Twenty-five years ago friends bought a piece of wild woods in northern Minnesota where electricity was not available. There was no cabin or other buildings and friends of theirs and their family thought they were crazy, and they were not shy about telling them how they would fail, and they were nuts for even doing that. Well, they cleared a spot, built a cabin, then cleared more, and developed gardens. A chicken coop and small barn soon followed, all hand built and built out of mainly salvaged and home-cut lumber. They heated with wood from their patch of woods and survived happily, far from town, without electricity or phone lines.

Who would be “crazy” enough to buy a chunk of wild woods to live on?

Fast forward to today, with the pandemic raging and folks becoming homeless and hungry. Well, my friends have a full pantry, full root cellar, laying chickens, and several very productive gardens. They’ve added propane heat and solar panels for electricity for more comfort, but still have a wood stove and lanterns. Now their family and friends aren’t saying they’re crazy anymore. In fact, most are saying how lucky they are to have their homestead paid off, be out of debt, and have plenty of food. My, how the worm turns, huh?

We enjoy our heating with home-grown firewood, even though some folks still think we’re crazy like our friends!

Now we’re all planning our spring projects and deciding what crops we’ll plant this year. We can’t do much about the problems facing the country right now. So we will just plant more beans and cut more firewood, enjoying the sunsets over our woods. Not a bad way to live, after all.

We can’t fix the world’s problems, but we can plant more beans and ensure we never are homeless, hungry, or thirsty.

— Jackie

58 COMMENTS

  1. Gosh has it been that long. I remember reading your blog back then. You were worried about your momma, being cold so you added a room to the trailer to put in a wood burning stove. Soon you had the log cabin built and no roof but tarps. I still remember the stain you put on your porch , it turned red. Lol. But I loved the color. I just really wanted to say thank you for blogging all these years. I got to live on 40 acres in the woods for over 20 years and you helped me so much. I learned how to care for my farm animal’s, stock a year worth of food, can meat and vegetables. And had a 3 acres garden.

    Keep dreaming.

  2. Jackie, I enjoy your books, and have purchased and given away, and tell others about your seeds. I keep you, Will, David and fam in my prayers. I enjoy your blog so much, and articles in Backwoods Home magazine. I love living off-grid. So interesting when the weather is foul and the electric company turns off power to all the area below our mountain (those Smart meters are there for a reason!); it’s in the black, but our home shines the Light up here, cozy with a home-raised, grown, and put up pantry, and plenty of wood stove warmth!!!!! Thanks for your Godly example to us in far north California!

  3. It doesn’t have to take 25 years to create that kind of a dream either. My husband and I decided January 2019 that we were going to move out of our apartment in the city to the country and start homesteading. We bought our place in September 2019 and paid cash for an acre and a half, an old trailer, some outbuildings, and an outdoor wood stove. when the pandemic started in March 2020 and I was laid off, I moved out to the land and started the garden and putting in water and electric lines. My husband joined me in July a week before the chicks arrived. I canned and froze everything that I could. i saved all the seeds I could from the garden. This winter I invested fruit trees, berry plants and perennial herbs and vegetables. We butchered some of our roosters and the hens started laying December 21. Now we have a house full of food and i had to buy only a few garden seeds. I have eggs setting to continue the chicken flock. My monthly bills are less than $300 per month and that includes water, electric, phone, and internet. Our cars are paid off as well, so all there is to do with them is maintenance. I just work part time off the farm as a substitute teacher which covers those bills. It really doesn’t take that long once you put your mind to what you’re going to do.

  4. So many people dream about this lifestyle without ever getting to the hard work and dedication it takes to make it happen. Thanks Jackie, for showing the way!

    Your booklet on chickens got us going and I still use your excellent garden and canning book.

    In the meantime, I want to remind people that you can have “country in the city” by learning to bake, can, be thrifty and garden depending on your circumstances. Any skill you can develop will prove useful.

    • For heaven’s sake, YES!!! After all, I was born in Detroit and learned to garden and can right there. Baking and cooking from scratch is not only thrifty but healthy, tasty and FUN too, besides developing a very useful skill.
      And you don’t have to plant an acre to learn to garden. Even apartment dwellers can find places like community gardens in which to give it a try.

  5. All Sunsets are free. And we all share in them equally, no matter how we choose to live out our days.
    Gratitude is an attitude which is also free. I hope we all share in gratitude.

    • So true! And KINDNESS is free too and what a wonderful world it would be if more people practiced it instead of hatred and violence!!

    • Being positive is so much more rewarding than being negative. It not only affects your own outlook on things but those around you.

    • Thank you Marilyn. None of us ever reaches total self-reliance; it is but a path, not a destination. We’re so happy to be on this path with other like-minded folks like you.

