City Boy Makes Good

Letters from our readers about moving from the city, processing grief, accessible gardening, chimney sweeping, and more.

December 2018/January 2019

I first discovered MOTHER EARTH NEWS when a copy was sitting on the coffee table of a friend’s country home. I was a city boy at the time, and dreamed of someday having my own homestead. But how could I make it happen? I had no money, no experience, and no clue where to start.

My first move away from city life was when I bought a used step van to outfit as my new home. I spent months adding everything I needed to live on the road — water tanks, a bed with storage underneath, a fold-down desk, a gas stove, a furnace, cupboards, a toilet — all hidden inside so that the outside looked like a generic delivery van. This allowed me to park it anywhere without having to rent a parking space. When I wasn’t working summers as a waiter, I was driving through the country in search of a homestead. I saw many that I liked, but I was waiting for the one that I loved.

After five years, I had enough money saved up to buy land in High Springs, Florida. The property had a large lake filled with bass, bluegills, and catfish. I was able to buy 20 acres — 10 acres stripped land and the other 10 established woods — for $25,000.

During my homestead search, I met and married my wife. Early in our marriage, we only visited the land briefly before returning to our jobs. The next year, we made the permanent move with our infant daughter. We had to live in tents and trailers while our house was being built, but it was worth it to finally start our homestead.

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