The Accidental Homesteader

| 1/30/2013 2:19:53 PM

Tags: Puyallup 2013, Seven Springs 2013, Lawrence 2013, Guest Post, Homesteading, Lyle Estill,

When I bought my “farm” in Moncure, N.C., in 1990, I did it simply to live in the woods. I would like to say I was deliberate. And intentional. But “clueless” is probably a better word. I should have suspected something when I bought the land and they threw the house in for free.

Lyle Estill accidental homesteaderAt the time Chatham County was beginning to think about public waste disposal. Up until then the common practice was to dump household garbage on the property lines.

Which meant I had an abundance of waste to wade through. As an avid recycler I sorted a lot of it out. Green glass and clear glass were piled up separately from heart medicine bottles and worn out shoes. I sold many tons of scrap metal for about a penny a pound.

My rhythm was simple. I would haul five hundred pounds of scrap metal to the other side of the county, collect my five dollars, stop by the stockyard with my empty truck, pay five dollars for a scoop of manure, and head for home.

It was through garbage that I developed an intimacy with the land. To this day, when I am walking in the woods, I can often feel that the ground beneath me is not “right.” And when I stop to explore I frequently uncover a tin can, or a bedspring packed in clay, or a whitewall tire that is waiting to be unearthed and taken to our recycling center.

Decades ago it seemed like a daunting task. But now the place has begun to heal. Chestnut trees drop fruit in an orchard that was once motor oil and car parts. There is a fig tree which dominates what was once an appliance pile. Asparagus now grows in the field that was once populated by plastic tampon applicators.

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