Ten years ago, I got tired of living the way I was living. Inner-city, run down home, eating junk because that is all I could afford. I was tired of working a rundown job in a rundown system, in a rundown town. I knew where I was at; my life would never improve unless I made a radical change. And so, my journey began.
My first thoughts filtered back to my youth. During the summer, I would be sent to Great Grandma’s home. I was roughly seven years old, so 20 years before my own home, 30 now.
Grandma Dean (Great Grandma) lived in a small house in the mountains outside of Hillsville, VA. It smelled like mothballs, and all she owned was a little radio that sat on her kitchen counter.
Back In Time
We spent the evening after the sun went down with Her sitting at the dining room table sewing—I with a book sitting across from her. Listening to the radio and she had no A/C and still had an outhouse.
Visiting grandma Dean was like going back in time. She was a simple woman in a simple house with a 1-acre garden. That garden was the reason I was there. From sunrise to sundown, I was in the garden. Weeding, pruning, picking off bugs; I absolutely hated it.
But what I learned from her over those few summers at her house is now ingrained in me. But to that in a minute. Fast forward 20 years, and here I am in my little inner-city slum house, with no working bathroom, daydreaming about Grandma Dean’s garden.
Simple Home Life
It hit me suddenly. That is what I want. I want a simple home life that she had. It’s the only thing that felt natural in my spirit. I decided that it was time to sow something other than my wild oats, and I went straight to the library.
From there, I discovered that there was a small movement that began in the ’70s. I think it has always been a thing, but as the hippies come out of the free love decade, they seem to have a draw to the homestead lifestyle.
I researched and researched and read every book I could find on the subject, slowly implementing more and more into my lifestyle. The first thing I did was to cut out chemicals. I wanted to go organic before it was a thing.
I also decided to brew my own beer, but that is a set of stories for another time.
The First Garden
So here I am. I borrowed a tiller and began filling up the backyard of my home. I went to Walmart and bought my plants, and home I went to put them in the ground. I weeded. I fertilized; I did everything by the book, but I failed. Nothing grew that year.
In nature, I would have starved to death.
Where was great-grandma when I needed her? Oh yeah, she checked out after a little over a century on earth. Her secret to old age? Pipe tobacco and mountain dew, not the soda. It always blew me away to think about how she was born during the wild west years, horse and buggy, and then to think of everything she witnessed in her life.
I mean, she was 12 years old when The Wright brothers made their first flight. She witnessed cars, planes, two world wars, a great depression, the Korean war, space flight, man on the moon, Vietnam, the hippie revolution, the fuel shortage of the ’70s, and the first computers. That’s a lot in a lifetime.
Anyways, I began to think back on everything she ever taught me. Soon I realized my problem. I did not love my plants. Weird right? I will explain it.
Going Back to Roots
The year before, I pulled weeds and tilled with no regard to root systems. I dumped liquid fertilizer on the plants like I was washing acid off of someone’s face. I only watered when I felt like going outside and doing it. I never showed them, love. I was rough with my plants.
She also taught me to farm according to the moon and astrology. The old way, as she called it. The moon and stars told us when to plant when to thin, and when to harvest. Most of my Christian friends look at me a little sideways when I say I still do this to this day, I plant by the moon and stars, but I say it is biblical. Again, a discussion for somewhere else.
Over the years of many trials and errors and lots of money wasted, I have come to where I am today. I will not share all my wins and losses here; I’m writing books on this after all, but I will tell you this. It is the best decision I have ever made. And my wife and stepsons took to homestead life quick after we moved in together. The simplicity of self-sufficiency is understated and overwhelming.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
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