Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.
When planning a homestead, we’ve heard again and again that we first need to simply spend time at our place and get to know it. Before we dig in gardens, we should watch how the water moves across the landscape. Before we sited our house, we wanted to know how to best block cold winds and maximize our solar potential. For these reasons, we spent about a year just getting to know the place. (Many homesteaders wait even longer.) We started moving forward on the legal paperwork for constructing and financing a new home, but we spent time just getting to know our new home. Aside from the practical reasons for doing this, we have discovered some nice perks, including morel mushrooms.
The rain, which is fantastic for many reasons, has slowed our construction progress a bit. In the meantime, we’ve spent a good chunk of time weeding and planting in our garden (which is not on our land because we don’t have a water line on our property yet), and foraging for prized morel mushrooms (evidence above, shown on top of an hour’s work with a chainsaw). Tyler has “the eye” and has found a few nice spots on our land that seem to produce just enough morels to satisfy our annual appetite.
If you’re interested in learning how to find your own morels, you can’t just ask those who’ve found them where to go. That line of inquiry tends to end in pursed lips and shoulder shrugs. MOTHER EARTH NEWS has this Guide to Hunting for Morel Mushrooms, but the act truly is an art form in patience and reading the landscape, and is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Plus, the mushrooms are incredibly valuable should you decide to sell them; a pound will bring in about $25 in our neck of the woods. We don’t sell our morels — we just cook them in butter, cream them into soups, and take full pleasure in these flavorful harbingers of warm spring weather. We consider it quite a good omen that these seasonal delights grace our property, and are looking forward to sharing our homestead with such tasty little surprises each year.
In other homestead news: We officially have an address! Our building permit was approved by the county, and we’re all set to start pouring concrete and framing walls. A later post will go into some of our construction materials debates, and why we chose some of the materials we did. Spoiler: A lot of it comes down to money and materials availability. (Maybe we should start selling mushrooms ... )
Photo of morels and logs by Tyler Gill.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!