There are a few things that I have consistently dreamed about since I was young. One of them is to be a bonafide homesteader. I want to grow all of my own food, raise all of my own animals for meat, eggs, and fiber, and to live off of the grid as much as I possibly can. I grew up in a rural area surrounded by farmers and family members who raised cattle and where practically everyone grew a garden. I am grateful for everything that I learned while gardening and preserving food with my Mom.
My parents bought a 3 acre plot of land that had been divided from a larger farm. Our part of the farm was the apple orchard. I will never forget all the things my Mom made that first year from all of those apples. Fried apple hand pies, stewed apples, applesauce, apple butter, and baked apple pies, to name a few. What stands out the most in my mind, from what I will call the “apple years,” was when they pulled out the antique cider mill and made fresh apple cider, and even more vividly, I remember Mom dehydrating sliced apples between two window screens that she placed out in the sun, on a picnic table, in our backyard. Oh, something else...I absolutely loved watching a tractor turning over fresh, rich, spring dirt with his plow, and have wanted to do that my entire life.
When I was 18 years old, in 1978, I bought my first subscription to Mother Earth News Magazine and began to feed my hungry dream. I got married that same year and began practicing many of the skills I read about. Some of these were from desire, others for practical necessity. Moving onto a college campus in the hills of East Tennessee, with little to no money, I would wash out our clothes in the bathtub and hang them on a clothesline to dry. We would turn off our hot water heater to save on electricity and only turn it on long enough to get a shower. We did the same with the heat, and slept in sleeping bags to keep warm at night. I would meet a local farmer at his milling shed, where he would grind wheat into a left-over brown paper bag that I had kept from the Piggly Wiggly. I would then make fresh whole wheat bread and let it rise on the hood of our car in the sun, because our apartment was too cold. This may sound pitiful to some, but for me, these are extremely fond memories.
There are many more stories I could tell, but for now the journey continues, and I will keep doing all the things I can to live out my homesteader wanna-be dream. You can see it in much of my art; “Canning”, “Harvest”, “Slow Food” and others, are all whispering sweet dreams and memories.