Jennifer QuinnThere aren’t actually any real panthers here, though there probably were a century ago. I named my “homestead” Panther’s Hollow after a little cat I picked up at the dump shortly after moving here. I put homestead in quotes because it seems like kind of a pretentious term for what I have here. I mean, everything was here when I moved in except for a garden and a chicken coop. But some say homesteading is a frame of mind, and by that standard the term certainly applies.

After 10 years as a backyard gardener in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I felt it was time to realize my dream of a place in the country where I could expand my self-sufficiency efforts to include chickens, a much larger garden, and possibly more. I also wanted to live in a beautiful part of the country with a rich natural environment and a culture conducive to growing food and living with minimal impact on the land. I had found an area of Southwest Virginia that seemed just right, and so began searching for a suitable place.

My objective was an acre or two of land with a two-bedroom house and one or two good outbuildings on an unpaved road for under $60,000. I was hoping for a location that was private but not too isolated – ideally something back in a “holler” with woods nearby and a stream running through it. After a few years of searching, I was beginning to think I’d have to compromise a bit on my criteria. And then I found it.

The photographs were alluring, and the description referred to a peaceful, secluded location with abundant wildlife. The price was just under $40,000. The only catch was the access to the property. The directions said to reach the property either drive through the creek or walk across the swinging bridge – there were photos of both – and continue about 300 feet back. I had to read that twice before it sank in: They meant drive through the water. Now I was familiar with fords – more as a curiosity than a way to reach one’s home. And the creek shown in the picture was clearly more than a few inches deep! Still, I told my realtor I had to see this place.

The ford and the bridge
The ford and the swinging bridge.

The swinging bridge scared me a little, and I had lots of questions about how I would manage with the ford and all. But the property was clearly everything I wanted – a two-bedroom cottage in a clearing in the woods, very secluded, with maybe a couple of acres for gardening and several good outbuildings. And there was even a little stream that ran past it! I was so taken with the setting that I barely looked at the house, which in fact was quite a mess, being sold “as is” with all the previous owners’ stuff that hadn’t already been taken by relatives who had obviously rifled through the place. All I noticed was a rather charming interior that I was sure would clean up nicely.

2/20/2016 8:03:33 AM

I followed a link from the Women in Ag group to your blog. I raise cattle in Nebraska. I found your blog the day after I was doing genealogy research on my Quinn line in Virginia!

5/12/2015 3:41:54 PM

Thanks, NebraskaDave. I meant to reply to your comment earlier, but wasn't able to log in. It was once my dream to move to Nebraska, or somewhere near there, after spending several weeks with a family in Thurston County on their farm. What part of Nebraska do you hail from? Jennifer

4/6/2015 8:04:14 AM

Jennifer, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. I'm totally impressed by your purchase and your determination to live in place with such isolation. I have so many questions about how you live but I'll let you tell the story through the up and coming posts. You have become one of the truly modern day homesteaders and it will be interesting to read about your adventures. ***** Looking forward to the next post. Have a great Panther Hollow day.

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