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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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

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Still no pictures - I'll try to get some tomorrow morning.

Spent all of Christmas Day under the cabin insulating the addition floor with fiberglass batts. Fun.

Beautiful sunny weather today - nothing like what it should be for December. Looks like a mild winter.

A lot of things to catch up on - let me start with the birds. Have switched them over to an all-natural diet of sprouted grains and lentils which has worked out very successfully. I take a half-gallon of 7 grain scratch, 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup thistle seed and soak it overnight. It swells up tremendously, then is sprouted for 1 day. I add to this a half pound of well-sprouted lentils with good tails. The birds love it and over the course of the day polish off every morsel.

The lentils are there to raise the protein content [soaking and sprouting the grains may raise their protein content a little also, as scratch is only 8%]. Soaking and sprouting dramatically increases the volume of food, it's more digestible, a whole natural food, and there's less waste as the soaked sprouted grains are much larger and not easily scattered.

I screwed in some small metal containers in the coop and filled them with grit and oyster shell. The birds aren't consuming quite as much grit now that the grains are soaked, but they're definitely hitting the oyster shell hard [we ran out of their old eggshells which we'd roasted and ground, as production's so low], and this makes sense as now that they're off layer pellets they need additional calcium.

Since only Rosy's laying there's plenty of room to experiment with diet without affecting production much. Rosy has continued to lay dependably, a guinea is laying now and has 3 eggs in the coop [unrelated to the diet change], and we're pretty sure the ducks have started laying or are at least looking hard for places to lay and flirting with the idea. The guineas and ducks are all mating like crazy as if it's springtime - probably a combination of the light in the coop and the warm sunny weather we're getting.

I'll have to tinker with the poultry diet and see how it goes - but so far I think it's going great. One of the reasons why I think it's feasible at least for here and now is that the birds free-range add day across several acres, there's still plenty of fresh weeds and grass and grubs to dig up with the mild winter, and the grains and lentils soaked and sprouted are just more usable and energizing than the standard factory fare of layer mash/pellets. I'd always wanted to get the birds on a more natural diet but when the birds were laying well I didn't want to mess with it, and we were also concerned with cost. It's maybe an extra buck or two a week to go all natural - but I think it's worth it. And if we're ever able to get the raw ingredients cheap in huge sacks, it may actually end up cheaper than layer pellets.

Garden in the low tunnels is doing well - little warm for the brassicas, cool for the spinach and downright cold for the chard/beets. The mustard greens are doing fabulously though. Lettuce decent - usually the unheaded frilly types and red lettuces seem far more hardy and are doing best in the tunnels.

The loft ladder's been rebuilt at a steep angle against the east wall. The girls' room is finished, almost totally insulated now. We'll have a living room soon where the old kitchen was. Have a large couch and rug so far, and floor lamp. Still need an armchair, rocking chair, and small coffee table. The last bit of insulation that needs to go in is under the main floor of the cabin. The insulation has made a huge difference in heat retention.

I'm picking up Rachael and Brook on Wednesday and they'll be here for 10 days which is exciting. They haven't been up here since July. They'll be a lot of new things for them to see, the ducks, rooster, low tunnels, how far along the interior of the cabin is, the bunny, and the cow.

Remember the jersey/guernsey cross we were going out to look at in Robbins? It's out in a stall in our barn. We brought her home last Sunday.

Her name is Rita, and she's pretty small for a cow, even a dairy cow, at a little over 800 pounds. We paid $800 for her, dropped a hundred on boards for her stall, and another hundred on large animal paraphenalia as well as feed.

This last week of twice a day milkings of our semi-wild cow is a long story which I'll cover in the next post.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

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Brought home what ended up being a rather wild dairy cow a week ago. Very busy trying to gentle her and increase milk production. Will soon have pictures and a full update.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

12/15

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It's so warm up here for the middle of December we're not even running the stove at night. Thunderstorms are forecast for today.

Putting the insulation in is nearly finished. There are a few pieces to put in in the walls, and all that's left is the floors. We're going to use the same R 19 for the floors because even though the framing's thicker and could accomodate R 30 [2x10 floor joists], the floor heat loss ratio is the same as the walls - 10 to 20%. Only the ceiling is higher at 30%. But with the cathedral ceiling and 2x6 rafters R 19 is all we could fit in the ceiling. Using R 19 for the floors instead of R 30 will save us a little money, it's faced which gives us a vapor barrier, and for a horizontal installation stapling it in place is infinitely preferable to using the metal wands [tiger's teeth] which over time cause the insulation to sag between the wands while it's compressed above the wands.

