Would you like to take a step back into time? Would you like to imagine living in a rural village in the 1850s? Lets bring ourselves there if just for a moment, DREAM WITH ME…
There you are, sitting in an old log cabin. The floor boards creak with every step from those loose square nails your husband used because it was all he had. He comes in each noon hour for a hot meal that you so lovingly prepare for him. He is sweaty and the dirt just rolls off his brow like dew off the grass in the early morning. The children scamper round as you dust your apron from the long hours of baking. He hangs is worn out old straw hat on a hook that stretches forth by the door. There is a spot reserved for him at the end of that old shaky table. A place of honor. With fork and humble plate set before him, he bows his head in prayer. He thanks the Good Lord for his fields, his family, the food on their plates, hands that prepared it, and the community life they enjoy.
The conversation between you and your husband is about Farmer Ned down the lane. He just had a new calf and it was a heifer. You are happy for his good fortune and you know that they are enjoying the bounty of fresh milk at their table today. There is an ice cream social next week that you are preparing for. You plan to make a few pies. Martha is making pudding with her new supply of milk. Ester is is over yonder in the hollow brewing the cows hoofs to make some of her famous gelatin dessert.
The kids are happily listening in, dreaming of ice cream and pie, fiddle playing, games on the field, and getting together with all their friends. The dry sink sits there under a paned window that looks out onto the fields that are calling your husband to get back and tend. As he stands, he grabs for the hat and makes his exit to the field and to his work. You grab the cold iron handle and pump the water for your stack of enameled dish wear. The water is cold, but nearby you hear the crackling of the old wood cook stove that is heating your water.
The steam billows out of the kettle like an accumulating storm. You pour the steaming water into the basin of cold water and soon your hands feel the comfort of its warmth. Slowly you wash each dish with careful gratitude, for they are all you have to remember your far away home.
It has been years now, since you left your eastern home. You left family and friend, following the American dream to settle the west. The yearning for home lessens with each passing year as you settle into your new life on the homestead. Your husband is busy in the field preparing for a long, cold winter. There is hay to cut, wood to stack, and grain to harvest. The work is hard and long, but with the help of neighbors in your little village, the job is a snap. You look forward to harvest because it means an end to your lonely days in the home. Big work days of butchering livestock, canning the harvest, or putting up the hay mean fellowship for your family. The community fellowships in their work and it is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.
Several years ago we had a Homestead Camp where we invited people to come camp in our yard to learn from us and from the Amish. They brought their tents and signed up for various activities that we provided. There was a day where we spent butchering chickens with the Amish. I think that was the highlight for our campers. I had the Amish give hay rides through the community, bring them to the general store, tour their farm, and even sit down to an Amish country style dinner in their home! We sat on the grass in a group just sharing stories and dreams.
I could see this coming 6 years ago already.
When I was standing at the side of our Tennessee garden in 2007, I had this vision. It was a vision of that plot, that humble plot of land that was grass at the time. My husband was standing upon the ground telling me his plan of where the garden will soon be. How we will grow tomatoes, green beans, and squash. I sort of tuned him out as my mind wandered a million miles away. I looked at him and said,
“This garden will be used to teach the world to grow their own food!!!!”
He looked at me and said, “What?”
I replied with the most confidence I have ever had, “You know, we can film us, plain old us, gardening and learning to live off the land. We could teach others these skills we are learning. Isn’t that great?”
He looked back in disgust, “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard! Who would want to learn from us. We do not even know what we are doing.”
With a smile full of excitement I said, “That is the BEAUTY of it!!! They could see us ‘city-folk’ getting our hands dirty, tilling the ground, milking the cow, and I can see it now (here is where I transport myself into Erinland), there we are sitting at the table with the kids. We are eating all the things we learned how to grow on this land. You see-if we can do it, so can they!” He nodded his head in a semi agreement. It was a -Maybe – I will see, kinda thing, but I ran with it anyhow.
