Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our Journey - Part Two

(If you have not read Part One, it is the post before this one.)
With our family feeling more and frustration with the hustle and bustle of suburban living, our efforts to look for our own homestead increased. Michael was commuting an hour each way to his job and it wasn’t uncommon for his commute home to be well over an hour with traffic. In addition, we were very uncomfortable with him applying pesticides. There simple was no feeling of right livelihood.

I continued to apply some homesteading skills. I learned to bake bread (my first loaf was a disaster) and over time it became routine. I continued to read about other homesteader’s experiences always searching for large families as an example but finding few. We continued to be able to pay our bills and practiced self-restraint from purchasing new items. Oh, it was hard. I would walk into Target and come out spending at least $50.00 when I only went in for underwear for a child, for example. I did, however, begin to frequent consignment or thrift shops on a regular basis and begin cooking and baking from scratch. My garden was a little bigger. We bought six chicks and within six months were enjoying fresh eggs.

Michael and I spent many hours online looking for the least expensive areas in New England to buy land. We didn’t want to be too far from family. We explored all options. Buy land and an rv and live in that while we saved to build a cabin. Buy an existing cabin with a small amount of land. We even almost bought a real fixer upper in west central Maine that the owner was willing to finance. My heart told me no after we had signed the hand written paper and left a $500 deposit so we turned around and traveled the three miles back to ask her if we could rip up the contract. Thank goodness she said yes.

Our choices back in 2003/2004 were narrowed to two areas – west/central Maine or the northeast kingdom of Vermont. Both of these areas were still affordable. However, with terrible credit and no job prospects at either location we knew it would take God’s intervention and an act of faith by a third party to make our dream a reality. We spent the next two July 4 weekends and Columbus day weekends at a very small campground in Sheffield, Vermont. The owners had a tiny cabin and they were very gracious to allow our family of seven to all stay for our vacation get-away. We used this time to get a better feel for the area. By the second year we were convinced that it felt like home. But with no savings, no credit and no jobs we questioned if it would happen soon or would our dream be put on hold.

I emailed realtors in the area requesting a rental home. We came to the conclusion that we would need to rent to get us in the area we wanted to settle. I think it took at least six months before we had an agent that would even consider us – five children and six chickens and no job! An email came through that there was a possible home and we headed up for a visit, staying at our familiar cabin. The house was right in a village, not the homesteading, rural lifestyle we had imagined. However, we would be near our someday homestead. We said yes, and within 30 days we were off. This was the end of September 2005. My supportive parents helped us move up although I am sure they were feeling bewildered and worried.

Within the first week Michael had a job with a contractor. God was good. We also really worked our online toy making business and it was busier than ever. The gift of this home in the village was the soil. It has a disconnected piece of land with it that had beautifully rich soil. We turned over 1/3 of an acre with mostly a hand shovel. We sent the children out to do so many rows per day. Michael worked tirelessly in the early mornings and evenings. That year we had an amazing garden. Attached to our village home was a large garage and I set up a little shop to sell the produce, baked goods and handcrafts. We were blessed to get to know many of the people in the neighborhood, especially the elderly. They enjoyed the children so. It was rewarding to have them knock on our door asking us if we had any cucumbers one day or lettuce the next. We were so encouraged and our handwork toy business continued to grow.

When the owner decided to sell the house we knew this wasn’t the homestead God had planned for us and it was much more than we could afford to buy. We searched and searched and searched and traveled down fourth class roads looking for land or something to rent. We finally found three acres for lease where we could put a mobile home. After much searching we finally found a decent used mobile home and we were able to set up on the land. One caveat, the electricity would cost $2,000 to hook up. We didn’t have that money and we knew that the mobile home was still another stepping stone to our homestead. We decided we would live off grid. There was a well on the property and a septic system.
(The view from our mobile home front door. This beauty set me straight when I even thought about complaining.)

Our lives changed dramatically while at the mobile home. We learned to live even more simply, with less and we learned how to truly work. I scrubbed our clothes by hand on a wash board, we hauled water from one end of the mobile home to the other. We used lanterns for lights, took tub baths to clean ourselves and truly learned about conservation. It is amazing how little water you really need. During our two year, three month stay at the mobile home we were blessed with the birth of our sixth baby. I learned to find the flashlight in the dark for middle of the night diaper changes and even used cloth diapers which were washed by hand.

We had concerns about our children upon transitioning to this lifestyle, but our children repeatedly told us they, "loved it here".

I will share more about our off-grid life off and on through future posts. Michael worked for a landscape company for the first two seasons at the mobile home, and the third season he left to concentrate on his own property services and our handwork toy and home goods business, as well as work on our homestead helping with the vegetable growing and the demands of homesteading.

