An Independence Day Celebration

Each year in October, this homesteading family celebrates the joys of self-sufficient living.

| October/November 2001

  • Nubian Goats
    Janet Knickerbocker, her son, Jamie Bush, and husband Mark Knickerbocker show their two Nubians goats an antique milking stanchion.
    Photo courtesy HAL SMITH
  • Angora Goat
    Rosebud, the angora goat, appears quite pleased to be sneaking a colorful snack.
    Photo courtesy JANET KNICKERBOCKER

  • Nubian Goats
  • Angora Goat

Each year on Oct. 10, we have an evening of celebration at Harvest Moon Farm. It is our Independence Day, a personal version of Thanksgiving: On this night we commemorate the day we moved back to the land.

Moving to the country was a dream for many years for my husband Mark and me. We wanted to be out so badly we could taste it. We both were working in town at the time and had read lots of books and magazines pertaining to the country way of life. We were living in an apartment on the busiest street in Hannibal, Mo., with traffic and sirens all hours of the day and night. The first few nights we were finally in the country, our ears rang with the silence. Bullfrogs and whippoorwills lulled us to sleep at night, a welcome change.

Mark and I drove the back roads for weeks looking for a place for sale or one that looked vacant and might meet our needs. We contacted some people we knew about a place that looked abandoned near their property. They said it was a weekend house and not for sale. About a week later they called us back and said it had slipped their minds that there was another place with a small acreage just up the road. They wanted people who could take care of the place and fix it up to move in. We took one look through the windows and called to make an offer.

And here we are. I thank the good Lord every day for helping us find this place and allowing us to live here. We try not to take our good fortune for granted, and our annual celebration is just one of our ways of giving thanks. We don't serve store-bought vittles on this day — no, sir. We sit down to a wonderful presentation of foods from our place. A bountiful array, each year more varied than the last. Some years we share this meal with special friends and family. Other years it's just a private evening for Mark, our son, Jamie Bush, and me. Either way, it is now tradition.

Enjoying Wild and Homegrown Foods

Our menu from a year ago, the end of our sixth on the land, provides a window on our lives. Dinner began with morel mushrooms from our woods, a supreme delicacy. We flour and fry them in oil so they're crispy and simply melt in your mouth. I don't know if it's because they are a rare treat or because they are harbingers of spring, but there is nothing to compare with the taste of a morel right out of the frying pan. We forage them on our place and always dry a few to eat later in the year. We feel as though we're cheating Mother Nature when the snow is flying and we're eating steak and 'shrooms.

The main course was venison filets with wild elderberry jelly. Mark has always hunted and we never let the meat go to waste, but it was never an essential in our town life. When I left my job in town, we had to learn to live on less. So when we formulated a budget, we saw we had to reduce the amount we spent on groceries and dining out. Game is a staple in our pantry now, and it's comforting to go into the winter with a freezer full of meat we butchered ourselves.


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