That spring of 2007 we started filming the Homesteading for Beginners DVD. It was reality for us. Some days I was discouraged because my husband would be so sick with lime disease and it was while we were dealing with our daughter nearly dying from complications with diabetes. It was hard. You will see me not looking so happy in front of the camera, but I was on a mission to produce that video, come rain or come shine. It was like we were having obstacles set around us all the time. This video is precious to me. I love seeing the children when they were young, loving the life we gave them on the homestead. It was worth it to make that dvd.
We have so many letters and have met so many families that say, if you can believe it, that our Homesteading for Beginners DVD changed their lives!!!!
What? Did I hear that right? Changed their lives????
It is true, these people saw us living our lives in the country and they found themselves wanting that life. Many have sold their city homes and moved out to greener pastures and now have family milk cows, a clutch of chickens, and a garden. How marvelous is that? We made many more videos like it and sell them all over the world now. We have never had one single negative piece of feedback, only that they want MORE!!!!!
Back to the vision we were having…
Okay, that was not the whole vision. Because my husband was so sick, I wanted to move where I could take my photography business to a bigger level by moving back the city. We sold the cow and the homestead in TN. I strayed away from the calling for a bit because I was a bit distracted trying to earn a living because my husband was not able to work. I went full time into photography and became focussed on building that up. After Mark started to feel a bit better, he started helping work with the wedding photography business. In 2009, I suffered a permanent nerve damage during a surgical procedure. Then my husband became full time caretaker of the kids and I for about 9 months. We lost our business because I could no longer walk and take photos like I used to at the long weddings. We could not afford any animals for our homestead, so we just waited and prayed. During those 9 months of torturous pain, I could never sleep. One night I wheeled my walker into my office. I was troubled.
I wanted to take care of my family, I wanted to sleep, I wanted to have my life back. Then there it was, Homesteading for Beginners DVD.
I watched my youtube trailer and just wept and wept. I do not think I have ever cried so hard in all my life. I just wandered how I could have lost the vision. This was our life together, our family, our desire to live off the land and to teach others the same. It was then that I knew that one day we would run a Homestead Community Post. We were given a milk cow by a family in Nebraska that loved our Homesteading DVDs. They wanted us to keep going with the homesteading. We were so thankful for that gift. And that gift kept giving because we were able to make more videos with our new cow and other animals we slowly acquired.
I started with the Homestead Community Post network. It has been steadily growing over the past few years to where we now have over 2000 faithful members. People find fellowship there, they learn things from each other, and share what they know. It is a wonderful way to have a sense of community, but the vision does not stop there…
One day we will save up and buy a big piece of land.
We will build homesteads in a little village. It will be a working homestead community. Each home will be like the one in the story above. There will be fields that we will work together as a community, ice cream socials each week, harvesting, canning, baking, sewing, and milking the family cow.
It will be a place where people can come and experience life on the homestead. They would step back into time and live that life. It would be authentic. It would be real and tangible. The campers would be given rations in their pantry and they would have to learn to cook on their own wood stove. They would have to wash dishes in their own dry sink with the window above that looks off into the fields.
There will be working horses, buggies, and you can rent a cow to use. You would have a general store, a post office and all the trappings of an old western town. When you go home, it will be lit with lanterns and you will hear just the hum of crickets. Workshops would include basket making, cheese making, soap making, canning, quilting, butchering, gardening, bread baking, field work, black smith work, tanning hides, wool working, and many more homestead topics. People would leave modern world, get into costume, and really experience the basics.
It would not be for everyone and surely not for the faint of heart, but it would be a learning grounds. You would walk away with skills you never could acquire without the hands on learning. We would have experts teaching and it would be fun for the entire family. The camp would revolve around the seasons and what is typical work for that time of the year.
We would also have workshops to train missionaries to live the rugged life. They could learn to grow their own food and one day bring the gospel and hope for the hopeless. Giving a man a fish will feed him for a day, but TEACHING the man to fish will feed his entire community for a lifetime. Why not arm the people with the gospel and with the tools to feed their people for a lifetime. It will give them purpose and dignity.
It is all still a dream, but LORD willing, it will be a real place for people to learn and grow.