This past spring my mother offered to help us with the financing if we were interested in finding our permanent place. We wanted to stay very close to where we were as we loved our gravel country road with our wonderful neighbors. We were blessed to find an amazing place just one mile away (and there are very few places for sale in the area, as it is rural) that we could afford. We found such a deal that only God could have provided (we bought it for $55,000 – a 1500 square foot home on just over three acres with a pond and run down barn/shed.) You see we still live on $25,000 or less per year. Yet we eat healthy (much that we grow) and mostly organic food and are happy. How in the world can this be called poverty? We call it our rustic cottage and we are so excited to be planning our forever place – from blueberry and raspberry bushes, herb gardens, more apple trees, where we are going to build our workshop/barn and so much more. Our challenge now is to take all we have learned on our journey, apply it, and continue to learn and grow on this path towards an authentic life.

(The view from the front door at our forever homestead.)

I will continue to share how we make living so well on so little possible and why we choose to do so.

Thank you for all of your kind words. I share all of this just as encouragement for you to listen to that voice inside as it is God speaking to you and while our path will probably not be your family’s calling, do realize that there are other paths to take.

Warm wishes, Tonya


  1. so much of your story sound so familiar! We have moved around a bunch, South Eastern MA is where we are from. I don't miss the suburbs even a little. We have lived in Tennessee and now central Maine. Still have not found our forever home and I am feeling quite frustrated as we need to move again. Its hard to find a place with 4 boys, two dogs and a cat, bad credit, self employment, 0 savings, etc etc. But, I am feeling inspired this morning...Thank You.

  2. Okay, I am hooked. Can't wait for your next installment. You have so inspired me to do better in our own daily walk. I really want to rethink the entire way we live. I don't think I could do off the grid, but we can definitely do better.

  3. Thank you for sharing how God is working in your life. It truly is an amazing story. But we have an amazing God don't we?

  4. Keep writing. I can't wait to see pictures of the house and how you make it all work!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have often wondered how you got to *your* place. You and your family are an inspiration. We have hopes of something similar and are working hard to make it happen. Thanks again and best wishes in your journey.

  6. I am so enjoying reading about your journey and about how your lovely family has adapted to life 'off grid'.

    As you have said, this was a really big step for you, but there are so many skills we can *all* learn by going back to 'basics', allowing us to live a more deliberate, less wasteful life. Here in the UK, more people are growing their own vegetables and taking up old crafts again, such as knitting & sewing. It's amazing how little the younger generation here know about such things and it worries me that when they all have families of their own, they won't be able to cope with hard times, like the recession we are having now.

    I look forward to reading more about your new home!

    Willow x

  7. Tonya,

    Thank you for sharing this next part of your journey. Please, please share more as I feel that your journey is some how important for mine :) God is so good and I know that your sharing right now is for me. I'm sure for others also, but it is wonderful to realize God's gifts as they happen and not with hindsight. I. too, have a large family and have been seeking for ways to make it work. Thank you again for your openness!


  8. OK I am hooked. God does provide and what a wonderful world he has created!

  9. Amazing. I cant wait to read more.

  10. This is so what I need! Thank you sooo much. The voice in my head has been loud for some time. Thank you for the encouragement to listen...and follow! I cannot wait to keep learning about your path.


  11. fabulous, inspiring story! thank you so very much for sharing. talking and sharing is how we learn from each other. i love this internet for this kind of learning.

  12. sounds beautiful. thank you for your writing about it!

  13. Once again, an awesome post. Thanks for sharing it! So much of it is familiar to me, right down to spending $50 in Target when all you needed were underwear! I too am forever gobbling up homesteading stories & information & get way too excited when I find large homesteading families. :) My husband & I will be on our forever homestead at some point in the next 2 yrs. Reading those words ("forever homestead") beneath your gorgeous picture just about brought tears to my eyes. :) I am so, so happy for you!


  14. Wow! You guys are truly an inspiration! Do you now have electricity at your Forever Homestead, or have you continued to live without it? There is so much I would love to change in our lives but my hubby just isn't on board to go "full force". But I am taking advantage of what I can talk him into!! :) LOL

  15. Forgot to say you have a gorgeous view!! :)

  16. What a wonderful story! I can't wait to see where you go next with it! This is the life I want, but I am still working on DH to do it! Prayer works, I believe, and your story proves it!

    Keep writing!


  17. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an inspiration to those who wish to live a simpler life. I can't wait to read more!

  18. wow, this is an incredible journey to say the least! Well, I am the only one in my family with dreams of homesteading. How oh how to move a husband's heart?
    I admire your faith as well. You took so many leaps of faith. Such an inspiration....
    Blessings on top of blessings, Angie

  19. Tonya,
    I so enjoyed reading your about your life journey. It is very inspiring to see how, despite a lot of worldly obstacles, your dream was blessed! Being able to see the timeline of all the changes and transitions was really encouraging and interesting. While I was reading, I couldn't help but ask myself, "but how are the children dealing with all this drastic change?" and was so reassured when you wrote that they loved where you lived.

    I visited your blog before, and I'll be back again for sure.

  20. What a joy it is to see Our Lord guiding you every step of your journey!

    It is thrilling to hear the happiness coming through your words. Your family makes a bit more than my husband does :-) We live, for a family of 5, a dog and a cat, on $21,000 and we haven't been happier.

    How do people call this poverty? It is because they have not learned to live with less!

    Thank you Tonya for sharing your experience with us and encouraging us that God does provide!



  21. Thanks for your comment :) Glad I found your blog, it's great!

  22. wow...thanks for sharing this. It is truly increadible to see what God has done.

  23. Your story is more encouraging than you know. We, too are working towards the goal of homesteading. We want to do it debt free, and as you well know, it takes time. We pray for contentment in the meantime. HIS timing is perfect!

  24. it is truly amazing to see how many similar stories there are out there. we are not in our forever place yet but all we talk about is our farm...i am glad to know it can be i must go pay off my debts:) if only it were that easy...i can't wait to keep reading. and thank you thank you for sharing your story. xo, pennie

    and just an aside...a couple of years ago(?) i purchased a pattern to knit a gnome from *somewhere* on the web. i made it and my son loves it. when i first found your blog those gnomes looked so familiar and i found the info...and it was you i bought the pattern from. i love it. how small a *world* is this anyway. just wanted to share this with you!! be well.

  25. like water for the seeds in my soul..... thank you so very much :)

  26. How awesome. i haven't been reading blogs lately bc we have been so busy, but I decided this morning I was going to sit down and read. Your posts have been just what I needed to charge me up for the next step in our journey! We are several steps behind you so it is so amazing to hear how everything has turned out for you. Our belief is that everything happens for a reason and that everything will work out. And it does and it is what get's us through the tough times. We had a few talks this weekend and we are ready to get back to our favorite mountain town and are going to try for this spring! Your words have definitly encouraged me!

  27. I really like your story. God is good! You are rich and blessed beyond measure. Money doesn't compare to being together as a family and living in intentionally as you are.

  28. Thank you again for sharing your journey!
    Five years ago, my family was inspired to sell our home and move across the country. Following that inner voice with faith has truly been the best decision of our lives. I appreciate what you're experiencing and am so grateful to read your story.

  29. I've really enjoyed reading about your journey! I have similar dreams of abandoning the hustle and bustle of this world and enjoying a simpler life. It's so great that you're making it a reality for you and your family. All the best! :)

  30. I love your blog! You are making me miss Vermont sooooo much! We lived there the last ten years and before that Maine. We are now in Alabama which has taken some getting used too, but for the most part enjoying it. I think your story is inspirational and amazing and I wish you and your family the best.
    Happy New Year!
    P.S. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the honey and beeswax blocks we ordered from you!!

  31. Loved, loved, loved reading your story. We also have six children on a small homestead (4 acres here), homeschool and have a passion for living simply. There is much discovery in it, isn't there? If only more people knew...

  32. I dream of living far far away from the city. We 'sort-of' do, but not enough. I always had a huge garden when we lived back east, but it's really difficult in the desert, in the summer. Our water comes from a well. We have lots of wildlife. But your way of life is truly wonderful. I'm envious.

  33. I have so enjoyed reading your "journey"'s unusual to find a fellow christian who is also concerned about the earth. Good for you guys.

  34. Oh, I so enjoyed reading about your journey. We have gone down similar paths, but God is so good and is always with us!

    You have a lovely blog!


  35. I saw your link to this on the side and have read your story...its a great story! Very encouraging as we drove to our favourite part of the country yesterday and I feel it calling xxx

  36. Providence sent me here today. I have known for many years that a simpler life, a life on the land, away from the malls, is the life I want. Letting go, of the fears, of the comforts, of the security, to just do it, well, it is happening in little fits and starts.

    Thank you for your posts, they are a gift to the soul today, I'll be sharing them with my husband, and I'll let you know when we have accomplished what we are setting out to accomplish.


  37. Your story is truly inspirational! Thank you for sharing your incredible journey so far. I am so happy that I read your posts today~ they were just what I needed. :)