Embracing Change

Suburban couple moved to the country and got their farm off the ground by connecting with generous farmers and like-minded families.

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by Tamara Johnson Photography

If you had told me even five years ago that my husband, Brett, and I would live in the country, raise hens and pigs, tend a 2,000-square-foot garden, build outdoor structures, get excited about worms, host a women’s homesteading group, can our own food, attend homesteading conferences, write about farming, design and sew vintage-inspired aprons, cook everything from scratch, forage in the yard, and nurture all kinds of ferments and tinctures in the depths of our kitchen cabinets, I wouldn’t have believed you. As a matter of fact, no one who knew us ever saw this coming. I was the least likely suspect to ever embrace this life, in part or whole. I grew up outside New York City, and not so long ago, I was a suburban soccer mom with a minivan in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a dead cactus on my kitchen table and no dirt under my nails.

But after 16 years in the suburbs, and after our family walked through some traumatic circumstances, it was time for a fresh start: rolling mountains and fresh country air were calling our hearts. We landed in Dahlonega, Georgia, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our family of five squeezed into a 700-square-foot cottage while we renovated our home and turned this once-neglected property into a unique homestead.

a dog sitting on green grass with a garden, a shed, and a greenhouse in the background
inside of a wooden barn with reddish planks and a white floor and a doorway with sunlight streaming in
many jars of honey or jam sitting on a towel on a kitchen counter

One of our best experiences was responding to a Craigslist ad for a 100-year-old barn, and not knowing what to expect when we arrived! To our surprise, we drove up to meet a smiling couple who shared stories of their time spent in the barn, which we’d dismantle and move to our own property. My heart hurt for them having to let it go, but it burst for our opportunity to continue its story with our family. Then, the owners said we could search the entire property for additional treasures to repurpose on our homestead — a dream come true. We were able to gather canning jars, a cast-iron sink, old doors and windows, chicken feeders, antique garden tools, a blacksmith table, gates, metal buckets, basins, bulb-drying screens, planters, wheelbarrows, a sweet old doghouse, and more. Every time I stepped onto the property, I felt blessed beyond measure to explore and take pieces of what once was, and to have a chance to keep this history alive.

As my experiences deepened and I grew more in love with this lifestyle, I yearned to connect with other like-minded women and learn more. So, I posted a note on a local Facebook page, and I received more than 40 responses in three days! Our small group has been gathering monthly at my home for about 18 months now. We take turns sharing what we’re passionate about and learn new skills from local experts. It’s been a beautiful thing to bring women in our community together to learn all about sustainable living practices, including animal husbandry, gardening, canning, emergency preparedness, and foraging. And, perhaps most importantly, to form relationships and support one another in our journeys.

We hope our family’s story can encourage another’s, and if we all keep sharing our time and wisdom, then perhaps more families will take that leap of faith into sustainable living practices. No matter where you’re at in life, no matter what skills you have or what your financial situation is, just take one step at a time. This lifestyle, while it can be exhausting at times, nurtures the soul like nothing else.

Tears streamed down my cheeks when we got our first egg, and I beamed with excitement when I picked lettuce from our garden for the first time. I wake up every day with gratitude as I look out on our property. I’m learning not to compare ourselves to others; we’re all on our own journeys with different passions, time, resources, and circumstances. I’m also learning to tap into the available resources, whether that’s Mother Earth News, books, friends, YouTube videos, Facebook groups, or my homesteading group. With support, dreams really can come true!

two rows of garden boxes filled with plants with a forest in the background

Mandy Kerns is a wife, mother, and Etsy shop owner. You can connect with Mandy on Instagram @Make_Every_Day_Matter and at Make Every Day Matter.

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