  6. I look forward to see what you have written about.
    Glad you enjoy the way you live.
    Wish it was me.
    Spring will be here one day, we’re getting closer.

  7. I wonder if anyone who wasn’t alive in the 40s, 50s or 60s really grasps what is ahead for us. It will be a life-changing challenge for everyone. However, it can be met…..with all of us first keeping our faith, working hard, helping each other, and understanding that self reliance is the goal we seek. Jackie, you have done your part, teaching and encouraging many to find a way to that goal. I thank you, most sincerely, for teaching me many things that my mom and grandma tried to first! I’m getting it now. Bless you.

    • Aww, thanks Mimi. I agree that many folks don’t have a clue how to simply get by. I’m glad I was raised relatively “poor” and so, learned how to hustle and fight to get further ahead and yet help others too. Today there are so many who want everything they see and want it NOW. Regardless of what may well be around the corner. That scares me so much. What will happen when they simply can’t have IT??? Let alone keep a roof over their heads and food on the table?

  8. Both my husband and I were fortunate to be raised by parents who were frugal and grew a lot of what they ate. We both also had grandparents who lived without running water or electricity. We watched and learned. It is so comforting to know we have fuel to heat our home, food to eat now and a full pantry and freezers for later, a garden to grow more, chickens, kerosene lamps and kerosene in case we lose electricity, books to read to keep our minds occupied, medicines in case we become ill, our home and land paid for, our vehicles and tractor paid for and the knowledge we need to use and reuse the things we have. We live where wild game and fish are abundant and all we have to do is harvest and clean them. Thanks to you, today we added to the things we have when we received our seed order. Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge.

  9. We started out in a pop up camper on our property and the chickens had a home before we did. We poured our foundation, capped it off, and moved in the basement when our youngest of four was a week old. We lived in there with no electricity or running water. I gave the kids baths in a pot with water heated from the woodstove. Cut our own trees to build our home and mortgage free. Well 27 years later thrilled that we can live like this and mot have to worry about food or heat. Atleast now my house is better then the chickens, pigs, and cows.

  10. I’ve enjoyed your journey and writings. I know it takes grit, determination and a never give up attitude. I too know the naysayers and let the comments pass in the wind. Having a supply of heat (wood), food (grown, canned and living livestock), and shelter can only make one feel satisfied and more secure. You have had a significant journey. Your willingness to share is really appreciated. Happiness is not how much you have but contentment with what you have-most due to your own hard work and inner resolve. PS how are the goat kids. We’re going to get a couple buck goat kids a local goat farm doesn’t want.

    • Our remaining kid (the one buckling has a new home now) is doing great. Now he’s back with Mom, who still won’t let him nurse unless I hold her in the milking stanchion. But house goats quickly out-grow their cuteness with the size of their pee puddles!
      Do have your bucklings neutered before you bring them home as wethers make a much nicer pet than a buck, especially during the fall when they develop a buck stink and pee on themselves to attract “girls”.

  11. My oh my I remember that well. I was thinking how can you survive that winter. I remember Bob being sick. But you guys not only survived but you have thrived. You are an encouragement to others. I’ve learned all I know about canning from you and your canning book. I’ve been canning now for 12 years.

    • Way to go, girl!!! I’m so proud of you. Life isn’t always perfect, even on the homestead. But quitting doesn’t let you see the end of the story. Thankfully, my story keeps going on.

  12. Everyone has said it well. Nothing more to add
    Except…….. Well Done …. you inspire and
    Encourage the rest of us. And provide the
    Best seeds for keeping us fed. Thanks again
    All you do.

    • And thank you, Joann! Sometimes I think mainstream folks think us as “weird preppers” who hide in bunkers with assault rifles waiting for the end of the world. Definitely not so. We just like living as independently as possibly in a lifestyle we totally love. (A lot less worries that way, too!)

  13. Jackie, I just love this story. I have followed you for many years. I remember when your parents lived with you in the house trailer!! I remember when your husband died but you and David still carried on. I admire you and all that you have been able to do!! You are so blessed with all that you have!!! Thank you for letting us be a part of your world!!!!

    • Thank you, Cindy. You do what you have to. When you quit, you lose out on the rest of the story that has yet to be unfolded to you. We ARE blessed so much and thank God every single day for what we have.

