Grit Blogs > Adventures in Rural Living

Learning the Rural Lifestyle

Jim and I were just talking about how much we've learned about rural life in the past two years. That's how long we've been here on our farm, putting into practice what we've read and heard about. 

In past years there have been a few other opportunities for gardening and livestock in our life. Each little piece of land taught us something more.

Though we're settlers at heart, life has moved us from place to place.

On our last piece of acreage we had horses. Jim built a barn and a riding arena. We were just getting our garden and a few fruit trees in place when it was time to move to another state.

Years before that we were on another little farm where we had beef cattle and a big garden. Chickens were to be our next project, but guess what? We got a new assignment, and across the ocean we went.

In between, we lived in suburban and urban settings where we tried to grow a few veggies when possible and at least were able to prepare fresh homemade food in our kitchen. All the while, we kept learning and dreaming.

black cat and antiques

The beginning of our learning curve was way back in the 1970s, and I can remember exactly who was our greatest inspiration.   

Jim was working in the business world, and I was a young mom enjoying homemaking and doing a lot of things the old fashioned way. My parents and grandparents had modeled and taught me a life that included things homegrown and handmade. I was really in touch with that part of my gene pool.

One day my mom saw an interesting guest on a TV talk show. This young woman had put together a publication about living a lifestyle close to the land. Her publication couldn’t really be called a book, as it was an unbound bundle of mimeographed pages. She was offering copies of it for sale, and she promised to mail succeeding additions to the material to subscribers.

Mom told me about the interview and the publication for sale. But she went a step further and ordered a set for me. I received the most wonderful bunch of information in a 3-ring binder. I devoured it. And little by little, new chapters full of more information were added.

The title of that publication? An Old Fashioned Recipe Book by Carla Emery. You may recognize Carla’s name. As she added more material, the growing bundle of pages became much more than a recipe book. Eventually she combined it all into a book that was published with a new name: The Encyclopedia of Country Living.

Jim and I referred to that notebook often as we tried out new techniques in my home and garden. Carla’s granola became a staple in our pantry. I learned to make yogurt, peanut butter, mayonnaise, and many other concoctions. Jim and I also read her sections on livestock while deciding what to raise on our first acreage.

black angus cow

My tattered, food-stained, and fingerprinted original copies of Carla’s book are long gone, probably misplaced during one of our moves or accidentally discarded during a purging of clutter. But I have gifted two of my kids with the recently published bound version. 

Though Carla passed away several years ago, her legacy lives on in our family and many others--perhaps including yours!!

At our family website Rural Living Today, we've posted a list of other valuable references that have helped us along the way. Check them out here.  

Maybe you'll find a new favorite among them! 

marie james
6/6/2012 4:48:25 AM

Dave, you ARE a pioneer in the inner city! You're an inspiration to many and I predict that in the coming years you will be teaching a lot of people how to grow some groceries in their backyards. Interesting isn't it, how we've seen a cycle of gardening interest in our lives. In the 70s it seemed like a cool thing to grow some veggies, then lots of people lost interest, but now it's becoming a necessity with urgency for many for various reasons.


nebraska dave
6/4/2012 7:16:59 PM

Marie, although I haven't had any livestock along the way my garden experience has been similar in some ways as yours. I had small gardens with every house owned which in the beginning had to be the laughing stock of the neighborhood. With each passing year and more research about organic gardening my wisdom about how to grow vegetables increased. When I couldn't grow a garden because of life things getting in the way, I would read about gardening. Through the years many methods of gardening passed by my eyes and the knowledge retained in my brain. Now after retirement the time permits me to use all the retained knowledge and amaze folks with the dormant techniques that they have not heard about. It's been a journey of almost a half a century but now it's all coming into play with my new experimental garden. All the wild things I've read about over the years will have a chance to prove themselves. Year number one is starting with much work and weed clearing from untamed neglected property for over 11 years. I really do feel like a pioneer in the inner city. Have a great homestead day.