When we met in the fall of 2008, one of the first discussions we ever had was about one day living in a cabin. At the time, we did not know that we would eventually marry each other; the idea of living an uncluttered life and doing without what we didn’t really need was something we each wanted to talk about independently. In the passing years, we have read broadly and have refined and expanded our initial thoughts about living self-sufficiently, and bit-by-bit we have begun to give it a try.
We started out pretty small at first—planting a few vegetable starts in pots at various apartments and making bread—and then started to tackle some harder projects like paying off our credit card debt, and declining expensive outings to save money and ween ourselves off a consumption driven existence. All the while we’ve been trying to get to the heart of what’s really important to us.
At some point we knew that if we wanted to start growing more of our own food and providing for ourselves more of what we use on a daily basis, we would need a little land and place to work. Even though we dreamed of moving to the country, we realized that living in the city was necessary for us if we didn’t want to commute an hour or more each way to work every day. So, in 2013 we bought a small house in SE Portland and since then have worked hard to transform it into a modest urban homestead. Every hour we’ve spent working on our homestead has made us more confident that we want to continue down the path of self-sufficiency.
Our long-term goal, we realized, was to find a small patch of earth outside the city on which we could establish a small-scale homestead/farm that we would operate together. We spent lots of time talking and strategizing about what we would ideally want and need on this piece of land—from water and sunlight, to acreage and location. The more we have experimented on our urban 1/12 acre, and the more we read and reread books like Helen and Scott Nearing’s The Good Life and John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, the more we’ve come to appreciate what we could do with a little more space. So we began to casually look around at land and land prices and what was available on the market.
What we didn’t know when we started exploring this idea was that we would find something far quicker than we expected. For better and for worse, as a couple we make decisions by deliberating for weeks and months (and sometimes even years—which tests the little patience Judith had to begin with) by trying to look at our decisions from as many angles as possible before we act.
But nothing could prepare us for stumbling across a little run-down, off-the-grid cabin surrounded by five acres of woodland near Cloverdale, Oregon. It seemed like it had just been sitting there for fifteen years (which it had), waiting for us to find it in the forest. So after seeing the property several times and having many serious and lengthy conversations, it became clear that we should go for it.
We have to admit, we are still pinching ourselves. We feel a deep sense of good fortune and gratitude to have found such a special place to work on and slowly overhaul into a living, working homestead, and to have had the resources available to us to pursue this path without compromising our, or anyone else’s, well-being. We won’t ever stop feeling lucky.
That said, there is a lot (and we do mean a lot) of work to do and many years in front of us before we will be ready to uproot ourselves from the city and begin subsisting in the forest. There’s a good bit of dry rot present, evidence of rodent inhabitants, faulty water and septic systems, leaks in the roof, and a whole host of other issues to be resolved before we can even begin to think about implementing the infrastructure we would need to make an earnest go of it out there. We aren’t intimidated, though. Not really. We knew the challenge before we accepted it, and we think we have a good plan. We’re sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes, and learn a great deal in trying, but there is really nothing else we would rather do with our time and resources—and no one else we’d rather do it with than with each other.