Living in Harmony

Whether we're woking on the farm or performing music, our homesteading family feels like we are living in harmony.


| August/September 2005



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The Knights haul wood to be used for cooking and heating. After selling their Volvos and van, the family switched to horses for all their transportation needs, except touring.


Photo courtesy John Christopher Knight

In 1989, I was an agency representative for seven electrical manufacturers. My wife, Laura, our five children and I lived in Knoxville, Tenn., in a five-bedroom home, with two Volvos and a new van in the driveway. In our spare time, we rode horses for pleasure and frequented the nearby Smoky Mountains. I also coached my children’s soccer teams and played competitive soccer. One day I was going in for a goal and managed to crush my ankle, which meant that I couldn’t walk or work for four months.

During that time, I began to daydream about what I really wanted to do with my life. I was bed-bound, with nothing else to think about, and after wrestling with my thoughts for weeks, I decided it was time to discuss these ideas with my wife. “Honey,” I said, “Let’s rent a barn for the rest of the year. We’ll put our belongings in the barn, and we’ll all move into our pop-up camper. We will save as much money as we can, and then, in December, I am going to quit my job. We will buy some land, sell our cars, live without electricity and farm with our riding horses, so that I can stay home with you and the children!”

What I really wanted was to find a way to live on a small income so that I could quit my job and spend more time with my family, but Laura was less than enthusiastic about my idea. She threatened to get a divorce if I followed through with this crazy plan, and even my sister and mother came to her support. I knew I was in trouble; I couldn’t just disregard our 17 happy years of marriage and five wonderful children, but at the same time, I wanted to find a way to make this new life happen.

Starting from Scratch

I was still hoping Laura would come around to my way of thinking, so I went ahead and put an ad in the paper: “Looking for barn to rent.” I received one response to my ad — someone was offering a pig barn with water and electricity. The only problem was that it was filled with about 3 feet of pig manure! Well … I was committed, but not that committed, so I decided to keep looking.

Instead, I found a farm with a nice barn that I was able to rent in exchange for doing some work on the property. I moved our pop-up camper there in March, and asked Laura if she would consider moving. I was hopeful that she would, because the children were so excited about the idea. Laura was reluctant, but she finally agreed to come along if we would still have a washing machine, indoor toilet, bathtub, refrigerator and microwave. I realized that with a little compromise, we could make this work by taking it one step at a time. After all, what good would it do quitting work to be home with my family, if I didn’t have a family to be home with?

Fortunately, the property we were renting still had power poles and water pipes where the farmhouse had once stood, so I knew I would be able to put in water and electricity. Then I tackled the first building project of my life. It was a simple 16-by-20-foot building, with a wafer board exterior, a completely flat roof, exposed 2-by-4s inside and a plywood floor. My boss came to visit and he dubbed it the “mini-shanty.” He also warned me not to let anyone else at work find out where I was living. It was a very humble dwelling, but it did technically meet all my wife’s requirements, so we moved in.





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