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Dreaming of Our New Life

by Tara

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to lead a self-sufficient life. As a child, I was inspired by children's book author and illustrator Tasha Tudor. I wanted to follow in her footsteps, living off the land, growing lush gardens and caring for a menagerie of animals. Growing up, my Christmas lists looked as though they'd been pulled straight from my grandparents' issues of Reminisce magazine (another obsession of mine)—all I wanted were things like looms, candle-making kits and books about canning.

Though a vague desire to live self-sufficiently was always there, I never followed through in learning the many skills required to be a true homesteader. I was intimidated by canning, I couldn't see myself "roughing it", and I gave up on weaving well before my loom was even threaded. The furthest I got was dressing up as Laura Ingalls Wilder for Halloween when I was twelve.

Over the years, the dream stayed with me, lingering in the back of my mind until I eventually shared it with Tyler. Apparently (though I have no recollection of it), he and I talked about homesteading before we even left on our trip. To this day, I am amazed and thankful that my partner saw a world cyclist in a woman who didn't like bicycles (or camping), and that a computer programmer who once hated vegetables and manual labor has become an eager homesteader-to-be!

During our trip, the desire to get back to the land became less of a vague, amorphous notion, and more of a logical, practical, obvious plan. We felt more alive being outside in nature, and we were happy to have animals both wild and domestic as a constant part of our daily lives. Life simply seemed richer while we were sleeping in the woods, staring into fires, and taking the time to smell the flowers. We felt more connected to ourselves, the earth, and our very small place in it.

Romanian Forest Free Camp Goose Squawking Tyler Holding a Bug Vietnamese Pot-bellied Mama & Piggies Siberian Duckies Blossoms Tara Cutting Crab Apples

Meanwhile, we were inspired by many of the people we met along the way. There was John Carr-Ellison, who managed a massive sheep farm and talked to us about managing it sustainably, and Irene, the beekeeper's wife who taught us about bees and honey. There were a plethora of cheese-makers, bakers, and craftspeople whose daily tasks resonated deeply with us as well.

Tyler with Lamb Irene & Her Duck, 'Pieu Pieu' Beehive Cheesemaking Polish Market Bread Handmade Greenhouses Romanian Woman & Tara Knitting

Riding bicycles around the world forced us to get in touch with the things we truly needed to survive, and it wasn't much: food, water, and protection from the elements. What's more, the myriad of dwellings we witnessed across Europe and Asia drastically expanded our idea of what constituted "shelter", transforming our worldview even further.

Misty Morning in a Romanian Churchyard

There were cob walls and thatched roofs in England, while France and Italy were scattered with centuries' old, stone structures. Tunisian dug-out homes, Mongolian gers, and Laotian woven huts helped break us of the idea that a "house" automatically meant stick frames, sheetrock, massive amounts of debt, and "professionals" doing all the building for us.

Traditional Green Roof Lao Mountain Home & Garden Chenini Houses Mongolian Ger Camp Mongolian Ger Old House Dug-Out Home

Now that we're home from our journey, the idea of living off the land is leaving the realm of murky fantasy and rapidly becoming the only thing that makes sense to us. We are filled with a burning desire to turn our dreams into a reality once more, and we're busy looking for a small piece of land on which to do it.

Woodland Driveway

We seek the luxury of simple pleasures like wood-smoke, birdsong, home-brewed beer, homemade cheese, beehives replete with honey, and vegetables plucked straight from the garden. We're after the pride of building a cozy homestead with our own two four hands, and the satisfaction of becoming more skilled, capable, and self-sufficient human beings.

Tyler & His Strawberries Wine, Berries & Pickles The Greenhouse Fresh Salad Very Local Honey (Harvested 100m Away) Peas Tara Swimming in Russian  Stream

Our intent is to craft a simple and sustainable life of meaningful work that directly supports our survival, and to enjoy the sweet rewards of that effort. As with our previous adventure, we plan to document our journey, capturing as much of the experience as we can. In the coming months and years we'll be sharing the good and the bad, our successes and our mistakes, with anyone who wishes to follow along.



I LOVE YOU TWOOOOO! Keep living the dream and kicking tons of sustainable ass. :)
Posted by Karina on August 24th, 2011 at 5:55 PM
i can't wait to read all about this journey!
Posted by sarah j on August 24th, 2011 at 6:44 PM
What a heartfelt beautiful entry. I can't wait for this next phase!
Posted by sarah on August 24th, 2011 at 9:36 PM
I will watch with interest!
Posted by jodie on August 24th, 2011 at 9:38 PM
Hello Tara and Tyler! Don't know if you remember, but I commented waaay back when you were in Russia. My husband Sean and I have been following along eagerly, and we're both excited to read about this next part of your journey! We've already been so inspired by your trip, and are sure to be inspired even more by this part of your adventure. We've had similar dreams (we'd love to build our own home here in the Santa Cruz mountains in the SF Bay Area) and look forward to reading about your process! Happy homesteading!
Posted by liza on August 24th, 2011 at 9:44 PM
What a beautiful memento to your future selves. Looking forward to following your ongoing journal.

And PLEASE, make a home/building/structure calendar from your travel photos! :D

See you soon.
Posted by Mary on August 26th, 2011 at 4:13 PM
Wow!! I love your continuing blog. A big hole was carved out by your beautiful, thoughtful and creative writing and photography on your bike travels that I was afraid would go unfilled on its completion. Your new life/adventure resonates with me as both simple and profound and has me checking daily for your posts. You should write a book! Thanks ever so much for continuing your posts!!!
Posted by Al thoma on August 28th, 2011 at 5:53 PM
Yesterday we stayed with friends who follow a similar dream. They are also looking for land to become self sufficient and build a cob house and have already created an amazingly wild garden following biodynamic and permaculture philosophies. You are not alone! We can't wait to hear more about your new adventures.
Posted by Freddie and Guy on August 28th, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Hi everybody! Thank you all for your sweet comments and kind, supportive encouragement. They are much appreciated.

Liza, of course we remember you, and we're so happy you and your husband have been inspired! It's a beautiful area you're in, and there are so many great resources available nearby. Have you heard of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center?

Mary, that's not a bad idea about the calendar. We can't wait to see you soon!

Al, your heartfelt comment made my day. Thank you! I'm currently working on the book, so I'll keep you posted as to its progress.

Freddie & Guy, how exciting! Your friends' place sounds amazing! Permaculture is high on my very long list of skills to learn about.

Thanks again, everyone. Have a great week!
Posted by Tara on August 29th, 2011 at 1:24 PM
Found you via Cold Antler Farm. I will be interested to follow your adventure in homesteading, gardening, ect. Good luck!
Posted by RuralTN on February 7th, 2013 at 9:53 AM
RuralTN, thanks for taking the time to say hello! Hope you enjoy our adventures. :-)
Posted by Tara on February 7th, 2013 at 9:43 PM