Gila River, along streams in parks in Atlanta, and even on top of Kennesaw mountain.
In fact it was the unbelievable harvest of hackberries up on Kennesaw (northwest Atlanta), that made me rethink the Southwest as far as being a mecca for wild foods and best for survival. Kennesaw has hackberries, hickory nuts, persimmons, mulberries, farkleberry, sumac, wild plums, muscadine, wild grape, walnuts, prickly pear, a soft yucca perfect for cordage, even peaches and pear growing wild - not to mention the greens. But I'll cover Kennesaw in the next post.
A good way to end this is with another Ebbing's silverberry. This is probably the hundreth plant we've seen - and with many ripening berries:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Trees II

. We take another walk to identify trees and have many exciting finds.

There's a lot of diversity in the East, and in the Southeast, even more so. And a southeastern city . . . with all the things people have planted, and that have escaped, mixed with native habitat, and weeds, and all the different microclimates . . . it can be preposterous. You never know what you might find growing around any corner.

There's a bright phosphorescent moss that grows in the forest where there's no sun:

This is a very thin scattered moss and has little use. But the thicker stuff that forms carpets - it's great for diapers.

Nothing is worse than scraping and washing cloth diapers when you're out camping. Especially when we had two in diapers at the same time. We needed some solution.

We were camped near some hot springs deep in a canyon off the Middle Fork Gila River - in southwestern New Mexico. The base of the canyon wall beside us had large boulders covered in a thick green moss. I could pull whole sheets off, which we then laid upside-down out to dry, like rugs.

Lining the diapers with the moss worked very well and we no longer had to wash them - we just rinsed and wrung them out from excess urine. The moss wasn't as absorbent as I'd hoped - it wasn't sphagnum - but it did capture most of the waste, and eliminated the need for scrubbing.

Later we camped off a different hot spring in the Gila, a much drier hotter place, and there was no carpet moss except miles downriver. So I pulled the moss up that was growing in the creek (probably from excess nutrients in the stream due to heavy use), wrung it out, and dried it.

However we needed another step with this, because while it was drying, the ants poured in to devour and carry away whatever insects or crustaceans had died in the moss. So we smoked it a little over a fire, and the ants left. This moss worked fairly well, but was less absorbent, and didn't come in sheets - more like tresses.

I believe Native Americans used leather for diapers, into which they put whatever absorbent materials they came across. Then all you had to do was change out the material and once in a while scrub the leather. And with their lifestyle, babies only needed diapers when traveling or in extreme cold.

Here's a hemlock:

A close-up of the small frond-like foliage, and the tiny cones:

The undersides of the needles have two lines of white.

Hemlocks love cool, damp places. Any north-facing slope, or ravine, or deep woods, is where they're very common. And they get huge. Just like pine, in the spring they will put out new growth at the twig-ends, and it's highly edible . . . an excellent source of vitamins.

Here's a crabapple, covered in little overripe mushy apples:

Probably would have been perfect and tasty a month or so ago. Nothing lasts forever.

This tree is pretty much identical to the one I found before covered in rotten cherries. So I assume that one's a crabapple as well. But when I went back over to try them again, the fruit was smaller, sweeter, and pure red - not with the above crabapple's yellow to red to purple colorations. So maybe it's a different type of crabapple.

The crabapples over by our apartment that were prolific bearers are now empty. All the apples dropped to the street.

The above crabapples in particular are still a food source if you're starving . . . but otherwise they're past ripe.

Here's a close-up of the fruit:

Here's a tuliptree. It's difficult to get back and get a good shot of the upper tree covered in what look like papery upright flowers. So here's a shot from the side:

Here's a close-up of the fruit:

You can see clearly here how much it resembles the fruit of a magnolia. The tuliptree never made sense to me with its huge showy flowers until I realized it was in the magnolia family. What look like upright papery flowers in winter are actually the axis of where the fruit has fallen off. If you come across a huge straight tree with a ton of this upright growth on it, a subtle candelabra effect - it's a tuliptree. It's an easy way to recognize it. That and its size and verticality.

