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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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.
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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).
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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:
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The young fiddleheads of this plant are unfortunately not considered edible.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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).
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Here's a photo of its massive trunk, by far the biggest tree here:
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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However, to our surprise, the bamboo is gone:
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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:
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Too bad. Sprouts are already shooting up vigorously in places.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Here's a shot of the stone pumphouse:

The inside:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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'.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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
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JANUARY . . . We head south for warmth, try the Chatooga area of South Carolina, then camp in the woods of northern Florida.
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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.
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JULY . . . We get mountain bikes for touring, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies.
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AUGUST . . . We camp in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, and do a 6 day fast.
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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.
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OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Tucson, AZ, and try to become raw fooders.

2002
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JANUARY . . . We hike in to Jordan Hot Springs in the Gila.
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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.
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MARCH . . . We go to Vermont again, this time the Bennington area of southern Vermont. It's way too cold.
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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.