We move out to our farm today. It’s a house on ten acres of land outside of Austin, the same one I wrote about months back that we had made an offer on.
A video tour of the farm will be forthcoming, but for now, a few observations on our town and country, our goals, and recent decisions we’ve made as we prepare to make this move.
A Symbolic Cutting of the Ties
Today I went into the AT&T store to renew and change out cell phone plan. Katie wanted to chop it off at the knees and just get one pay-as-you-go plan we would use while driving, then use our internet provider for home phone. I didn’t think we were yet ready for that so instead we just reduced our current plan.
I’ve been using a smart phone the past two years. Today I turned it off for the last time and got a flip phone. That zaps the data plan and its $25 per month cost. We paid about $20 per month for text messaging. We cut that out entirely, blocking all texts. We reduced the number of minutes on our plan by half.
Total bill reduction: $130 per month to $75 per month.
My hope is that in two years when we are up for renewal we can reduce even more by going to pay-as-you-go on just one phone.
But it wasn’t just to save money that we did it. I was checking my smart phone every five minutes for a new email, a new text, a new blog post in my feed. It’s as addictive as some massively multiplayer online games. There’s always another coin to catch, another angry bird to sling, another level or loot drop to obtain. What broke the back for me was my son having to compete at times with my attention.
We are moving out to our homestead after almost seven years of dreaming, talking, and planning. So we made this deliberate decision to reduce the cell phone usage in our lives. A small step, but a big one.
We live in a historic part of a once-small town, close to the picturesque downtown, in a restored, century-old house. Our neighbors’ houses are (generally) well-to-do, with lovely lawns immaculately cared for–usually be someone named Juan or Jose. It’s the very image of quaint modern life.
And the neighborhood is almost completely devoid of community life.
I saw one of my neighbors last week. They have not ever spoken to us and barely acknowledge our existence. We talked briefly, and he did not know who I was, didn’t realize I lived right next to him. I kid you not. And we are outside with our children every single day. He is not mentally slow or incapacitated. He just paid no attention.
Our other neighbors are a fifty-something couple living in a beautiful, redone old house. They drive out of their garage in the morning and back into it in the evening, going to their respective jobs, and we need see them. Except on weekends briefly when the husband comes out on his riding John Deere mower, Big Gulp in hand, to mow the lawn. My son waves at him furiously, because he is so excited about the mower, but my neighbor usually doesn’t wave back. I have to explain to my son that some people are sort-of grumpy.
I take the children walking up and down the blocks all around our house almost every day. Most of the time we don’t see anyone. Everyone’s at work, their children at day care or school, or they’re in their houses–modern day comfort fortresses–and don’t come out to say hi. A few oldsters in the neighborhood do enjoy us saying hello, but that’s about it.
What we are seeing is a civilization on its last legs. Neighborliness, community, local friendships and ties: all are largely gone from Main Street in America. This neighborhood is not unique. It is a match, more or less. for every neighborhood we have lived in since getting married.
The Homestead Dream
I know you’re ready to burst my bubble, that living out in the country will be no better. But we already know that. My point is that, things cannot get much worse. At least out in the country, we will have fewer people around us and little community rather than living in town, having tons of people around us and no community!
But already out in the country we have begun making connections, meeting neighbors, and discovering places and people where we can forge relationships.
For others considering moving to a homestead, to some land, I’ll share with you that it took Katie and I six years of talking, praying, arguing, and planning before coming to unity in our decision.
Truth is we didn’t know what we were looking for or what we wanted, for a long time. As we learned about ourselves, our family, and the possibilities, our desires changed. We believe of course that God led us to unity in our decision. But even so, we are just at the beginning of our journey. We just reached the starting line, in some sense. It took us this long just to find the right race to run in.
We kicked around the idea of being full-time farmers, then gentlemen farmers, yeoman farmers, subsistence farmers. Ultimately we compromised that we would just find the land and move to it and then discover what we were good at, what we enjoyed doing, and how we could grow more of our own food. We’ll take the first step and then see what the next one is.
Our goals for the land look something like this:
Year 1: Clean up the place, plant a garden, get bees, get chickens, corral cows
Year 2: Get some sheep, enlarge garden, fix our pond
Year 3: Enlarge garden, raise a steer for grass-fed beef, get a milk cow
This year we are going to have a woodstove installed to heat our home, and I am going to start cutting up wood from the two-acre woodlot on our property, so it can start curing.
I’ll keep you informed about our progress, and will post pictures and videos so you can see how it all looks.