I have been asked many times about how I came to live a plain and simple life, and I am often asked how one begins living a self-reliant lifestyle. How does one transition from living a “virtual life” to a “real” life rooted in the reality of simplicity. In this article I’ll share with you how my life was changed, and the basic steps one needs to take to begin this challenging journey.
But, before I go into this subject very far I want to make an important point: The “Simple life” is NOT simple. It is actually the “complex and highly involved life”. Everything you do takes more thought, more planning, more action and more knowledge. You do not decide to start living this life and just take the plunge.
You start out one step at a time. There are many steps and they can be taken in any order. If you want to live the “simple life” you can began anywhere. Here is an example of a typical scenario.
Let’s say you are buying bread from the grocery store. A first step could be to buy a book on bread making, purchase some whole wheat flour and make your own bread, using a bread making machine.
After you have done that a few times and found a recipe you like you might decide to begin to knead your bread by hand. Then your next step might be to buy a grain grinder, purchase some whole wheat berries, grind your own flour, knead your bread by hand and bake your bread. If you want to go all the way you can buy some seed and learn how too grow your own wheat. Each step along the way you will become more knowledgeable, more self reliant and less dependent on the “virtual world”.
This is just an example. You can start anywhere. Just remember, the first step for one may be the last step for another.
How it Happened for Linda and Me
As they say about all the successful musicians I was an overnight success at “homesteading and farming”. Yeah, really! Here are the facts:
My 1st thoughts about getting “Back to the Land”: 1974; I left corporate life, read a lot and dreamed a lot more.
I finally began to put some ideas into practice in 1975.
I Lived in a converted sheep shed in metropolitan Columbus Ohio; met Linda, worked as a handyman with Linda’s help.
1976: Planted a small garden (had gardened since age 8)
1980: Moved to country; began canning and freezing
1982: Started heating with wood cut from Grandmother’s farm
1978-1990: Combined growing home based business and homesteading; Linda went back to school getting a degree in psychology; we were both learning more basic skills.
1990: We bought 160 acre Locust Grove Farm in Southern Ohio; began foraging and growing chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat. Cut 6-10 cords of firewood per year and split from our own woods. No back-up heat system. We use a shallow well and cisterns for all water for humans and livestock. We also started eating wild meats.
1992: Sold business to concentrate on farming and living more in tune with nature’s rhythms. Built pond and stocked with fish.
Began commercial farming of free-range poultry and did on-farm slaughter.
1993: Began developing berry picking trails and wildlife habitat improvements. Started making hay. Got family dairy cow and started raising beef cattle. Began preparing area for commercial market garden.
1994: Added 1000 egg layers to our operation, started drying food and making jerky.
1995: Began income sharing community and also started milking goats for our own use. Started doing farm tours and demonstrating my production methods. Wrote Free-Range Poultry book and started teaching courses.
1999: Bought Kitchen Queen wood cook stove and expanded our range of wood cooking; also heated water with wood.
2002: Moved to more remote 175 acres in Missouri and I am learning how to farm all over again in a new eco-system. Planting more perennials and developing foraging trails. Researching and breeding open pollinated vegetable varieties; growing bananas and citrus fruits in our atrium.
Worked a lot on solving family problems involving my aging parents and recovering from the stress involved in that. A wasted year self-reliant wise, but my lifestyle saved me (a story for another time).
2003: Continuing to learn about Missouri farming and how a river adds to my life. Once again ready to consider community members and expanding our on-farm business Back40Books and our on-farm research.
2004: Continuing to expand Back40Books.com and dug a cache pit for our root vegetables (filled it with sawdust and it worked beautifully; had prior year’s firm potatoes into July).
2005: Purchased HD video and DVD production equipment to begin production of “self-sufficiency” and “how-to” videos.
2006: Began research of further uses of Autumn Berry fruits, Jerusalem Artichokes and Wine Berries. I Applied for a commercial horticulture license and seed production license.
2007: Continuing DVD production, major expansion of http://www.Back40Books.com , our site for self-reliant living and country folks; started sales of seed tubers and wine berry plants. Ate fresh foraged greens all winter long as well as goat, chicken and turkeys we grew and slaughtered and we ate wild raccoon, armadillo, deer and opossum.
So, this is the simple road to simple living. So far, it has taken me 28 years to learn what I know and I will never be finished learning.
One other thing: Did I mention the, TV? I long ago put the TV to bed, no time and no interest. Today about all I see is the Weather Channel when I am on the road presenting at shows, and an occasional educational DVD.
Do I like this life? I love it! Our living expenses are next to nil and I am sure I am alive today because of my active lifestyle and good diet.
Copyright 2008, Herman Beck-Chenoweth