It was the early 1970’s. My wife and I were newly married and trying to make a life of our own together. We started out living with my mother-in-law but when she remarried shortly thereafter it was time to strike out on our own. A cheap, too hot all year around with a guy across the hall constantly coughing like he was losing a lung, basic, concrete block apartment was next, which was then followed by a considerably more pricey apartment in a newly built complex.
At the time we moved into the latest apartment I was working with a guy by the name of Bill Hardacre. He was living on a farm in a rented house that was once the farmhand’s house. The farm buildings were no longer being used and the fields were rented out. The old farmer lived in the main house on the property. I visited Bill in his house and was instantly envious. Plenty of elbow room and an actual house – not an apartment – and when he told me what he was paying for rent my envy doubled down.
To make matters worse, Bill loaned me a book – Grow it!, by Richard Langer (apparently out of print now, and probably a bit dated anyways). This is what started it all. I was hooked. Homesteading was the way I wanted to go. Now all I needed was a place to do it, because it’s a little tough doing it in an apartment, or at least I thought so at the time.
Timing is everything, and it wasn’t long before Bill and his wife bought a house of their own and through him my wife and I had an “in” to rent the house they were leaving. We jumped on the chance and soon found ourselves in an old, uninsulated, oil-heated, propane fueled farmhand house – and loved it. I have Bill to thank for my introduction to homesteading and for the place to do it.
We lived in that house for ten years. Though the old memory is a bit foggy, I believe we gardened there every year we were there, having at one point in time enlarged the garden to an acre in size. I tried growing almost everything, and what I grew that I couldn’t eat right away, I canned. There were also a couple of old apple trees near the house that provided apples for apple jelly, apple butter and plenty of apple crisp.
While we lived there we were constantly searching for a place to buy for our own small farm. That never came to pass, and looking at it from this point in time I know it was a good thing, because the reality is that I would never have had the self-discipline to make a real go of it. Instead, we moved into a house in the city.
But out on that farm it was great! Sure, we had a really long driveway that I had to spend long frigid hours on my neighbor’s lawn tractor plowing, and the wind would blow through the house like there were no windows, and the ground near the side door would turn to nasty mush (we let the dogs out there) in the spring, and we would run out of propane repeatedly and not be able to cook or have hot water, but it was all the price we had to pay for a little bit of heaven.
It was the start of my homesteading state of mind, and though time has probably improved my memories of the place, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it were not for that experience.