When my husband and I married, we each brought children to the union. Within a year, we had added the two little boys from across the street. In an 800 square foot house with two bedrooms, this did not work. We found some land a few miles out of town, where we could all indulge our love for raising animals and gardening.
We had to do without electricity and running water because we put all our money into the land. We paid for it in three years, as well as having a 170 foot well dug and some irrigation ditches put in. With kerosene lamps, a generator to run the pump; and a wood stove, we were fine. We have never had to buy firewood, because people know to call us when they want to give away a tree or some scrap wood.
We bought a cow and watched her having her calf; the first one on our land. The little fellow's front hooves emerged, and then his face. He gave his head a big shake to get rid of the fluids, looked all around, nodded as if to say this looks okay, and then put his new front legs on Mama Judy's back legs and pushed. Out he flew! He was a big boy!
We put two old trailer houses on the land, about 12 feet apart. One was for the kitchen, living room, and our bedroom. The other had three bedrooms for the kids. A third one is for Jim's tools and the books we don't have room for in the house. In between trailers, I planted flowers. A lady was thinning her irises and gave me one of each color. The kids threw out fruit pits. We now have an apple, cherry, and apricot tree to shade the trailers and give us fruit. They cool us down by about 20 degrees in summer.
My husband, Jim, plowed up a quarter-acre garden. He and the kids planted fruit trees, elderberries and raspberries. We put in some tiny pine seedlings from the soil concervation district and they took hold almost like magic. We built a chicken coop from scrap wood that we salvaged from a proving up shack.
Later, when we had cleared away enough sagebrush and lava rock, we fenced in a pasture for the cow. There were a few adventures before that fence got finished -- it's a wonder no one was hurt! I say that because we had to picket our cow and calf before the fences. Sometimes they didn't want to let us lead them. When a 1200 pound animal wants to go left, she goes left.
There is no heat bill. Just gas and oil for the generator and chain saw. Jim was working full-time during this period, and I stayed home with the six teenagers. We no longer work for other people. Jim raises baby calves with the help of our cow, Maggie. She was named for Maggie Smith, one of my favorite actresses!
I write for a local newspaper and an in-house magazine for the local utility. We also operate a mobile food concession during the summer, as a team! We don't have a lot of money, but we don't need a lot. Because we grow so much food, I spend only $25.00 per month on our grocery bill. Most of that is non-foods. We eat very well. Today's lunch was T-bones and corn with salsa. Yum!
We began all of this 23 years ago, and the kids have grown up and started their own families. They have turned out fine, thank the Lord! They bring us such happiness! My brother has not visited us until this week. He lives in California in the middle of millions of people in a lovely home. I think he thought we were poor and primitive, so he put it off. We had a wonderful visit! He plays saxophone, and so does our granddaughter, Aime. He's a pro and she's a high school senior this fall. He taught her several techniques like growling, vibrato, and some other terms I had never heard before. She was so psyched up! We caught up on family stories and went through old albums, and I wish he could have stayed longer. But I think he'll be back. Like most people who come for a chat or dinner, he wound up telling us we live in Paradise. We never argue that one.
Coreenhart from Rupert, ID
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By Coreen Hart
I know how much work this kind of life is, but I would love to go back to those simple days once again,
I love your story. It makes me feel warm inside to think of all of the growing memories you instilled in your family. It's not the bank account that takes care of your family...it's your heart and loyalty. I'm truly humbled. This is a testament to the saying: you only need each other. =) Thanks for sharing
I confess that we hope to put in electricity (solar) and running water next year. We're not as young as we were. But we have lost (pretty much) the desire for things. We are deeply content. Thanks for your nice comments!!!
Years ago in my other life, this was just what we had planned to do, and to a very small degree did some of it. I have made my own butter, yogurt, breads and such, never bought "store bought" My kids would say can we not have a box cake just once? After they did, they never asked again. I spin my own wool, anyway there were many things I wanted to comment on in your post (because it is just the life I wanted to have, but let it go) When you mention the content feeling, I know so much what you mean. I still have friends that were lucky to have their dream of this and the contentment that is felt in their lives is like nothing else. Being in their homes or even their presence is like having the most peaceful, fullfilling and calming experience. It is hard work, but it is the BEST feeling (IMHO) People do come back, because in this very crazy, hectic, hurry up, super size world we live in, I cannot get what you have anywhere. I wish you the best and what a terrific life! Cadia
By Marilyn (Guest Post) 07/29/2006
Sounds fabulous. My life has been frugal, but not that frugal. I do love country life though and glad you have done so well at it without being a burden on the environment like those of us with all the electricity and gas we use.
I hope you continue to enjoy your life and have a long one (life) while you are at it.
By Angela (Guest Post) 08/03/2006
I love how you have raised your children. We have a 20 acre farm in Virginia and love it. Our daughter who is 23 months old has so much fun and will learn to appreciate the simple life. We both work so we don't have much time for things we want to do there but we are working on it. We can and vacuum seal our vegetable for the winter. How do you only spend $25 a month on necessity items? What about flour etc.?