Firsthand Reports: Hand-Crafted Homestead

Firsthand reports of a couple who built their own hand-crafted homestead.

| December 2004/January 2005

  • Lambs
    Betsy holds a lamb.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEW editors
  • Llama
    Carlos the llama guards the sheep.
    Photo courtesy Betsy Erickson
  • Homesteading
    Runo in the rye field.
    Photo courtesy Betsy Erickson
  • Hand-Crafted Homestead
    Betsy and Runo on the farm her great-grandparents once homesteaded.
    Photo courtesy Betsy Erickson
  • Sheep Shearing
    From shearing to weaving, most of the work that goes into the couple's wool rugs is accomplished by hand.
    Photo courtesy Betsy Erickson

  • Lambs
  • Llama
  • Homesteading
  • Hand-Crafted Homestead
  • Sheep Shearing

Neither my husband, Runo Lorentzon, nor I could properly be called part of the “back to the land” movement, or "den gröna vågen", which is a Swedish phrase for the same trend and means “the green wave.” Both of us grew up on small farms: I am a native of the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and Runo spent his first 25 years in the beautiful, lake-studded province of Värmland, Sweden.

As young people, we met in Sweden, where I was visiting relatives, and Runo was a neighbor of my dad’s cousin. Runo and I corresponded a bit after I went home, and when I returned to Sweden the next June, we married, or in the words of the old Scandinavian saying, we “cast our futures into the same bag.”

We decided to establish our permanent home in the United States, and so Runo left his homeland, and we started a new life together on our Coe Creek Sheep Farm, in Tustin, Mich. This is the same farm my Scandinavian great-grandparents established as their homestead more than 100 years ago.

Life Choices

We have never been great planners, and our lifestyle has been more evolution than revolution, but we made several decisions in the beginning that have had far-reaching implications for us, and that were, perhaps, a way of asserting a slightly rebellious streak.

Early in our life together, we decided to not have children. On Runo’s part, this decision was influenced by the pessimistic side of his Nordic character. He does not feel that the world will be a very good place for the generations that follow us. I have a more optimistic outlook, but I have never wanted children of my own. We live in a neighborhood filled with extended family, which has given us many of the joys of parenthood without raising a family ourselves.

Another significant decision we made was to build our own house and to construct as much of it as we could from materials we harvested on the farm. Finally, we decided we would not use poisons to maintain our garden or farm. That has meant growing a large organic garden and raising our sheep on pasture instead of trying to grow grain crops.

Marie Devine_2
10/24/2008 1:13:40 PM

That was a delightful story to show the great satisfaction and delight in doing things the natural way. I believe we as a nation and world are in a transition from our lifestyle that pollutes man and earth to leaving that behind (it isn't working anyway) and turning to creating a garden paradise lifestyle where all we need is in our area. That solves all the world problems with one strategy, it is sustainable forever, and it is full of satisfaction.

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