Seven ways we live the agrarian dream . . .

Madera, CA

. . . of finding independence and security on a small piece of land. Here's how we do it:

1. Location, location, location. We live on a "ranchette" close to a small city and like being close enough to town to make bicycling in possible--say 10 miles or so. In this way we have the option of not being owned by of the oil companies and the various components of the automobile industry. A house on a large suburban lot will do.

2. Debt free or near it. This way we're not owned by the bank. We put a lot of effort into getting our mortgage paid.

3. Workable, improvable soil texture. We avoided rocks, clay, sand, unfavorable pH..

4. Largely vegetarian diet. We eat mostly flour [made into bread], rice, beans, oil purchased in bulk and lots of fruits and vegetables grown on our land. We also have a few chickens. This is the cheap way to eat and nutritionally it can't be beat. Almost all of our purchased food is easily storeable and by keeping a nice supply on hand, we avoid trips to the market.

5. High input, no-tillage, permanent mulch, intensive bed growing system. Please see our website at for details on this. The main input in this system is yard waste--grass clippings and leaves unloaded at the gate by gardeners. In this way we easily double, even quadruple, the productivity of our land while other people pay water bills, taxes and maintenance expenses on the land that grows our main input. Each cartful of mulch we haul into our garden is worth at least $25 in organic matter and plant nutrients if purchased at the garden supply. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we have brought in 400 cartfuls every year for ten years [somewhat over 1 per day] which would multiply out to a value of $100,000 free money put in our soil bank that could be drawn out for years and years to come if, say in the event of economic collapse, mulch could no longer be delivered. And the IRS doesn't have a clue. We pay the same property taxes as neighbors who grow star thistle and vinegar weed.

6. A hand-scale farm is an interesting place. No need for commercial amusements in town, trips to Starbucks, restaurants and malls. We enjoy a healthy lifestyle that promotes contentment and longevity.

7. We live on deliberately reduced income [and correspondingly reduced consumption] and thereby greatly reduce our taxes. In this way we are able to avoid supporting government follies such as the military-industrial complex and the bailout of banksters. We practice voluntary simplicity and the classic piece on this, written in 1936 by Richard Greg, can be found at

Good living to you all,

John Warner

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I'm a city girl, born and bred, but have always been pulled towards rural living. We're far from self sufficient, and I don't know if at this time it's a practical goal for us - but we're moving in that direction, and the journey is absolutely worth it!

I'd have to say that chickens seem to have been the best all around livestock investment for us. Their fall coop clean-out will help us be nearly completely organic in our gardening this year, they consume all sorts of things and "pre-compost" them, even with store bought feed, two dozen barely cost us anything to keep, and, there is nothing like hours old eggs (speaking of which, I should go out to the hen house and collect breakfast!).

We kind of missed the whole "location, location, location" bit - we live on sand (like real beach sand down at least 10 feet that I have seen with my own eyes!). But, having a thick skull is also very useful! Raised beds, other people's cow patties, hauled in a few pickup beds full of dirt that other people didn't want - and chicky poo - and after a few years, I have Real Soil in my raised beds!

The funniest thing to our grown kids is that as part of this rural adventure, I am actually learning to cook! My favorite way to eat, though, is still right off the plant while I'm puttering in the garden.

Continued blessings to you as you find your way in this world!

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

John, I've seen your website before and really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing the other one, too. I just read about 1/2 of it and will go back to finish it later. Sure gave me a lot to think about!

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