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Dear MOTHER: Breaking Ground

Read letters from readers with dreams of homesteading and readers looking back on fond times, and learn more about solar-powered housing.

| February/March 2020

Our family of five — which consists of my husband and me and our three daughters — was itching to live somewhere with more room to roam and space to breathe. Last September, all the details aligned perfectly, and we purchased a picturesque stone house on 8.6 acres of ideal homesteading land, situated directly beside the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

We have many future plans for our space, but our first priority was to break ground for a large garden. Our neighbors helped till the land, and my husband installed a fence. Inspired, we sowed seeds, planted seedlings, and prayed they’d grow. My girls helped with every step of the gardening process as best they could. We’re finally tasting the fruits of our labor and couldn’t be happier. We’re learning to compost as an ongoing science project, so we can enrich and nourish the soil. Our girls were also great helpers when we planted six blueberry bushes, four apple trees, and two peach trees. We can’t wait to eat this delicious fruit in a few years. It’s very important that our home-schooled daughters grow up knowing where food comes from and how much work goes into producing a harvest.

Julie Swinger
Stoystown, Pennsylvania

Homestead Hopes


For years, I’ve read and admired the folks who’ve appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Grit, and Backwoods Home Magazine. I’ve longed to live on a farm and be self-sufficient. I’ve dreamed of having the freedom to rise with the sun and go to bed when it sets. In the late 1970s, my boyfriend and I bought a 700-square-foot cabin that sat on 7 acres. The property had a small spring-fed pond with a cistern. We both worked for the Navy back then, so we’d commute the 50-plus miles to work. Life was good, and, eventually, I got to stay home with our children and work around the property. We grew our own food, raised chickens and goats, and even had a horse. But times changed, and so did we. By 2005, I was a single parent renting houses from other people, but my dream of a life on the farm never left me. I longed for self-sufficiency once again.

In 2015, I bought a single-family home on 2 acres of mountain land overgrown with trees and rocks. Since I was still about 60 miles from Washington, D.C., land was at a premium, so I couldn’t afford more land for a true farm. The land did have a year-round stream that fed into a small pond.

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