Metropolitan convenience and connection seemed like a much better idea before March 2020.
Although plenty of us have benefited from deliverable groceries and meals, easy access to bodegas and grocery stores, and robust internet connections…
We’ve also worn the floors out of our apartments and homes. Apocalypse preppers finally started to seem reasonable, and the boost in people learning survival skills (that really, we should already know) has been immeasurable – gardening, sewing, knitting, woodworking, etc.
If you’ve fantasized about homesteading – a life of semi-isolated self-sufficiency – it’s safe to assume you weren’t the only one.
Some people, however, have been doing it for so long they could write the book on it. In fact, some of those people have written the book on it.
Ron and Johanna Melchiore, last week’s guests on the The Urban Monk Podcast, have written several – Off Grid and Free, which is NOT a how-to guide, and The Self-Sufficient Backyard for the Independent Homesteader, which is.
I’ve lived my life in a few different ways – growing up entrenched in metropolis in Los Angeles, as an ascetic in the Himalayas, deep in the woods where I live now.
Surrounded by nature, where all I have to do is step outside to remember I’m part of this Earth, has exactly the moving effect I thought it would. But… everything I need can be sent to my doorstep.
For Ron and Johanna, the last 40 years have been spent using the skills they already had, plus learning an unbelievable amount more, homesteading in a trial by fire.
How They Started
Ron told me he hadn’t grown up dreaming he’d live a life of self-reliance and isolation – he was trained in industrial electronics in Pennsylvania, and he hated it about as much as most people hate their 9-to-5s that yoke them to society.
When he heard of homesteading for the first time, it was actually from his supervisor, who responded to his complaints about working his life away with a suggestion that changed his life.
So he did it.
Pause, rewind, freeze: it’s not that easy.
Throughout our talk, Ron and Johanna talk about a lot of their hardest-learned lessons.
They reflect on the practical things they would’ve never really known until they tried them – like why growing wheat and rye doesn’t yield enough return for two people to justify all the work – and the things they hadn’t even considered because they were so in love with their journey – like how much money Ron really needed to live after he’d bought his land, tools, equipment, and set up his garden.
By the time they met, Ron already had his first homestead totally set up in Maine. Johanna had the skills she’d learned in her childhood in Maryland – sewing, knitting, gardening, spinning yarn on a wheel, canning, freezing, fruit preservation, etc.
And she’d had the same genetic itch to carve a home out of wilderness that Ron had.
All that was left to do was figure it out for the next 40 years.
Figuring It Out
They’ve lived now in three different homesteads, each time starting from scratch, and they say this is their last.
From Maine, to the Saskatchewan territory in the Canadian Bush (100 miles from civilization and only accessible through floatplane, by the way), to their current homestead in Nova Scotia, they’re about as experienced at building something out of nothing as you can be.
Of course, that’s not how they see it. What they built wasn’t out of nothing – it was out of everything around them, everything that really matters.
And when I asked them what their highs and lows were of all the adventures they’d had, they had plenty of highs – adventure, independence, confidence, knowledge, the space and freedom to do what they truly loved doing.
Regarding the lows, I thought they were going to mention the freezing nights in an expedition tent while they built the solar panels and frame for their home in Canada. Or maybe, what happened when they got sick or when bears attacked. Even the inconvenience of rancid flour and spotty satellite TV.
To my surprise, they said…
There were no lows.
You’ll have to check out the whole podcast, Ron and Johanna learned most of what they know by doing, messing up, realizing how, and doing again. But they love to encourage others to find their own way.
They write pretty extensively on www.inthewilderness.net, have published two books, and can be reached easily through Facebook.
The Melchiores imparted so much wisdom to me in the almost-hour we spoke that I’d never heard before, like…
- How many board feet of wood, and how many cords, it takes to build a cabin – so you know how many deadwood trees you’d have to pull down, skid, and saw to build a home…
- What they decided to grow instead of wheat and rye to make their own grain…
- What was on their shopping list every six months into town, and how they stored it all…
- The moment they knew they’d found home flying above the Saskatchewan territory…
- The sweet spot square footage they’ve figured out that works perfectly for two…
- When to dig your own well and when to have one excavated…
- What they garden in order to eat fresh all year round…
- How they keep busy through long winters in the wilderness…
- What to do to make sure you’re prepared for every emergency…
- And so much more.
Click here to listen to the podcast. And if you think you might be ready to stake out on your own and live a homesteading life, drop them a line!