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

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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