So let me start right from the beginning and say that if you are planning on starting on or beginning a new homesteading lifestyle, 5 Acres and a Dream, and its follow up, 5 Acres and a Dream the Sequel should be right at the top of your reading list. Even if you are a couple of years into a homesteading lifestyle, this new book by Leigh Tate can be a very useful resource. What sets it apart from the predecessor is that the predecessor was, at its simplest, a sort of how-to book for a prospective homesteader, and certainly a valuable resource in its own right. The sequel is more of a "how we had to adapt our plan" story. As Tate points out, not everything planned in the original worked precisely as intended--much like life itself, and while I could go on ad infinitum describing numerous modifications that Tate and her husband needed to make to their plan, I will only focus here on 3 areas where plans and reality did not match.
Firstly, and perhaps most insidiously, was issues with water drainage--as in not enough during times of high rainfall. I am sure that plenty of people reading this review can remember a time when they had land that was turned into a veritable swamp due to unusually high rainfalls inundating their land. For many of us this means a very wet lawn, but when practically every square inch of land is being put to productive use, this means lost productivity. Tate describes the pain in watching carefully prepared beds turning to mush and later taking steps to remedy this situation so as to alleviate future flooding. If you have productive ground in lowlands or even flatlands, this section is well worth a read.
Another area where Tate encountered unexpected difficulties was in dealing with a greater than expected number of falling trees. This turned out to be both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse obviously in that it is more time and energy spent clearing deadfall and at times fixing damage from treefall. The blessing came in the form her approach to compensating for these unexpected fallen trees. Tate was forced by necessity to buy a small, used tractor and a PTO powered wood chipper to reduce the branches and twigs. The tractor can be used to move around logs and is infinitely useful around the homestead while her chipper reduces troublesome twigs and branches into valuable woodchips to be used as mulch. In the end, Tate made lemonade out of lemons and the troublesome trees turned out to be an asset.
The third component I will expound upon is Tate's goal to be truly off-grid energy independent. How many people dream about harvesting all their energy needs with a few solar panels and a bank of batteries without giving up any modern conveniences. Tate is brutally realistic. She has invested seriously but economically in alternative (largely solar) energy, but simply simply replacing solar energy for grid energy is not enough. Firstly, unless one plans to have a huge array of solar panels and a vast battery backup, one will still have to be reliant on the grid for at least part of their needs and power companies do not make grid-tied systems as easy as they at first appear. Some of these reasons are for safety (during a power outage, it is dangerous to flow energy back down an electrical grid while electrical workers are working on electrical lines--that can kill linemen!). Some reasons are practical, and some are to offset profit losses to the power companies. In any case, depending on state and local laws and the actual utility company, grid tied systems can be quite expensive as Tate found out the hard way. Not deterred, Tate undertook some of the more unappealing steps to energy independence--eliminating driers, numerous household utilities, and other applications that we have simply become accustomed to being a necessary component for our standard of living. Tate lives just fine without these "necessities" and while she is still not completely free of the grid, she is far less dependent upon it.
5 Acres and a Dream the Sequel is less of a how-to book (that is the realm of its predecessor) and more of an example of how to adapt when your plan does not work out quite as perfectly as intended. The book is a reflection on Tate's and other's flexibility and adaptability in the face of serious obstacles. If you are really serious about homesteading, seriously consider 5 Acres and a Dream the Sequel as an example of how one can still thrive even when plans go awry. Not all of Tate's plans from her first book became dreams, but they did become workable realities and the sequel laudably demonstrates her tenacity and hope for any would-be homesteader.
Again, I highly recommend this book and give it 10 out of 10 acorns.
Some places need to be wild
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