Up on the Ozarks Mountain Farm

Fed up with suburbia and the encroachment of city pollution, the author and her husband established a successful mountain farm in the Ozarks.

| September/October 1974

  • 029 mountain farm - bonniemarie - Fotolia
    When they purchased the land, the Kruse's Ozarks mountain farm included a picturesque old barn in need of a new roof.

  • 029 mountain farm - bonniemarie - Fotolia

Fall on our own mountain homestead in the Ozarks is a glorious—albeit hectic—time! A time for roaming the woods without summer's fear of ticks and snakes, for getting acquainted with trees that are new to us: the burgundy-turning dogwood and blazing sweet gum. It's the season for hunting hickory nuts and walnuts, cutting and stacking wood in preparation for winter, watching with satisfaction and a feeling of security as the woodpile grows. Fall is for harvesting and drying and gathering. And now also seems like a good time to let you know how two members of the Geritol generation (we're both pushing 40, one from either side) are makin' it on our mountain farm in north-central Arkansas.

Seems impossible, but it was less than 18 months ago that my husband left our Chicago suburban home with a suitcase full of back issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, a copy of Moral's Buying Country Property, and my fond farewell ringing in his ears: "Don't come home till you find it!" After 20 years, we had had it with suburban living and the rapid encroachment of the city. We had seen the creek in our yard change, during a 15-year period, from a clean brook bubbling with trout to a polluted sewage ditch. Bill was fed to the gills with both the daily nine-to-five routine and the 6:15am-to-6:15pm drudgery of commuting. For my part I had about come to the conclusion that writing commercials was not exactly the world's highest calling.

Years of vacationing in various parts of the country had led us to believe that we would most enjoy the friendly greenery and longer growing season of the Ozarks, and a quick trip over Thanksgiving convinced us that there was a place just right for us somewhere back in the hills if we could only get to it. So in February we bought a truck and in March my husband, who had some time off from his job, began the search in earnest.

Armed with maps and real estate catalogs, Bill visited small town realtors and talked to people in country stores. Finally—with the aid of the Strout Agency in Marshall, Arkansas—he came upon the place.

Our land is described in the contract as "40 acres, more or less." Actually it's more like 62, and came complete with a house of sorts, two stock ponds, a young orchard, a garden spot which Bill was told had been worked organically for 50 years, a "picturesque" old barn and sheds (i.e., in need of new roofing), a tired outhouse and woods—lots and lots of woods. We paid $12,000 for the whole shebang and are quite satisfied with the deal. You might do better and you might do worse, but with the way land prices are soaring, we recommend that you do it soon.

With our savings and the proceeds from the sale of our former home we were able to pay off the farm. That left us enough to make the place livable and to subsist until we become established here and find outlets for our work: crafts, painting, woodworking, gunsmithing, and the sale of surplus from our garden and orchard. To us, it's important not to have a mortgage payment—or bills from the credit card company, or the like—staring us in the face every month. Just since we've been here, we've seen one young couple forced to leave their homestead and return to smoggy L.A. to work for two years because they just plain didn't have the money for the tools they needed to run their place. There was no other way for them to get the cash.

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