A Homesteader's Life in Wisconsin

The Kalkas move to Holcombe, Wis. to lead a homesteader's life for the first time while encountering and overcoming many obstacles.

| March/April 1978

  • Wisconsin_Cows
    Clean air, beautiful surroundings, farm animals and friendly people are all a part of life on the homestead.

  • Wisconsin_Cows

Don't let anyone kid you: A homesteader's life ain't easy, especially if you're living in the back country of Wisconsin (as Craig and I, our three-year-old son Aaron, and Duchess — our Norwegian elkhound — are). It may be a lot of things — stimulating, educational, spiritually rewarding — but easy it's not.

Of course, we expected that homesteading life here in the wilds of west-central Wisconsin would be a bit more challenging than it had been in Waukesha (the city we lived in before the Big Move), but by the end of our first winter here, the "simple life" was kind of getting us down. Craig, for example, would get awfully tired of working 10 hours a day building other people's houses in 20-below weather only to come home and have to split wood for the night's warmth. And I got amazingly discouraged with walking 300 feet down to the river, chopping holes in the ice (carefully, so as not to fall in), filling the two buckets, and trudging back up the hill with the sloshing pails, just to have a gallon or two of water to cook or bathe with. (On a really cold day, the water in the buckets — and on my jeans — would freeze before I got back to the house!) And wouldn't you know that our first winter here would turn out to be the coldest one in more than 30 years (with temperatures as low as minus 52 degrees)?

For all our grumbling about cold days and bad luck, though, the fact remains that you couldn't drag us back to the city for all the flush toilets in America! As I write this, winter is long gone: It's midsummer, temperatures are in the 90s, the farm is in high gear, and we love it.

People often ask us how we came to settle In the tiny, west-central Wisconsin town of Holcombe, where originally we didn't know a soul. The answer is long and involved, but it basically boils down to this: City life doesn't agree with us, and a homesteader's life in Holcombe does.

Before Living a Homesteader’s Life

Three years ago, the four of us — Craig, me, Aaron, and Duchess — lived in a cramped apartment in Waukesha, about 15 miles outside of Milwaukee. Like many city dwellers, we were tired of spending what little money we had on sky-high rent, groceries, light bills, and other "necessities." The neighbors always seemed to be a little crazy, drunk, or crabby, the air was constantly gray and dirty, and we weren't very happy.

Then a benevolent relative came along and offered us the money we'd need for the down payment on a place of our own. All well and good except that when we finally found a little house we liked, we discovered that it was next to impossible for us to get a loan from a bank without a stack of credit cards in our wallets. (How naive we were to think that our "cash up front" policy of paying bills would make a favorable impression on the bank's loan officer!)

1/26/2015 3:32:25 PM

I live 20 mins from Holcombe which is in north west WI. la cross would be west central

william monahan
2/7/2013 6:50:53 PM

HI!!! I am relocating to WI. I along with 5 other adult family members. We want to become a homesteaders in that area. Most likely North west or North central, WI. Can you give me any tips on how to locate inexpensive forested land in that area (possibly even receive grants) and anything to watch out for. Thanks!!!

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