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, February 11, 2009

The Straw Bale Cabin

. My daughters and I built a model of our future straw bale cabin out of popsicle sticks. Everything is held together with glue from a glue gun (hardens in seconds). It's to scale [1" = 1'], so 16" x 24" . . . whereas the cabin will be 16' x 24'.

I'm still attached to my shed roof/loft idea. With a small footprint (388 sq ft), I think it's important to have high ceilings to make it feel spacious. You're going to spend the same money on the floor and the roof anyway. And I like the idea of using all the space in the building - so a sleeping/storage loft will go in at the high side of the roof. My original height was 12' for the high side, sloping down to 9' on the low side. The loft will give a sleep/play place for my daughters so we're not always all together on one floor - it will add another 128 sq ft to the dwelling, and give it a total of 516 sq ft.

This is where the building will go:

This is an old parking slab which I will break up and use as urbanite in the rubble trench foundation. As you can see from the photo, power is right there. Water is about 150 feet away in the well house.

This site is south of the garden, on the southern edge of the level space of the property, before it slopes steeply down to the dirt road. The cabin will go in the 'Garage' site in this drawing of the 9 1/3 acre property:

In searching for various small cabin alternatives to what I propose to build, it was again this photo of a shed roof cabin with clerestory windows that stood out - I know for certain this is the look I want:
Making it happen is the hard part.

Building the model of the cabin has helped me visualize it a lot better. The loft has very little space - not enough to stand or walk around in. And the way it runs across the entire building bothers me:

Would the only access to the loft be on the low side via an upright ladder? It would be difficult to wedge boxes or furniture up through this 2 1/2' high space. And climbing up would be uncomfortable, especially for an adult.

Here's a look with the roof off (it has a 4' overhang throughout to protect the straw bale walls - which is nice, and will create a sort of 'porch effect' all the way around the building:

So we decided to remove one of the three squares of loft flooring to cut it by 1/3:

This opens it up tremendously, and now I can place a vertical loft ladder beside the loft, against the back wall on the high side - this way I've got 4' of overhead for climbing up and storing large objects.

The other change I make is to drop the loft by 6". The loft floor will now be at 7 1/2', and the ceiling below it (framed with 2x8 headers, 2x6 joists 16"o.c., left open with visible joists) about 7' at the bottom of the joists, and higher between them.

The only reason I can drop the floor so low is because I'm going to frame in the area beneath the loft - this is another design change. Before I couldn't have the loft below 8' because I didn't want it to impede our view of the property or be uncomfortable to walk beneath. But now this area will become two rooms completely framed in with pocket doors. The corner space under the loft (8'x8') will be the bathroom, with composting toilet, tub, etc. The 8'x8' space beside it under the loft will become a bedroom. Both of these rooms need privacy, and low ceilings are not a problem considering the way the spaces will be used.

The next design change was to turn the building around. Originally I wanted the high side, with the clerestory windows, facing north and overlooking the garden, instead of the road. But the problem with this (besides passive solar issues), is all the framed rooms beneath the loft will block the view of the property . . . and the open kitchen/living space will have a view mostly south of the dirt road.

So by turning the building around, the open living space will face north - the garden, the barn, the hillside . . . and the framed rooms will block the view south of the road. Also we can face the building more southerly (not exactly south-facing, but southwest - close), and get a much better passive solar orientation.
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We've been in a building once before just like this, though definitely larger than 16' x 24'. It had a shed roof with a loft, and clerestory windows, with the high side of the building facing south. And the low side had large picture windows facing north. We'd just spent 2 weeks gathering 'desert willow' seed in the Gila Wilderness, to make some money to come back east. This guy in Gila, New Mexico bought it from us for $24 a pound (we had 10 pounds, cleaned). He would later sell it to some company for reforestation efforts. He was staying in the cabin rent-free and remodeling it. We had tea. The view out the windows to the north was spectacular - mountains, the baldies, the south edge of the Gila Wilderness.

Here's a shot looking at the ground floor of the cabin from the east, the door allowing you to enter the kitchen, and the open space continuing on to the dining and then living room, with the framed bathroom and bedroom to the left, and the loft above:

The slate table gives a nice sense of the stone flooring that will ultimately go in.

And in order to raise the ceiling over the loft a little, as well as increase the space of the living area and its windows overlooking the garden, I'm going to raise the north wall from 9' to 10'. And off the edge of the loft where the ceilings go all the way to 12', I'll hang an interesting ceiling fan or something.

Here's the north wall raised a foot with more popsicle stick framing:

And you can see in this shot how much this alters the roof pitch:

Because I'm moving from 'shed roof' territory to 'flat roof' territory, I'm going to go with 2x8's for the rafters instead of 2x6. And with the overhang and near 40% cantilever of the boards, this was the advice of contractors I'd talked to. Sunbright typically gets very little snow (an inch or two), but it is possible in an extreme scenario to get 2'. It's happened before. So I want to make sure the roof is solid. Also the 2x8's will allow deeper insulation - if you don't insulate your ceiling well, all the benefits you get from straw bale walls are lost.

My daughters moved their Barbies in, and Barbie furniture. It's a little oversized for a 16" x 24" dwelling, but it gives you an idea:

Here's another shot, from a different angle:

I made a model out of sticks and rubber bands also, but it's crude and the wood's not straight and it doesn't really tell me anything:

Now on to how the cabin will be built.

I'll start with the pole frame, and the roof - then all the foundation work and wall-raising will go on under roof in shade and out of the rain. The bales are simply infill in this design.

The first step is the sitework - batterboards and masonry line, so you know where everything goes. After that I can begin digging holes.

