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Good friends, good family, and a good neighbor helped make our dreams a reality.

This is what we call a vogue la galere! story: (let the galley be kept rowing). In other words, keep on, no matter what!

As a young boy growing up on a farm with three brothers and a sister, farming was a way of life for my family. My father had a milk cow, chickens, some livestock and coonhounds and just about anything you could think of.

For some reason, I am not sure why, we moved into town. A small town, Sheffield, Illinois, of approximately 1,000 people. My father had such a love for animals and gardening that he tried to bring everything he could to town with him.

A homestead in town

I can remember having coon dogs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigeons, cats, a big garden, and an incubator for hatching eggs for some local small farmers. Dad used to take my brothers and me trapping ditches for pelts to sell. We trapped muskrats, raccoons, fox, mink, etc. for a whole season and when we sold all of our pelts we were able to buy the family's first color television set. It was like a dream come true for us children.

I think in a way my brothers and I disliked all of the responsibility of caring for all those animals, having the garden, pulling weeds, skinning animals for the pelts, butchering chickens and rabbits, canning vegetables and pickling, but we were more or less told that we were helping to earn our keep.

Now I am 30 years old. I have a wife, Amy. She grew up on a farm, much as I did. We also have three great children, two girls and a boy.

As I grew older I realized all my father had taught us children. That's when I began a quest for country living. My wife and I, with a two-year-old daughter and an infant son, found a small house for rent in the country.

A house in the country

The farmer we rented from was around every day doing his chores. When the spring plowing was done he asked us if we would like a garden plowed, and he did so. He also gave us two little runt pigs that would otherwise have been done away with. He gave us all the corn we needed: all we had to do was to clean out his corn crib and get it ready for the next harvest. With the abundance of corn we decided to get some Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.

The place wasn't much but to us it was a dream. But the dream came to a halt when the property owner died and we had 30 days to move out. We left behind a garden, sold our pigs, butchered what we could of the chickens and sold everything else we had worked so hard for. We were forced to move back to the city as it was the only place we could find on short notice.

We then spent three years dreaming and looking for another place in the country that we could buy and never face this problem again. Then we stumbled onto 2-1/2 acres with a small barn and a corn crib in fair condition. We were able to get the property on a contract with a low down payment and $75 a month. The place was completely run down.

I took one look at the place and decided that this was where I wanted to raise my family. We were fortunate that the place had a 300 foot well and a new septic system. It had been installed about nine years ago but had only been used two or three years.

We bought a 12 x 65 mobile home for around $1,000.00 with the only drawback being that it needed a lot of work.

In two months we had moved the trailer onto the property, installed new plumbing, new water heater, new floor in the bathroom, new faucets, new windows. Quite a bit of remodeling, but now it is a comfortable home for my family. A lot of hard work and help from family and friends made this possible.

The neighbor mowed most of the property with his tractor mower, then plowed two huge gardens for us, both about 100' x 50' and he would only accept a cold beer in return for his time and labor. In the winter months when the snow flies he always plows our lane so we can get in and out when we need to go into town. Then in the spring he plows the gardens and drags the ruts out of the drive. Now, that's one good neighbor.

Three years of progress

After three years of living here we have raised 10 pigs, over 300 chickens, and we have three geese which are laying eggs that I am hatching in my father's old incubator. We enjoy canned beets, pickles, tomatoes, freezer corn, beans, asparagus, and anything else you could imagine that an avid gardener would grow.

My kids sit down by the road and sell pumpkins and Indian corn, etc., in the fall for money to save in their bank accounts.

We also enjoy farm-raised chicken, home-cured and butchered pork, venison, and wild game when in season. Best of all are our own farm-fresh eggs and domestic rabbit meat.

In the last three years we have also planted 100 pine trees for a windbreak, 100 Lombardy poplar trees, one apricot tree, four apple trees, one cherry, two pear, two peach, and a large asparagus bed. Our garden gets better every year, thanks to a rabbitry down the road and his manure spreader, and to my own rabbits for the fertilizer they provide.

I have a small woodworking shop in the barn and make all of the Christmas gifts. They are all made out of scrap crate lumber that can be obtained just about anywhere.

We do have many modem conveniences, like a gas weed trimmer, mower, rototiller, telephone, tv, etc., but still like to be as self-sufficient as possible. I guess you might call us civilized homesteaders with modern conveniences.

I would like to thank my father who passed away seven years ago, who taught me much of this lifestyle, my family, friends, and neighbor for all of their help, and the people who write to Countryside magazine for inspiring me to write.

And a note to other folks like myself. with a dream, prayers, hard work and a good family and friends, anything is possible. Never give up.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:homesteading
Author:Milby, James
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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