My husband and I bought our first piece of land in Freedom, Indiana back in 1992, when our oldest boys were three and one. I will never forget the moment we signed that contract or the words of the elderly farm couple who served as the land agents, as we shook their hands, “We think you’ll like Freedom.”
At that time, all we knew was that we needed to have a place that was truly our own. We had not thought a whit about how we planned to get things done there. We had written many a journal entry concerning the state of the environment, and of society, but had not really coalesced our thoughts toward a specific goal. We knew, for example, that we eventually wanted to have solar electric power, but that it was fiscally out of our reach.
One of the first things we did was to call the electric company to see what we needed to do to get electric run on the land so that we could begin building our house. They said we would need to have a septic permit, a water source, and a permanent building. Hmmph! That seemed like a pretty tall order. But we were not deterred; we needed to move to the land right away. We called the local sanitarian so we could get that septic permit. The gentleman came out to our property to inspect and determine where the system could go. When he told us there was no place on our ten acres that a septic field could function (either too much slope or too close to the water table), we felt like we were up against a wall.
We could clearly see that only one door remained open to us: that of turning our backs on all that society had to offer us in the way of creature comforts and move forward without them. We felt like we had been given an opportunity to give the single finger salute to the whole of corporate America! We could do this without them.
So we moved on into a tent, dug a privy, and started building a garden. We built a bit of a shack too, but the garden was the focal point. With no tiller or other power implements we carved our first vegetable patch out of an old barn yard. It was a bit weedy, but we didn’t mind, because we had learned that many of the weeds were just as edible and tasty as the garden plants. We hauled water from the creek and eventually dug a shallow, muddy well to water our plants. We canned tomatoes for the first time in our lives. By our first winter we had added a good sized room onto the shack and were able to keep ourselves respectably warm—in spite of record breaking cold temps—by underpinning the house with old windows and keeping close to the wood stove.
A lot has changed since those early days. We have that solar electric system, though there are days we wish we didn’t. We have moved into and out of many a more “modern” situation. But our choice is this: to live as close to the land as we can manage and to seek out sustainable solutions to the difficulties we encounter. We are not perfectly sustainable, but we are moving in a direction.
And that elderly couple was right. We do love freedom!