The tree in flower loaded with huge yellow blooms is very beautiful. I've eaten the very young leaves and they're almost strong. It's just like any other deciduous tree, you can eat the early leaf growth.
These trees are fast-growing and extremely common throughout the East. I've visited old-growth forests of it in Joyce Kilmer Wilderness in western North Carolina, where they are absolutely massive. Tuliptrees are often the first to change their leaves, to bright yellow, from late summer into early fall. If you see a straight towering tree that doesn't ever spread like an oak - it's probably a tuliptree. Look for the papery flowers.

Here's a city oak covered in its old leaves:

A close-up of the withered leaves:

This is a scarlet/pin oak. Very common city trees. Get huge . . . and grow more upright rather than spreading out. Just like beech (which it's related to), oaks often hold on to their leaves through the winter. But oak foliage is darker, larger, and in the forest, the oak will only hold on to some of its leaves . . . usually those low to the ground or close to the trunk or with the best sun exposure. Young beech will hold onto nearly all their leaves.

Oaks in the Southwest shed their leaves in spring, just like fall, so the ground is littered with yellow chips of oak leaves.

Try acorns at the base of the trees. They'll be there all winter. Red oak acorns (pointed lobes on leaves) will be very, very strong with tannin and need processed. White oak acorns (rounded lobes on leaves) will be far milder. I've eaten white oak acorns off someone's driveway that had no tannin whatsoever - they were perfect raw. A little tannin you can get used to quickly.

I always think of the band-tailed pigeons in the Southwest, who flooded in to the area to feed on the gambrel oak acorns once they got ripe and dropped to the ground. We heard their owl-like coos all day. They didn't seem to mind the little tannin in the acorns. Usually after you eat a dozen or so you hardly notice the tannin at all. You can survive pretty much anywhere if there's acorns.

Here's a shot of old goldenrod on the side of the road:

Rather conical, fluffy seedheads, atop an old stalk.
Here's a silktree:

A close-up of the pods, it's a legume:

Very common weed tree in the Southeast, often on the side of the road. If you see a small to medium-sized smooth tree with flat bean pods off the road - it's probably a silktree. Has beautiful thread-like pink flowers from spring through summer. And similar to a mimosa, and other 'sensitive' plants, its leaflets are folded up at night.

Here are some plants. Sow-thistle:

I'm waiting for it to send up its flowering stalk. The young leaves are okay, but usually have at least some bitter white sap. But the flowers are outstanding.

A geranium/cranesbill:

Nothing really edible in a geranium.


Young leaves good, seeds good. An important edible plant. For some reason the flavor always reminds me of bacon. Maybe it has a smokiness to it.

Here's an anthill:

The ground is mushy and Mishka stepped on one - little black ants came out to assess the damage. I'm a big fan of ants. They're clean, remarkably intelligent for their size, and from my experience, only bite around the nest.

Here's a waxmyrtle (southern bayberry):

Common native, often planted in cities in the South.

Here's a young southern magnolia beside a dead tree:

Enormous white flowers in the spring, and very fragrant. A very beautiful tree, that often stands out with its profuse evergreen foliage.

Here's a close look at the leaves:

And the fruit:

These are from a city ornamental I found later.

Brooke finds a puffball mushroom:

I have Rachael poke it and I take a quick photo:

This is the spore dust.

We had two waves of edible puffballs up on our property in Tennessee - once in the spring, and again in the fall after I cleared. So we won't have to go far for edible mushrooms.

Here's large white buds on a flowering dogwood, usually the first tree in the forest to flower:

A shot of the scale-like bark, unmistakable:

The trees are always small and grow in a flowing more sinuous way (not as much as sourwood, but curvy). When they flower, they're the most noticeable things in the forest. The flowers can be either white or pink. The bright red berries are very bitter.

Here are a couple of pines, a short-needled one on the left, and long-needled on the right:

Identifying pines isn't easy - unless it's got 5 needles in a bundle, then it's very easy - white pine. The short-needled pine on the left has 2 in a bundle:

Here's the cone:

Looks like a scrub pine to me, but I'd have to investigate more deeply.

Not only do many pines have highly edible nuts within the cones (commercial in the Southwest - pinyons), often the pollen-producing male cones in the spring are excellent. I've eaten them here in the East, and they were yellow . . . and also discovered them out in Oregon in the Siskiyous - they were strawberry-red and very sweet. Look for it in the spring. Very similar to the sweetness of cattail pollen, and as far as nutrition . . . bee pollen (wild pollen and bee spit) is marketed as a 'superfood'.

