This is my story... of Living Off The Land. I hope it will be encouraging to someone who is just starting out or would like to live a self sufficient lifestyle!
My husband and I have been "living off the land" for several years now, since 1985. It started from a dream we shared on our first date; a dream to get out of the city and live in a small town, a place where we could grow our own food, hunt to provide our own meat, and live in a log cabin.
Within 5 years after we were married, we were living in a small town which we picked off a map. We didn’t know a soul but after camping on Boulder Mountain for 10 days, we knew we wanted to live in the quiet little town of Teasdale, Utah.
We picked this area for living off the land because it had a lot to offer as far as climate, variety of land, from red rock desert to high mountains, with lots of lakes for fish and plenty of game to hunt.
We started out in a hundred year old house and remodeled it as we lived in it. Our first garden was a raised bed system adapted from a book about square foot gardening.
The raised beds worked well and were easy to work and till with my
little Mantis tiller until the local quack grass started taking over
after a couple years. Looking back, I can’t believe all the hours I
spent digging out those huge deep roots by hand!
I was hungry to learn about living off the land, and I grew everything back then. I didn’t care what the locals said about what grows here and what doesn’t, I had to try it for myself. Well, that’s how you learn and I did - eventually. I had my Organic Gardening magazine and a few Rodale gardening books and I wanted to try it all, within our season limits of course.
I quickly became a ‘lazy’ gardener though, taking on the attitude that if it couldn’t survive our climate with little care then it didn’t need to grow here. I guess it just comes down to being practical about what I do with my time as I had so many other interests I didn’t want to go the extra mile tending tender plants.
I learned to bottle, freeze, and dry all the veggies, fruits and meat that we harvest. They have became our main source of food. We supplement from Costco when trips are needed to the Big City, the ‘Big Smoke’ as we call it.
We’ve learned to stock what we like to eat and to rotate. We’ve also learned to eat seasonally as much as we can. That takes the pressure off feeling that you have to have so much fresh stuff in the fridge at all times.
When the garden is producing we eat as much as we can while fresh and then ‘put up’ the excess. The harvest season can be very time consuming. I usually can’t leave for more than a couple days at a time if I want to make the best use of our harvest.
My friend Mary gave me a garden plaque that reads:
“Our Garden –
In the summer it consumes us,
in the winter we consume it.”
That’s the Joy of gardening... hard work, then enjoying the fruits of your labor!
Since we've been living off the land, I’ve learned to grow enough of the things we like to eat a lot of while fresh, and then still have plenty to put away to last for the rest of the year.
I try to use up everything within the year, some things lasting two years.
It usually works out that the year I have a bumper crop of beets, for
example, I will put up enough Pickled and Plain beets for 2 years
because more than likely, the following year the beets don’t grow as
well for some reason.
You never know. When living off the land, each year can bring different weather patterns and different timing for pests which can be beneficial or devastating. I have learned to roll with the flow.
I haven’t always remembered to let the best plants go untouched and go
to seed for collection. I guess I just can’t wait to harvest those
perfect veggies when they ripen. I’ll have to put some florescent ribbon
on them next year to remind me ‘Don’t Touch!’ until seed is ready.
I used to start all my own seed for the first 15 years or so until I worked part time at a local greenhouse and then it was too convenient to buy the starts I needed.
It has to be done right with lighting and warmth or you end up with weak, spindly plants. It does take time and attention. This year I plan to build a new shelf system with suspended lights for seed starting. My old one was worn out and retired long ago, I plan to get set up to do that again in the near future.
We built a new house in 2005 with a pantry designed just for our food
storage. It works great for most things. But I’ve learned that you can’t
store some things together like carrots and apples. I made that mistake
and ended up with bitter carrots. They tasted alright after cooking but
we couldn’t eat them fresh as they were too bitter.
Now I wash my carrots and put them in plastic grocery bags and store them in our spare fridge. They last clear into spring. The apples store for a few months in the pantry that stays around 40-45 degrees. I try to use them up quick making juice, apple butter, pies and some dried with cinnamon before they go soft.
I've learned you can live off the land even during changes. We’ve moved to three different locations in this little town of Teasdale and each place has its own unique garden climate. I gave up the raised beds with boards after a few years in favor of just making wide rows that are raked up by hand.
It’s a quicker way to having the benefits of raised beds without the hassle of the boards. I water with two soaker hoses laid down each row with the main supply line on a timer.
I look forward to the first signs of spring to start planning the garden and deciding what new veggie variety to try and praying for a good year so everything will grow as it should.
Living off the land has been a learning process that I don’t think we’ll ever get completely figured out.
Every new growing season
brings its own challenges that make it interesting. All the hard work is
worth it to be able to eat all those tasty organic veggies knowing
where they came from and that we really don’t have to depend on the
local stores for our food.
We now have made living off the land our lifestyle... in our own simple way. God has blessed us richly here in this land that we call home.
~ Linda ~
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