Personal Eden: Moving Back to the Land

This couple took advantage of a stroke of good fortune to move themselves back to the land.

| September/October 1981

Two years ago I won $50,000 in one of those through-the-mail promotional contests. (Yes, it does really happen to plain folks!) And—as you can probably imagine—my husband Jerry and I were delighted beyond belief. We immediately thought of hundreds of different ways to spend our bonanza. In fact, in the first rush of excitement, it seemed as if we could buy the world!

The Difficult Decision

My husband and I had been married only a few years at that time and had just bought our first home: a small cottage in a suburban neighborhood in western New York. We'd purchased it because the price was right and because the owner had agreed to hold the mortgage. However, there was really nothing about the house (or the area) that we cared for.

Perhaps as a result of that dissatisfaction, we managed to remain calm and levelheaded about the sweepstakes winnings ...and to be careful to choose what was best for us rather than take the well-meant advice of friends and relatives who urged us to invest, travel, or remodel our present house. Our decision was to leave suburbia, move back to the land, and tackle our goal of achieving a modest level of self-sufficiency.

Home at Last

We found our dream homestead—our personal Eden—near the small town of Eden, New York, a community nestled among some of the most lush farmland in the state. It was a ramshackle 125-year-old plank house situated on ten acres of land with a breathtaking view. Half the acreage was wooded, the rest was fertile farming soil. The original barn had long since burned down, but there was a big two-story garage and an old chicken coop.

With little more than a few armfuls of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and various how-to books, Jerry and I moved into our new home in the spring of 1979. Our first year proved to be a real adventure, since neither one of us had any homesteading experience. We did, however, have a great deal of determination.

Lots of Work, Some Mistakes

As a result of ten years of neglect, the house was sorely in need of repair. With some help from new-found friends and neighbors we repaired the roof, mended the wood siding, painted, updated and converted the oil furnace to propane, installed wood stoves as our main sources of heat, and cleaned up piles of junk left scattered over the land by previous owners, all in the first six months. We were so proud!

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