Can’t Take The Country Out Of A Country Girl

Written by Andrew Morrison

Susan is the energetic, fun, and charismatic host of the Butler, MO workshop coming up May 5-11. Raised on a farm in Iowa, she grew up surrounded by animals, home crafting and that good, wholesome attitude that comes from living in connection with nature.

As life would have it, a series of events and a college degree led her to a computer programming job in a city. Her residences turned into apartments and she immersed herself into the lifestyle that comes from living in a metropolitan area. Years passed in this manner until her country girl spirit began to emerge again. Her daydreams of chickens, growing her own food, and being self sufficient became so loud that a drastic lifestyle change emerged.  She bought land in Missouri and has been busy homesteading it since. 

Evident in her ‘can do’ attitude, Susan is an independent woman reconnecting with her love and passion for living off the land once again. Her days are now filled with the day to day care of her pig, goats, chickens, dogs, cat, guinea hens, home crafting, building her dream forever home, and enjoying the sounds of silence in her newly reconnected life.

She has a great list of suggestions/advice for anyone wanting to homestead (in her own words):

• DO IT!  Even if you live in town, there are things you can start doing to prepare.   I’m guilty of just jumping into things head first, but good planning is your friend.

• If you are looking for some land to buy, make SURE that you find out about all the state and county codes and ordinances.   So many places – especially if part of a “subdivision” – don’t allow “farm animals”, even though it may be located out in the middle of nowhere in the country!    Hard to believe that you can move out into a “rural area” and not be allowed chickens!

• And if a county has building codes, you want to research them carefully because, even if you aren’t planning on something out of the ordinary like a straw bale house, there can be “minimum square footage” codes that would force you to either build bigger than you want or can afford or not let you build at all.   🙁

• Visit the area, go into the local stores and talk to people to get a sense of what the community is like.  Check out how close – or far – certain ammeneties are.  Some people don’t like to be too far from a grocery store, others want to be as far away as possible!   Know yourself well enough to gauge how you’d feel being very close – or very far! – away from neighbors.   I thought my place was “far enough” away from the closest neighbors until I moved down here.   Sound travels out in the country a LOT farther than most people realize.

• Fences!   If you are planning on having livestock, good fences are required!   I had NO idea how many coyotes there are around here until I came down and camped the first time.   There is NOTHING like being in a tent after dark and hearing coyotes serenading you from three different directions!   Do the neighbors have dogs that they let run loose?  (Mine do, sadly)   You will have to deal with that – and possibly other “wandering animals” – which is why fences DO make good neighbors.   I’ve woken up, more than once, to find the neighbor’s horses in my front yard.

• One way to find out if you would like living and working on a farm would be to join WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.   I was SO lucky to have found this awesome organization just two days after I signed the papers on my land.   I checked out some of the host farms, found one in Indiana that was a day’s drive from Kansas City.  It was about the same size as my place, same climate, had sheep, goats, chickens and gardens and I sent them an email, asking about a stay in June of that year.   I was accepted right away, had a blast, met a lot of nice people, had some great experiences and “rediscovered” living on a farm with animals to take care of.   Gathering the eggs was the highlight of my day!    Once I moved down here and the room in the barn was completed, I signed up to be a host farm.   I’ve had 3 “WWOOFers” so far and hope to have more.  Each experience has been great.   I can not recommend WWOOF enough.

Her choice to build her dream home out of straw is largely inspired by her close connection to the farming lifestyle she grew up in. She shares, “I just love the idea of using straw to build and insulate a house.  Since I grew up on a farm with lots of animals, straw was a very important part of taking care of them.  In Iowa, straw was everywhere and the only bedding we knew and used.

Our hay loft was filled with straw and my brother and I played in it and made forts and hide-aways with it.  The whole idea of thick, high R-value, SOUND PROOF walls is very appealing to me.   I love the idea of something that feels solid and will act as a buffer against both sound and wind.   Unlike the Three Little Pigs, I know MY straw bale house will stand up to the high winds here.   :D”

A graduate of not just one but two of our straw bale workshops in the past, we have been planning on running a workshop for Susan for quite a while now. We are excited that the time is nearly here! If you are looking to not only learn how to build a beautiful straw bale house but also how to become self sufficient, independent, learn how to home craft, and be in a beautiful pastoral setting, we certainly hope you will join us at this workshop! (This workshop is now completed)

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