The Making of a Homestead

We are planting ourselves in new ground.  Uprooting and finding a new land to grow and flourish.  We purchased Shackville and now we are making the old shack village into a working homestead!  The land used to be an old hippie commune where they used to grow outlawed herbs as well as cotton and peanuts.  The ground is fertile and the pastures have great potential. 

We have been renting for several years now, with the dream of one day owning our own land.  When looking for land with the purpose to homestead, there are few factors to keep in mind…

  • A source of water
  • Good soil
  • Pasture area
  • Dry ground for a home

Always be sure to have a source of water!
If times should ever get tough, you need to have a clean source of water.  If you have a well, it would be important to know how to draw the water up if there is no power.  We take these things into consideration because water is essential for life.  Water is also needed for day to day living like flushing toilets or bathing, washing hands, clothing, or dishes.  When water is scarce, you suddenly feel the necessity of it.  Even if you found a property with a pond, you could draw up the water, and then boil or filter out all impurities.

One of the main reasons we chose this property was for its fresh flowing water.  There are several springs on the property that are tapped into for use.  In these parts, it is not uncommon for people to rely solely on springs for their water supply.  The springs come right out of the rock and flow into tributaries that feed larger creeks or bodies of water.  In this photo above, you can see the tributary that flows from the rocky hillside.  It is quite something to behold. 

The sound of the water trickling and flowing is serene.  With fresh water, comes other wonderful things like watercress, fish, elderberries, and other wonderful wild edibles.  Deer and other game rely on this water so there is plenty of opportunities to hunt for food.  Our sons are excited to help out by shooting some game to add to our family’s food supply.

Good soil
Depending on where you look, there are certain characteristics to the soil.  In Tennessee, where we presently live, the soil is rocky.  We call it CHIRT (a term used to describe dirt and gravel mixed together).  This is what you have unless you happen to be located on creek bottom land.  When you are in flood zones, you tend to have the most beautiful, rich soil.  The drawback is that it could flood and that tears things up if you are not careful where you have things planted.

Many people in these parts have to build up their soil by adding a lot of extra organic matter.  It can be done but it takes a lot more effort.  People can make a raised bed garden on anything from concrete patios to rocky soil on a mountainside.  The drawback for this is that it would be difficult to grow a huge amount of food.  It would take a considerable amount of time to achieve and aside from gathering free material to build beds, it may also come with a considerable investment when starting out.  When we were looking for land, that is something we took into consideration.  We wanted to have good soil to start with.

Because we have creek bottom, we have black soil.  We are excited to grow lots of produce.  And we can grow enough to sell at the local farmer’s market.  That is our goal.  The kids are getting old enough to grow their own things and make their own money for their labor of the land.  It makes it more rewarding to them if they can reach their own goals by planning and working.  It teaches them to become entrepreneurs.

Pasture Area
If you planning to homestead, you need pasture area if you want to keep livestock.  We have two milking Jersey cows and a steer which consume a large quantity of grass each year.  If you do not have pasture area, you have to buy hay year round.  That can be very costly and sometimes hay is hard to acquire.  It is also good to have enough pasture so that the animals can be rotated.

Pasture rotation is a method where you graze one pasture and while the livestock is grazing on that pasture you allow another pasture to grow.  When their pasture gets clipped down, you simply move them to the pasture that has grown up into full grass.  On this property, we will have 3 pasture areas for ample rotation.  Rotating pasture also keeps the parasites down and area clean.  One of the other problems you face when tending a pasture is weed population.

It is good to routinely pluck or remove weeds from a pasture before they seed out.  Once a weed has been allowed the opportunity to seed out, it will drop hundred of more potential weed plants that will have to be dealt with.  For less maintenance, try goats.  We plan to get a few goats to keep the weeds down.  Goats are great for cleaning up the brushy weeds that the cows do not prefer.

Right now, we have a mess on our hands…

We have about 10 acres of pasture, all of which have been sorely neglected.  In one of the pastures, there are many trees growing up that have to be cut down and the stumps will have to be removed.  Some of the weeds actually turn into big trees or thorny bramble bushes after many years of neglect.  All the pastures have to be plowed and reseeded.  We may have to feed hay for several months while the pastures get established. 

In our garden plot, there were dozens of old carpets and other trash laying about 3 inches under the soil.  The boys have been working hard to pull all the debris out and clear out the tall brush before the tractors come in to work up the ground.

Dry Ground for a Home or Barn…
When looking for land, always ask neighbors and locals the history of the land.  Sometimes a landholder will sell you land cheap for a reason that they choose not to disclose.  I have seen everything from pollution, explosives, oil fracking, flood zones, and other problems that people want to avoid talking about.  They sell because the land has undesirable qualities.  If they tell you, you would not buy, so somethings are left for you to find out later.  Neighbors in the area will willingly tell you what has happened.  They know if there has been flooding on the property and how severe it can become.  They will know if there are other undesirable qualities to the land or buildings.  I have seen people build gorgeous new homes in a flood plane to end up with a moldy rotted mess years later.  It is good to build on higher, dry ground.  Even if there is no chance of flooding, basements do leak if they are not drained properly.