  14. How well I remember that family that even lived in a small camper in the frigid Minnesota weather starting out! I have followed you thru the years and well remember every obstacle you faced and how you overcame it. You have truly been an inspiration to me giving me the courage to strive on my homestead since I retired several years ago. You definitely had a headstart on me but I am HAPPY & CONTENT with what I have, even tho it is not up to many standards of those better off than I am…or are they?? Even tho my fixed income for seniors has to STRETCH to make ends meet and every penny accounted for each month, my pantries are full, my gardens produce (even with obstacles of changing weather & bugs), my animals are happy and I close my tired, weary eyes every night THANKING MY GOOD LORD ABOVE for another day to be ALIVE to face another day, whatever it may bring. Homesteading is a hard life with long days but the end results & rewards surpass ANYTHING those living in the rat race could ever BUY with their money and high(er) class lifestyles!! Sending many blessings for a GREAT year & Bountiful Harvests. Just be happy, greet each new day with a smile & peace in your heart, plant a garden, raise some animals, take the good with the bad and BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE & worry not for what you don’t. Love you guys and thanks for all you do for us fellow homesteaders!

  15. I do admire you and your family, all you have done. That mindset can be applied to anyone, anywhere they are located. Having known unexpected job loss, when my husband and I bought our home, we determined to live on one paycheck, even though there were two. Paid off bills and then delayed anything till there was enough to buy it. Garden-though not as large as yours, learned fermenting, maple syruping, wild foraging (ahh dandelions are yummy), tracked what we used so could have something set aside in storage for a rainy (lockdown?) day. Yard sales and second hand stores are the ticket. So with the world turned upside down out there and it may get worse before it gets better. I and my house can serve the Lord-by being able to take care of ourselves and our neighbors. We have a peace and contentment that is good for the heart and soul. Good for you and all you have achieved.

    • Yes, Janelle, just like you and your husband, folks can start being more self-reliant wherever they are. It only takes the will to do so and the determination to carry it out. I’m so happy for you and your husband!

  16. Yup. The family always thought we were crazy too but are seeing things in a very different light now for sure If things continue to go downhill and I pray they don’t at least we have a fighting chance Please keep your blog up no matter what. We learn some little tidbit of information every time !

    • Yep, my friend calls it a reversal of fortune. They once were called poor and now folks say how lucky they are. Um hum! And I will keep on blogging.

  17. Living in a populated area where conveniences abound, folks tend to view people like us–ones who have full pantries, freezers and ways to refill them–in a negative light.
    “What will you DO with all that food?!?” Or, better yet… “Well if something goes wrong, I’m coming to your house!”
    I actually replied to a relative, “Oh no, you are NOT.”
    I’m thankful every day for the blessing of being able to continue to prepare, but I’m not comfortable with too many knowing now. I hope we are a group of silent majority, but in case the majority is the group who are clearing out store shelves of bottled water before every storm, they don’t need to know about happy, crazy me.
    See ya in the Garden,
    Erin

    • I’ve had relatives say that same thing. I probably wouldn’t turn them away but I would appreciate a little sweat equity while I’m out pulling weeds in the food crops and they’re on Facebook in an air conditioned living room!
      We, too, are very thankful every day for the blessing of living as we do. Yep, it’s hard work but that, too, is good for the body and soul.

  18. I shake my head during every spate of economic hard times. I remember the tough times in the early 70s – I was in 4th grade. While I never knew “the numbers”, I knew when Dad’s hours were not plenty. My folks *never* spent more than they had, we never went hungry, had a roof over our heads, and the basics of life. As I got older, I saw the sacrifices made by my Mom. “Frugality” became en vogue when the Great Recession hit in 2008 but how soon far too many forget. While I don’t begrudge those who strive to pay off their mortgage early, I *do* question the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) crowd. Health insurance is always foremost in my mind (I ALWAYS had medical, dental, and vision insurance for my kids). But the saying “the best laid plans of mice and men” is always in my mind. Very few of us will ever have enough cash – yes cash, not stocks and/or other investments – to retire at 30/25/40/45 without skills. Skills to grow food, provide heat/electricity at a low cost, repair to name a few items. Most of us will still need to buy shoes, parts, and other items. Even living the simple life is not without the need for money.
    As with your friends, it has taken years to get where they are today. It didn’t happen overnight. And despite our best intentions, time starts to catch up with us – life under control or not. Kudos to your friends – they’ve earned the benefits of their (hard) work. May the future be kind to all of us. May we all do what we can to help others along the way.

    • I agree very few folks have or will have the ability to take early retirement without skills and the ability to exchange them for cash. Self-reliance is not something you can just dive into and expect instant gratification. It just leads to burnout and discouragement. Instead, it’s a path, often a life-long path wherein your status of independence varies from year to year as you continue to work on it. The key here is “work” and a whole lot of people don’t want to actually work and sacrifice “wants” in order to get ahead in the long run. So sad!

  19. Thank you for sharing, I greatly admire you, I only wish you could do a blog more often! But with your busy life, I am sure that is not a practical thing to do. I am looking forward to growing more Bill Beans this year…Happy Gardening

    • You’re right; doing the blog twice a week is all I can manage right now. But I do try to be here at least those two days!! I’d miss you guys otherwise!

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