I've moved the bookcase over to the northeast corner and built a wood box out of scrap lumber for storing firewood inside relatively close to the cool oven side of the stove.

The next step is building the new loft ladder at a steep angle against the east wall. The ladder will be built of 2x6 boards, and will have a handrail along the wall. Since we're moving the ladder to the loft we need to redesign where furniture is upstairs. Right now we're considering sort of making two rooms up here - a bedroom with bed, dressers, toilet area and computer on the west side, divided by the couch with bookshelves behind it so the east side is sort of a library/plant nursery. We'll have to move everything around to see if it works.

On Monday we drove down to visit a friend who invited us to down to learn how to hand-milk her jersey cow for free. It took Rachel and I a while to get the hang of it, but ultimately we were able to milk out a gallon and a half. The lady sent us home with that milk, another gallon she'd milked out the day before, and one of her roosters for our hens - all for free. We're going to go back down on Sunday and take her some home-made bread and try milking her cow again. Until we have our own cow we're going to exchange some work around her farm for milk.

When I first tried the jersey milk once we got home it was still slightly warm - very rich and creamy, seemed like slightly less sweet than store-bought, with a strong dairy flavor. But once it was completely chilled I tried it again and it was just about the best thing I'd ever tasted. We all did blind taste tests between the organic store-bought milk, and the raw jersey milk. For Rachel and I the difference was unmistakable. The 'cooked' store-bought milk is almost undrinkable in comparison to the raw jersey milk. It tasted old, flat - almost like canned milk in comparison. We've been guzzling the jersey milk with every meal, and making raw smoothies with it. Like any raw food, it's high-enzyme, energizing, and digests effortlessly. I've noticed it even makes any meal far more digestible if we drink the milk with it.

Interesting that in the state of Tennessee raw milk is illegal to trade, sell, or even give away. I guess someday they'll make it even illegal to ingest. Just another example, in a long, long list, of how government is there to hurt you, not help you.

We're going up to Robbins, TN today to look at another cow - this one's a jersey/guernsey mix. The only negative thing about her is that she's currently only producing a gallon a day. We'll have to look at the conditions she's in, her pasture, feed, etc., to see if maybe that could be improved. She was bred to a guernsey bull, and is due to calf July 11th, so if we got a heifer out of it that would be awesome, though it's just as likely it'll be a bull, which only sell for a hundred bucks. The heifer would be worth keeping.

We still haven't named the rooster yet. He's a marin/cuckoo mix, with the same black and white barred coloration as Claudia. We started with putting him in the bobcat cage up in the coop. But he kept calling and terrified all the birds in the run which refused to go in and check him out. We then let the rooster out into the run - and he's a big bird, roughly twice the size of Claudia and Rosy . . . and that didn't go so well.

Claudia went straight to the ground desperate for a rooster and all he did was briefly attack her - maybe confused by her coloring and thinking it was one of his fellow sibling roosters he'd always been competing with for hens. Then one of the white male teenage guineas started attacking him, and he flew and pecked back - no injuries, just a short scrap. But we decided to open the coop door and herd everybody out of the run . . . maybe things would go better out of confinement. A fight between one of our guineas and the rooster in the run would have been the end of the guinea . . . but outside if they don't get along the guineas can at least run or fly off and escape.

We were able to get everybody out of the run except the ducks and the rooster. The ducks simply for sheer stupidity - the rooster because he was terrified of the run door and wouldn't go through it [it's a bit of a tight fit for him also]. He's a good 2' tall.

Eventually the ducks found their way out and only the rooster was left in the run. I locked him out there for the night with food and water so there wouldn't be any fighting with guineas over roost space in the coop. I walked up late to check on him and he was hunched up against the run door for bed and looked pitiful - like he really wished he could go in the coop.

The next day we let everybody out and the rooster quickly found his way out of the run and the coop. He spent most of the morning following the ducks around - I guess they were non-threatening, and he'd built some kind of bond while they were all stuck out in the run.

But eventually he started following our hens around, and the next morning he was mating with Claudia and Rosy right outside the front door. Little Bit's a tiny banty and a little too small for him - though we did hear her squawk once where he may have jumped on her. Sometimes the girls like a break from him and go hide under the cabin. He's a little too tall to follow them in there, so instead he stands guard.

He's become a great friendly rooster, following and guarding the hens, eating grain we throw from the front door, and no conflict with the guineas whatsoever. The first night in the coop he followed the girls up and climbed up beside them. With him towering there on the roost, the guineas milled and called and were reluctant to go in the coop and roost beside him. But eventually they did and there were no problems.