Here's another very common weed tree in the south, princess-tree:

Here you can see the upright clusters of buds and the old woody capsules of last year's fruit. When it blooms it's spectacular - showy pink flowers, I'll get a photo. Princess-tree is medium-sized and smooth-barked with giant heart-shaped leaves.

It is the ultimate weed tree . . . growing at the edge of buildings, roadsides, abandoned factories - anywhere it can get a foothold. I've even seen it up on Pigeon Mountain in northwest Georgia, near its look-alike catalpa. But catalpa is in the bignonia family (has long drooping cigars for fruit, not woody capsules), and princess-tree is in the figwort.

Here's a close-up of the buds:

We found a huge patch of dead-nettle on the way back:


The entire plant is edible. It's a Lamium, just like henbit. They're both very mild mints. I slightly prefer henbit but I'll eat dead-nettle just as well. Dead-nettle will form entire carpets across seldom mown lawns.

Next we encountered a huge, sprawling russian olive, that was so fragrant at first I thought it was honeysuckle:

Here are the flowers:

I am almost 100% certain this is Ebbing's Silverberry (Eleagnus ebbingei), a russian olive highly touted in permaculture as an excellent shrub to plant. The Peterson guides use the term 'silverberry' for members of the Eleagnus family - which makes far more sense, considering the berries and often foliage and twigs are speckled with silver, and have nothing to do whatsoever with olives.
This particular silverberry is reported to have excellent red berries, just like autumn olive. I hope I get a chance to see for myself (we're going back up to Tennessee April 1st).

This shrub has been planted everywhere around our apartment complex. Most of it is trimmed into bushes, but the above sprawler was something I found out by the road. I'm amazed it flowers so early. Autumn olive was the first thing to flower up on Pigeon Mountain, and it drew in all the swallowtails - but that was still March. This is January. And we have some extreme cold on the way for Atlanta - possibly single digits. We'll see how it affects the plants.

Here's a sweetgum with its spherical burrs, another common southeastern tree, a native:

We have a beautiful winter sunset:

Remember the unidentifiable tree from the last post with the black berries that tasted bitter like tupelo? I walk over and find an adult tree just across the road from it:

It's also covered in the large black berries, as you can see below:

The tree has smooth holly bark, glossy evergreen leaves, the young are toothed, mature not, the large black berries have a thin bitter pulp over a large round green seed.

I go to the simple leaf section of my Audubon guide, and look for trees that are evergreen. And I discover a completely new tree that I never even knew existed. It's a native southeastern cherry! It's a laurelcherry, 'prunus caroliniana', called 'laurel' because of the leaves. To be certain I eat a leaf. There are several seconds of bitterness . . . then the unmistakable cherry syrup flavor comes through, like a cherry cough drop. The cherries themselves are bitter . . . but you never know, they may just need more time to ripen, or be dried out.
Camping in northern New Mexico, I came across a whole colony of chokecherries off a bank near the Guadalupe River. They were loaded with cherries, but like all chokecherries, bitter. However I gathered a bag of them, went back to camp and laid them out on wooden plates in the sun. At the end of the day we tried them. Perfectly sweet dried cherries, without a trace of bitterness! They became a staple in our diet. And it was funny how I'd encounter locals, people very familiar with their native foods, who would not believe me that a chokecherry could be any good.
It's something to remember with cherries . . . even black cherries and pin cherries are bitter until they're perfectly ripe. That's just how cherries are. So I'm going to give the laurelcherries a while yet to stay on the tree - they're not the least bit soft. When they begin to soften . . . we'll see. I don't believe there's a cherry out there that isn't edible.
In researching the laurelcherry, I've found many sites claiming naively that the fruit of the laurelcherry is either inedible or poisonous. So here's a link to a short report a couple of professors put together for the Forest Service. They refer to the fruit as "suited for human consumption" -
I'm curious to see if the cold wipes out all the flowers. Even the red maples in places have begun to bloom. That warm spell really set everything in motion. We'll see if cold sets it back.

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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.