Hawthorne Homesteading: the Big Move, Honeybees, and Livestock and Poultry

Jane Musser talks about the family's big move to a farmhouse, the status of the homestead buildings, wild bees, and livestock and poultry.

| March/April 1975

  • Homestead old barn
    The author recalls their move to the country, the status of the homestead buildings, caring for wild bees, and livestock and poultry.

  • Homestead old barn

Life has certainly not been dull on "ye olde homestead" since our last "Report" in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 19. We've been awfully busy, but with the help of a little persistent prodding from my husband, Mick — I thought I'd take the time to give everyone the continuing story of our back to the land joys and sorrows.

The Homesteading Move

The most notable happening since I last wrote was the homestead's move in February of '73, We decided that renting was no longer for us and bought a huge 150–year old farmhouse and dairy barn all situated on five acres that we can now at last call our own. The land is corner property, with frontage on two hardtop roads. Our privacy has been cut down somewhat, but — after living through half a winter on a dirt (but more often mud) road — I'm thankful for the ease with which we're now able to get around. It's less lonely here, too.

Our new land is slightly rolling which is fine with us, as the south–facing slope is used for our vegetable garden, berries, and herbs while the slope that looks north is ideal for future plantings of fruit and nut trees. We have a stream with trees and shrubs on both banks, and a small woodlot. Vegetation includes a huge willow, a few apple trees, forsythia, lilacs, bittersweet, and  — in front of the house  — five giant pines. We've made a good start at replenishing the land to support our vegetable crops, and have already put in the herb garden, strawberries, raspberry bushes, and a comfrey patch. An orchard and grape vines are yet to come. You see, we have high hopes for this relatively small piece of earth.


Our house was slightly dilapidated when we bought it and has required (and will, for a long time) a lot of work. We've made some improvements, however, such as rebuilding and cleaning our tumbledown chimneys in order to install two wood burning stoves: a big metal plated heater for the workshop and an old (circa 1900) Kalamazoo cook stove in the kitchen. We found that last one by placing an ad in the local "pennysaver". The stove has six burners, two warming ovens, and a water reservoir — and believe it or not, the old lady who answered our listing let that wonderful unit go for $20.00! Now it burns merrily in our kitchen and keeps the room snug and cozy. I still need a lot of practice regulating the oven, but cooking is much easier today than on that electric monster we had when we moved in!.

Most of the wooden shingles on our huge dairy barn had blown off (before we came) and — as a result — the roof was pitted with holes and the floor was rotted through. The building is much too large for our immediate purposes, but we decided to keep and repair it for present and future use. (We hope to rent storage space in the barn someday. In the meantime, we still have our own animals to house.) Obviously, the roof had to be replaced — but how do you reach a surface that looms 50 feet off the ground and has a loft under only half of it? We pondered the question for most of one summer while our livestock suffered badly every time there was a heavy rainfall.

We finally recruited some daredevil friends who live in Buffalo city — folks do love to come to the country for a weekend of hard labor and good food — and set to work. By tying ladders to the roof's supporting beams (which, luckily, were still in good shape) we were able to move around efficiently and replace all the remaining old shingles with galvanized steel sheeting, Half the roof was finished in that one weekend, Mick and some local friends have since completed another quarter, and the rest is waiting till this summer. And already the animals are dry as toast, even in the worst of storms.

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