The rooster crows quite a bit, especially in the morning. It was really neat the first morning when he was stuck out in the run - there was a heavy fog, the lights were on in the coop, and he was crowing loud and clear through the fog . . . I didn't even hear it till I opened the front door now that the cabin's so sealed up.

The ducks are now herded down to their pens with their nest box as they should start laying soon, if they aren't already [the squirrel could have been stealing a guinea egg]. The drakes are constantly pouncing the females, so they're definitely sexually mature. I have to say raising 3 types of poultry, that the ducks are basically pigs with bills. They eat constantly, and make a huge muddy mess wherever they go, and shit everywhere. And as far as intelligence goes . . . they're on the bottom of the list. They're very entertaining to watch if there's a pool of water around, but otherwise they just don't have the big personalities of chickens. Of course if they start laying well my opinion of them will dramatically improve . . .

Already getting windy and stormy today - 70% chance of rain.
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

12/11

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It's been an incredibly busy week - let me try to summarize it all.

The birds have been out free-ranging with no losses so far. The trap is set out beside the run and I just noticed the other day the bait is missing - something must have run off with it without setting off the trip plate.

The 11 low tunnels we have up are working great. We've had hard frost every night - low to mid-twenties, but the plants are fine. They take a good bit of monitoring though on sunny days to make sure the tunnels are well ventilated. The chenille method allows us to tug up the sides, and the tension on the twine generally holds them in place - though adding a few clothespins to hold up the plastic always helps. No matter how cold and windy it is, if it's sunny the tunnels quickly get up to 80 degrees. And once the sun begins to go down, the temperature in the tunnels plunges fast. Usually they need opened a couple of hours after sunrise, and closed a couple of hours before sunset.

We had our first snowfall last week. The snow covered everything, but there wasn't much accumulation before it started to melt away. By the next day it was mostly gone.

About 3/4ths of the cabin is now insulated. It makes a huge difference in heat retention inside. If Rachel's baking and needs the stove good and hot, the cabin gets so warm especially up in the loft we open a few windows. We have a fan upstairs above the stove we run constantly to blow the hot rising air back down into the kitchen and addition. It actually works pretty well - without it most of the heat just sits up in the loft and downstairs is far cooler.

Only the southeast facing wall and floors still need insulated.

I've built an improved kitchen counter over on the northwest side of the cabin. I put in the large cast iron sink that's been sitting under the building for years - it's not hooked up to running water, but we just bucket in rainwater for wash and drinking, and will put graywater buckets under the sink for drainage. The garden out under low tunnels still hasn't needed any watering yet, so the graywater/duckwater mix for now is going out to the perennials in rotation.

Once the new kitchen's finished, I can move the loft ladder over against the southeast wall at a steep angle with a handrail - more of a stairway. This will be far more convenient than the ladder we have now which is out in the middle by the stove and vertical. Rachel fell from the ladder the other day and her back landed right on the corner of the wood stove - her back hurt for a couple of days and she had quite a bruise but she's okay.

All of the perennials are protected in some way from deer pruning. I ended up stringing fishing line for the large lower blueberries, strung between sapling stakes pounded into the ground every 10 to 20 feet or so. So far it's worked great, though the bottom runs of line I put in to keep the chickens out occasionally rip loose - probably the chickens.

Almost all the caution tape is up around the property - there's only one small section to finish along the road. There's no question it works. We haven't heard or seen any deer since it went up. One of the A frame bird netted setups over the blueberries up at the swales got torn and blown down - I thought maybe a deer had trampled it but after checking it out it was more likely just the wind. It took a only a few minutes to set back up.

We looked at a couple of jersey cows the other day a few miles down the road. One was very gentle and 5 years old but dry and bred just a couple of months ago. The guy doesn't really want to sell them and wants a $1,000 per cow. We're going to keep looking online a while longer till we get the pasture fence up around the lush hillside down from the barn - the pasture is about half an acre and will include some of the creek and woods and will also be used for free-ranging the birds. Rachel found a woman online about an hour from here on a family cow forum who's invited us down Monday morning to learn how to hand-milk . . . this is very generous and helpful as neither of us have ever had a cow though Rachel has milked goats.

There was some interesting mouse drama last Thursday. Rachel and I were out cutting and splitting wood in the front yard. One of the logs was hollow. Once we'd carted up the wood in the wheelbarrow to the front door we kept hearing squeaking sounds while unloading it. We eventually found two baby mice who'd been nesting in one of the hollow logs.