This property was not ideal for building a home.  There are existing buildings that are in disrepair.  Floods have done their damage to some of the buildings.  We talked with neighbors before purchasing the property and found out that the flooding is due to clogging in the culverts nearby.  As long as we keep the flow of water free from clogging, the creeks will swell but the damages will be minimal.  It is all about awareness.  When you know the potential effects, you can prepare ahead of time and come up with strategic ways of dealing with any issues that may arise.  One can never be perfectly prepared because the unexpected can always happen, but it is good to always be considering ways to prepare yourself.


When this property was established some 25 years ago, Tom and Kathy Slayman and their family lived in a school bus and several tents.  Later they built several small cabins to live in besides an old school bus that they used for a kitchen area.  The school bus is long gone, but the cute little cabins remain.  When talking with Tom and Kathy, they said the kids actually built the cabins and used them for bedrooms.

The Slayman family was comprised of hippies who turned to Jesus and raised their children off this land.  The kids learned how to build and be resourceful.  Today two of the four children are missionaries in foreign lands.  They know how to survive on little and make the most with what they have.  One of their boy’s name is TJ Slayman who serves in South East Asia with his family.  Read his full story here, this property we own is a part of his amazing story…


Their other son’s name is Bob Slayman.  He and his precious family are planning to serve as full time missionaries in Mongolia.  Read their full story here.!in-2009-we-were-living-in-san-antonio-te/csgz 


With the new rage on the “Tiny Houses”, these cabins have great potential.  The kids each get their own cabin to remodel.  They are already looking at tiny house plans to make the best use of their space.  It will be fun to see what they do with them and how much they will learn along the way. They are learning skills that will aid in their futures just like the Slayman kids learned before their time.
The 3 story barn is actually where we are making our home.  About 30 years ago, the original family built the big barn to house animals and crops harvested.  They sold it to another man who decided to make the barn into a 3 story home.  Although it was a good idea to start with, and many people have lived within it’s ever shifting walls, it was never built sound.  Let me give you the tour…

It will take some time and some TLC, but we will make this old shack a beautiful homestead.  I will be posting our progress as we go.  We are so thankful for this new adventure and we pray we will use this property to the glory of God as a place of fruitful labor that abounds in love!

Our prayer is that in this grand endeavor we will grow closer as a family, working together for the greater good, and that our children will someday be inspired to serve God with their whole hearts using the skills they learned growing up.  This is just a stepping stone to our adventurous journey as pilgrims in a foreign land.

0 thoughts on “The Making of a Homestead

  1. Erin, You and your family have been through so much but you have held together and now God is blessing you with exactly what you prayed for. It will be hard work but I know you are up to it. If I was 20 years younger, I would love to do what you are doing. Anxious to see the progress and can’t wait to see the property as Springtime brings everything back into its full beauty. Stay safe and have fun!! God bless you and yours!!

    • Thank you so much, Linda. We are very excited for the adventures ahead and it is a blessing how it all worked out. Thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement! God bless you and yours!

    • I would love to have you stay here when you come in July! Gods’s blessings to you as well, Miraim! Miss you!

    • I can’t wait for you to visit Shackville! I hope to have some of the little cabins ready for guests by the end of this summer. How fun!

  2. Oh, Erin, the Lord has Blessed you all with a True treasure! I hope & Pray that you all have fun making memories….:)
    The Kiessling family….:)

    • It truly is a treasure and we are so thankful. I know it will be a lot of fun adventures ahead.

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement! I know he will make it so pretty, I am excited to share the progress!

  3. Oh my! The beauty that is to come! I look forward to reading updates. And pray God’s precious blessings over the endeavor, the family and those you touch!

  4. Erin, I so enjoy your blogging updates. Just wondering if your family had to take out a mortgage, plus your husband’s view of debt. I value your thoughts.
    Thank you!

  5. Erin,this is a dream come true! I am so happy and excited for your family. This is amazing! I want to come see….Please post lots of pictures if you have time.

  6. Wishing you God’s blessings to you and your family and may your dreams be realised. I look forward to your posts and seeing the transformation you will make to the homestead.

  7. Hi Erin. We met when you were visiting the Gundersons. Hugh thought your kids might enjoy the book “Compact Cabins” by Gerald Rowan. He just finished it from the library and said it had excellent layouts. Have fun with your new endeavor.

  8. That is amazing! What a nice property. That is so much fun each kid gets their own cabin. I love the barn to be a home soon! Such fun & potential. Your very blessed. I look forward to following your blog & watching your homestead bloom to life.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend