I thought this was worth a separate blog post rather than burying my answer in the comments section. Thanks for asking, Pete.
No, we have not always lived on a farm. Neither of us. We both grew up semi-rural in different parts of our lives, but that's about the extent of it. Neither of us grew up with livestock or gardens or anything else farm-related.
I suppose our farm quest could date back to the first year after we got married. We were renting a house in a suburb of Sacramento, California. Our early marriage was a mishmash of commuting, traffic, noisy neighbors, helicopters whomp-whomping overhead, the whole typical urban nine yards. Slowly it dawned us on that we didn't want it. There must be more to life than this. We knew we wanted children; and we also knew we didn't want to raise those children in the city.
But how to escape the city? Ahh, that was the question.
One of the things we were sure of, is we didn't want to be one of those couples who, upon celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, would look back and say, "If only." If only we had moved to the country. If only we had raised some animals. If only if only if only... In other words, we didn't want to be full of regret for what we might have done, but just never got around to.
From these thoughts was born the desire to get out of the city. I was interested in graduate school about this time, and we researched out a program for Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. I applied and was accepted. Now, where to live?
I remember clearly how we found our house. This was in the days before the internet. It was Good Friday before Easter in 1992 (we were married in May of 1990). Don had to work that day but I had the day off. Our work places were only about two miles away from each other, so we commuted in together. On that day, I decided to go into the office to use the computer (we had no computer at home, of course). I had several real estate brochures for the Ashland area and spent some time pouring over the listings.
And I found a house! I blinked in surprise at the description - a small fixer-upper on acreage for a price we could afford. Excited, I called Don and told him about it.
"Call the realtor," he said. "Let's get more information on it."
I immediately called the realtor and asked about the house. "I'm sorry, but that sold," he told me. I made noises of disappointment. "But what kind of house are you looking for?" he continued.
I explained: cheap, fixer-upper, on acreage, something newlyweds could afford...
"Wellll," he hesitated. "Another place just came on the market. It hasn't even been listed yet. It's an old house, probably only worthy to be torn down, but it's cheap and on four acres. Are you interested?'
Not only were we interested, but we dropped everything and drove up that night. While Don stayed at work, I drove home, loaded up the dogs and a suitcase, drove back to pick up Don from his office, and we headed north.
What the realtor showed us was a shack - there is no other charitable way to put it - on four acres. The inside still had every hideous interior decorating mistake from the last five decades. But sure enough it was cheap, and we made an offer within half an hour of laying eyes on it. There were renters living there at the time, and it was another seven months before we could tie up our loose ends in Sacramento and turn our faces north. We moved in just after Christmas 1993.
|Our Oregon house from the front|
|First view of the house from behind. Don is taking notes.|
So that's how we made our initial move to the country. Of course we also plunged ourselves into instant poverty. Don couldn't find a job and I was in grad school full time. We scraped by while we got our woodcraft business up and running. Our "charming" fixer-upper leaked like a sieve, had no insulation, and no heat source except an ancient woodstove we had no idea how to use. We bought a cheap pellet stove and braced ourselves to wait out the winter.
It took us four years to save enough money to re-roof. It took us even longer to insulate the underside of the floor. And longer still to fence, build a small barn, and get our first cow/calf pair and some chickens. Both our girls were born during these lean times (no health insurance, of course - cha-ching!). I had finished grad school by this point (student loans - cha-ching!) and was working evenings and nights as a field biologist (surveying owls, for anyone who wonders what a field biologist does at night) while Don stayed home with the girls. He had an accident on the bandsaw and cut part of his left thumb off (cha-ching!) when our oldest was nine months of age. These were years of great financial difficulty as well as sleep deprivation (I am NOT a night person) for us. But our girls were paramount and we refused to put them in daycare.
Ever so slowly our business improved enough that I could quit my job and work at home with Don. It was such a joy not to have to leave my babies every day! We lived as utterly frugal as we possibly could: cloth diapers, breastfeeding (no formula), thrift-store clothing for everyone, cooking from scratch. Meanwhile we improved the garden until we were getting some nice results, and I learned how to milk a cow and make dairy products.
Things slowly improved for us financially. We paid off the hospital and student loans. We made some improvements around the place - painting, remodeling the bathroom (Don did the work himself), putting a foundation under the house (this old house was built literally on bare ground in 1874), etc. And gradually we realized we wanted more land to expand our homesteading efforts.
In 2003, ten years after moving to Oregon, we moved to our twenty-acre farm in Idaho.
And that's how we ended up here.