The first dilemma is whether to go with treated posts embedded directly in the ground, or pour home-made footers and tie above-ground posts into them with metal connections. There's no question the first option is the cheapest, and strongest. Metal connections for masonry to wood at 6x6 are $20 a piece. Then there's the cost of the concrete and rod for the footer, the J bolt, the formwork, and of course, the post itself. And considering the post will be in contact with masonry it really should be treated as well.

My concerns with embedment are the lifespan of wood embedded in the ground, even treated wood (especially at .4 . . . treatment should really be at least .6, and posts for marine use such as docks are treated to 2.0 - however the deeper it's treated the higher the cost and lack of availabilty - 6x6 posts treated at .4 at 16' in length are $32.50 a piece).

I've followed so many threads of discussion on whether pole embedment or footer and have gotten nowhere. There's no question that poles embedded deep in the ground (my book on pole building recommends at least 4') has incredible lateral stability. And I believe the lifespan of any foundation system depends on whether you keep water out of it, regardless of the materials. With a large roof overhang, as well as grading the land down and away from the structure at all points, you accomplish this. A perimeter perforated pipe drain can also go down into the rubble trench to make sure any water that gets in gets out.

And if you do choose to embed the post, how? On top of concrete, concrete around it, a 'concrete necklace', gravel backfill, etc. It seems what's good for strength (such as a concrete necklace, with lag bolts), is not good for drainage. So there's no one surefire solution. I would say drainage is priority #1, over strength - at least in my situation. I've got 12 poles going in from 6' to 8' apart with a good bit of lateral framing as well as the strawbale infill integrated tightly - this cabin's not going anywhere. But if the posts begin to decay . . . that's another story.

I'm leaning towards the idea of gravel base and gravel backfill, and trying to stay away from concrete, if I go with embedment. This will keep water away from the post, and that's all I ask. I'll do whatever I can to make sure water never gets near the foundation in the first place.

I was attracted to the idea of a homemade footer, and using local milled wood for the posts - but the cost is very high. If I could get metal connections for under $10 I'd go this route, but everything I've found is $20 and up. However I haven't ruled it out yet. I like the idea at this site for the footers -

http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/decks/oldporch/found/footing.htm

What's also great about going with footers (besides keeping the wood out of the ground), is working with shorter lighter posts. A 16' 6x6 (wet because it's treated) is unbelievably heavy. I'm going to need a winch to pull them upright if I'm working alone. I found a 'cable puller' for $30 at Home Depot that'll do the job - but I'll need additional cable. If I did footings, I'd be working with 10' and 12' posts - much lighter.

Once all the posts are up I'll create headers out of 2x10's using this design a fellow blogger sent me:

Just like in my barn, the 2x10's are doubled on either side of the posts to create beams. The 2x8 rafters will run across these and tie into them (birds' mouth cuts and possibly metal connections - though I could make a sturdy wood connection between blocking in the headers to the rafters). 1x purlins (strapping) runs across the rafters and provides nailing surface for the metal roof. I've found metal roofing at $2.10 a foot (actually $0.70 a foot because the metal comes in 3' wide strips).

If I go with treated 6x6 posts, the entire frame for the cabin including the roof will be around $1,500.

The next step is the rubble trench foundation around the perimeter for the straw bale walls. I'm going to slope the trench slightly down away from the inside of the structure, and slope it down and around the perimeter so I can put in perforated pipe to drain any water that gets in. This is more for the treated posts than concerns over frost heave. But it will help both. I'll dig the trench 8" deep (frost line is 6"), so I don't have to use so much gravel and urbanite in the foundation. I'll break up the parking slab with a sledgehammer.

Once the trench is in and tamped, it's on to the stem wall. I always wanted to do an earthbag stem wall for straw bale - it made such sense, because it's green and low-cost and local and the same width as the bales. But I couldn't find any information on it. Then I struck gold at this site:

Foundations for Straw Bale Buildings http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/strawbale/foundations.htm

It turns out earthbags are becoming very common as stem walls in straw bale buildings. The first two rows are filled with aggregate (stone, gravel, sand - whatever), tamped well, with barbed wire between them for tensile strength - just like earthbags. This is so if there is flooding the bottom rows of the stem wall are not washed away. Then the next rows use a stabilized earth mix - your own dirt stabilized with either lime or cement. These will cure and harden into rock. Above this is a water barrier, then the bale walls.

The polypro earthbags are protected via the chicken wire and plastering that the bale walls get. Rod is pounded down through the stem wall and rubble trench - it sticks up to impale at least the first course of bales, and if possible into the second. The curing of the stabilized earth part of the stem wall will lock the rods in place. One possible problem is moisture wicking up the rod into the bales - but I would think caulk around where the top earthbag is punctured as well as the water barrier should do the trick.

As for the bales, I'm going to find something local. Hopefully I can find 2 string bales in the $2 to $3 range.

This is about as far in the planning process as I've gone. The flooring will either be adobe (if we're broke), pavers if not. The loft will be framed off the center posts, and a ledger I'll hang off the exterior posts (the posts are going flush on the inside with the bales, so I can tie into them for framing).

I'd like to do a rocket mass heater to heat the dwelling . . . and all the graywater will be used somewhere downhill, maybe for fruit trees. The door I can get down at Habitat for Humanity in Sunbright. Hopefully most of the windows also. We'll see.

We move up April 1st, and begin building. Only 7 weeks away.

I've been writing articles for Wikihow. Most are how-to's based on articles that are already here. But this one is new material:

How to Camp as a Lifestyle

http://www.wikihow.com/Camp-As-a-Lifestyle

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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.