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Homesteading in Pennsylvania woods  RSS feed

 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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I am a 39 year old, happily married husband and father of nine [ranging from 4 months old to 13 years old]. A number of years ago, my wife and I decided that it was time to get back to what we like to call the 'old ways'. At the time we lived in your classic 'city lot with a white picket fence'. Having both grown up in the 'sticks' we both had a bit of knowledge and so started bringing the country to the city. That didn't last long - our crops soon overtook our land, our ve was always a question around the neighborhood, tanning hides, processing deer, fish and turtles, performing our rites always watching to see who was peeking out of what window next door....it just clearly was not what we wanted nor could accept. Our beliefs were also causing issues for our children in school. We also knew we could not afford to buy our dream of large number of acres in the country, so we plotted, planned, and kept to our path. I normally hunted on my brother's property, and one day after climbing out of the woods bow in hand, I was greeted with a posting across the road from my brother - a tax sale notice posted on the land across the way. After all the research I found it was clean and that it was going to be put to auction for the taxes - as long as the taxes were not paid by the deadline. The day before the auction, I placed a call to check for the final time and it appeared the taxes had been paid. A shame, but we thought we would continue waiting and watching - knowing one day we would find what we sought. I just couldn't get that property out of my head though - it was 16 acres directly across from my brother's 13 acres and surrounded by state forests. So we tracked down the owner and wrote her a letter, explaining our situation and our plans for the future and offering to purchase the land if at all possible. A month later we received a letter in the mail from the lady, hearing our plans and about our family she said that if we would meet her she would give us the land. She and her family had no further use for it, as her husband had passed and her children had no desire for it. Long story short - we met, filed the papers and paid the taxes and became the proud owners of our 16 acres of untamed wilderness. It came to be that her son who was a bit 'touched' had been living there. After spending several months attempting to have him vacate [though out original plan was to include him in our design if he wished it, he did not, and after meeting him we knew it would never work] he finally did leave. We worked on reclaiming the land and making the house habitable. It was March and we were finally ready, after the girls got back from their weekend retreat at the Girl Scout Camp we were going to completely move in. On Monday, my wife dropped me off to work and drove out to get everything ready for our first night....when she got there everything was burned to the ground. No fire trucks, just piles of ash everywhere. Apparently it was never seen or reported and we lost everything we owned except what was packed in the van. After the police investigation it was labeled arson, etc, etc and finally there were no answers other than 'some delinquents must have been out causing trouble'. It was a tough time, but we were all alive and well and that was what mattered. Thankfully we had waited to stay there or else it may have been a completely different story. We made a decision that we would buy a tent, move to the land and start fresh from the ashes - and that is exactly what we did - us, the kids, 2 dogs, a cat and our 30 chicks. Cooking on a fire, living without electricity, running water, or anything else we spent the next 8 months rebuilding a 1960's mobile home that was also on the property, planting and living. One of the best damn years ever [and they keep getting better!].

That was four years ago and our homestead has truly flourished one small step at a time. Now we raise goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks and guineas as sustainably as we can. We do all our butchering and processing, with as little waste as possible. We harvest wild game and edibles. We have been adding a variety of perennials, fruit and nut trees, berries, etc. We have started reforesting and cleansing the chaos that was left here. We plant and grow as much as we can to get through the year, using the grocery store for as few staples as we can. Building and reforming with as many reclaimed and natural materials has become a fun art. We are homeschooling the kids. They are involved in all aspects of the homestead and love learning and growing and being wild! We even delivered our last child here at the homestead unassisted. We are constantly learning new and exciting [or traditional 'old' methods which are only new to us!] things to do. We have been trying to be more in tune with the Earth and to work with instead of against Nature.

I remember briefly hearing about permaculture in the past and never really looked further into it until recently when I happened upon the information about the rocket mass heaters which in turn led me here. I guess I have rambled on long enough, but I am honored to meet all of you and look forward to sharing and learning all that I can!

 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1787
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Hi, Skjoldr, and welcome to Permies! That's quite a tale of good and bad and good fortune that got you to where are you are today. Raising nine kids in the woods, I am in awe. It sounds like permaculture found you before you found it, in a manner of speaking. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your family's adventures in the woods.
 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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Dan Boone wrote: It sounds like permaculture found you before you found it, in a manner of speaking.


That is exactly what I have been thinking as well! So much of what I am seeing is things we have started doing and I am also finding ways to take it further which is amazing!

Thanks for the greetings Dan!
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
109
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Welcome to permies Skjoldr! You have been through a lot, and it sounds like you two have flowered beautifully and strongly. I look forward to hearing more from you two and your adventures. I am glad to hear your homestead is doing amazing! I forgot where the thread was for recycled arts and crafts, but in the meantime, the Share Your Art Thread is a great place to share your arts and crafts with the permies community. Also, the Recycling and Repurposing subforum is a good place to share upcycling adventures, too.
 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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Thanks for the information and greeting Dave! I will be sure to check out the spots you recommended!

Also great quote in your signature!
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4026
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Skjoldr, welcome to permies.
I would love to see and hear more about all of the things that you have learned on your journey. I think you all may have much to teach.
 
duane hennon
gardener
Posts: 769
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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hi Skjoldr,

welcome to permies from western pa
I live near Harmony, Pa
there are a few west pa types here @ permies

that was some adventure you had
we would love to see some pictures

duane
 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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Thanks for the welcome Miles!

I look forward to learning and sharing as much as we can!
 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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Thanks for the greeting Duane. Nice to see another WPA person!

Soon as we obtain some sort of pictodevice, would be glad to share some pictures! Our camera died last August but we are looing at new possibilities. Here are a few old pics:

*edit to fix pic posts
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One of Our Coops
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First Kid on the Homestead
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Birthing Our First Piglets
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
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Welcome! I'd venture to say that with your experiences you'll be able to help a lot of new people here. Thanks for joining in!
 
Skjoldr Draugarson
Posts: 17
Location: Western PA
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Thanks for the welcome Su Ba! I am honored to be here.
 
Bill Erickson
steward
Posts: 1132
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
127
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Belated welcome to permies, Skjoldr.

That is a heck of a name you have there. Steeped in the Sagas, they are.

The trials you all faced with your property have made you stronger as a family and individuals it sounds. That is very cool.

I wish you health and strength.
 
chad Christopher
Posts: 309
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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Hello from Pittsburgh. Nice to see another productive west pa'er. On here.
 
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