City Boy Makes Good.
I first discovered MOTHER EARTH NEWS when a copy was sitting on the coffee table of a friend's country home. I was a city boy at the time, and dreamed of someday having my own homestead. But how could I make it happen? I had no money, no experience, and no clue where to start.
My first move away from city life was when I bought a used step van to outfit as my new home. I spent months adding everything I needed to live on the road--water tanks, a bed with storage underneath, a fold-down desk, a gas stove, a furnace, cupboards, a toilet--all hidden inside so that the outside looked like a generic delivery van. This allowed me to park it anywhere without having to rent a parking space. When I wasn't working summers as a waiter, I was driving through the country in search of a homestead. I saw many that I liked, but I was waiting for the one that I loved.
After five years, I had enough money saved up to buy land in High Springs, Florida. The property had a large lake filled with bass, bluegills, and catfish. I was able to buy 20 acres--10 acres stripped land and the other 10 established woods--for $25,000.
During my homestead search, I met and married my wife. Early in our marriage, we only visited the land briefly before returning to our jobs. The next year, we made the permanent move with our infant daughter. We had to live in tents and trailers while our house was being built, but it was worth it to finally start our homestead.
Once the initial structure came together for our house, we got to work on turning this property into a true homestead. Mother's articles were some of the most helpful tools we had when we began creating a new life in the country. This magazine walked us through the basics of gardening, working with chickens for the first time, and building simple structures to make our homestead life run smooth and easy.
The first major project I tackled for our homestead was building a yurt-shaped underground room. In the 1980s, I saw a Mother article that helped me build this structure all on my own. I got the materials free by tearing down an old structure for a neighbor, and I used the heart pine and heavy tin roofing from that demolition. That underground room is still strong and dry after three decades thanks to the skillful instructions given by your experts.
When I wanted to run our homestead on solar power, Mother was there for me once again. I contacted the sources of an article, studied The New Solar Electric Home by Joel Davidson and Fran Orner, and got to work installing my own solar-powered system. That same system is running as well as when I installed it decades ago. I now pay only $8 per month for electricity.
In the latest years on my homestead, I've continued turning to Mother Earth News for ways to improve my home on my own, and it's never failed me. I've used articles to build a timberline geodesic dome, a stairway made of tires, a white-roof cooling system, and so many more projects. After tackling all of these, our homestead is able to run on less than $9,000 a year.
I enjoy MOTHER EARTH NEWS' helpful tips on living a lifestyle that treads more lightly on our planet. I appreciate your wide variety of homestead stories and reader tips that are still relevant to what I'm doing out here. Thank you for helping this city boy convert to the country lifestyle. I couldn't have done it without you.
High Springs, Florida