Rachel put them in a small plastic container with bedding inside to keep them warm. They were still blind but had fur - so were about 2 weeks old. We set the container up under one of the lamps to keep them warm.

We went to Gwen's play at the school and stopped on the way home for ingredients for a baby mouse formula Rachel found online. At home Rachel worked with trying to feed them using a dropper - she got them to take a little milk though they were pretty stubborn and resistant. It was amazing how frisky and active they got once warm even though still blind.

I went downstairs and saw a mouse shooting around under the couch, and asked upstairs - "Are the baby mice where they should be?" They were and it was the mother darting around looking for her babies.

So we took the baby mice and set them on the bedding in front of the wood pile. We then all backed off to watch from a distance. The mother kept darting around everywhere looking for her babies. Eventually she went back to the wood pile and found them. She grabbed one and rushed into the hollow log they'd been living in. Then she found the other and took that one in. She grabbed all the bedding and packed it in around them. After an hour or so we took the log and set it in one of our plastic bins with a big piece of insulation, and carried it down outside to where we'd gotten the log from.

Country living . . .
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

12/4

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A spell of beautiful warm fall weather has hit and should last a few days though the rest of it should be rain starting tomorrow.

It turns out the 'wild guineas' are actually owned by a neighbor and they roost in one of his pines at night. So we'll stop trying to catch them. But it's still good they spend so much time here and hopefully they'll interbreed with ours.

We've been extremely busy lately, finishing the low tunnels over the garden [11 total] and insulating the walls of the addition. Every time we put more insulation in we notice a big rise in retained temperature inside. We need to insulate the rest of the cabin before we can start working on siding the barn.

Before the last string of freezing nights we drained the well water out of the hose and overflow tank and shut the well-pump off. Dishes are now done inside with hot water from the wood stove. The garden plants in the tunnels have very little need of watering and the perennials are going dormant so we don't have much need for graywater right now. It's always best to wash out the toilet buckets with the jet from the hose, but for winter we'll just have to rinse them out with buckets of rainwater and air them sufficiently.

I cleaned the coop out and got nearly 3 full wheelbarrows for the compost bin. We'd put in an underlayer of sawdust with a grass/leaf mulch on top, which works very well, but we're down to only 3 bags of sawdust for the toilets so I just did 2 wheelbarrows of grass/leaf clippings for fresh bedding in the coop. I put dried hay in all the nest boxes. Rosy is still laying dependably, but her eggs are about all we're getting. The ducks are definitely sexually mature, but either laying sporadically or the squirrel is stealing them. We've gone back to free-ranging as we were unable to trap the bobcat and he seems to have disappeared for the moment, though the same neighbor who owns the guineas says a bobcat wiped out his chickens.

We did catch Claudia [our barred rock chicken] in the bobcat trap however. We happened to be up at the coop when she wandered in to it and set it off. I guess she'd thought of checking out the chicken bait, but once the trap door shut she just started pacing and complaining till we let her out.

We got a lot of wood cut and split yesterday from small standing dead trees and dead boughs well off the ground. Some of it burns very well, some okay. Rachel started using a creosote remover product to keep down a buildup of creosote in the chimney since we're not burning ideal wood - just whatever we come across that looks dead and reasonably dry. It seems to have helped and the creosote layer in the chimney is only a paper thin film.

A few days ago I put in bird netting over all the blueberry bushes up at the swales [there are 21 plants]. The easiest way to do it ended up being driving a 6' sapling at either end of each bed [there are 5 to 6 shrubs per bed] - which is two saplings for each 30' bed. I predrill a hole for the sapling by pounding in some PVC pipe then remove it. I drive in the sapling at an angle away from the bed so tension doesn't bow it in, then run masonry line or twine between the two saplings and pull it very tight. I cut a small notch towards the top of each sapling so the line doesn't slide up or down. Then I just lay the bird netting over this sort of like an A frame tent. One 15' x 45' piece covers each bed to the ground from the line on either side well - I used one piece per bed. This will not only protect the shrubs from being bitten down by deer [something that's kept them stunted the last few years], but also from our own chickens wandering in and digging up all the mulch and dust-bathing in cavities around the plants, and also any birds trying to steal the berries of course. The last thing I need to do is give them a very thick leaf mulch.

Today we'll get the rest of the caution tape up - it seems to be working and we haven't noticed any deer.

Very windy this morning - usually a sign of a storm on the way.
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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.