Many people feel the call of the land. For some it is a home coming, returning to the place they were raised. For others it is a need to reconnect with nature and ground themselves. Many more wish to regain control of their lives, their food, even their air and water.
Knowing why you feel the call is the first step on your journey back to the land. It may change as you grow; a homecoming might morph into a return to land-based living. A small farm might slowly be regenerated back into native forest. As long as you understand why you need to go back to the land, it will be a move that is right for you.
If you are not sure why, look at your life now.
Do you make time to go camping, tramping in the bush or spend all day at the beach?
Do you visit your family home/land at every opportunity?
Do you spend your free time gardening, with animals or in the kitchen preserving or preparing homecooked food for your family?
Perhaps you hunt, fish or simply like to chill watching the birds or the stars in the night sky?
These are your interests and if your land reflects these interests, it will be home. If you try to live a life which is not right for you, chances are you will not be happy on your land. Many ‘lifestyle blocks’, off grid havens or small rural homesteads resell within a few years as people realise this was not what they wanted. Sometimes that means moving to a larger property but often it is a return to urban living. By facing up to and really focusing on what makes you tick, this can hopefully be avoided.
But there are other matters to consider, location being a very important one. Will you still have to work or be close to work? Can you find enough work near the land, work from home or make enough income from your land to not have to ‘go’ to work?
School aged children can influence this too, with proximity to school or school transport. Homeschooling is a great solution to this; a lot of parents are now choosing to educate their children themselves.
But the most confronting issue in a rural location is isolation. Can you cope with not seeing another person for days or weeks on end or do you need a more social environment like a village or closer community?
We live on a gravel road with just one other occupied house, an hour from the nearest small town. Our neighbour’s are 2.5 km away and unless the bee farm or grazing farmers have work down our road the only vehicles that travel our road are us, the postie (3 days a week) and the occasional tourist. We can go weeks or months with no visitors, our only social interaction being weekly trips town, occasional chats with neighbours (talking 15 km radius here) phone calls and social media. It suits us, it’s quiet and remotish, a haven from the outside world. But we have people who come here and they can’t handle it. No shop just down the road, no takeaways, no cell phone coverage, the moreporks are too loud… It’s just not for them.
We moved here from a village, neighbours walking their dogs, primary school across the road, dairy industry all around. While we had some good neighbours, often you felt exposed and just wanted to hide away somewhere peaceful.
Which does in fact raise another issue, noise…
We may imagine a quiet spot, the rustling of trees and the songs of the birds. But reality is often the sounds of country work, motorbikes, side by sides, tractors, chainsaws. Stock and forestry trucks rumbling by. Bulls bellowing, sheep baaing, goats can make a hell of a racket! Obviously, the further remote you are the less the vehicle noise, but the more likely you are to have the goats maaing and stags roaring. Which means the more likely you are to have hunters too. While there are rules around hunting, if you choose to live in a remote bush location chances are there will be gunshots. If this is likely to frazzle your nerves it is something to consider.
There is also the belief that living off the land and off grid will means very low bills. This is true to a point. Bit what you have to consider is fuel and vehicle costs to go anywhere, to bring materials in for building etc. Tradesmen costs become horrendous. Remote small towns are generally limited in resources and therefore it can cost more to get the things you need. But most importantly that you are responsible for your infrastructure and the repairing of it should anything go wrong. Learning basic ‘fix it’ skills before you move away from the convenience of town is probably one of the most cost saving steps you can take. There are a lot of electrical jobs you can do, learning how to wire up lighting and plug circuits etc. Understanding water collection and basic plumbing. Building, construction, making concrete and fencing. Drainage, irrigation and grey water dispersal. The more you learn the easier and cheaper your move will be. If you are aiming for simple off grid, experience not having hot water, heating your water on a gas ring or fire in pots. Try cooking just on a camp stove, gas ring or woodfire. Turn off what you don’t need, live without a fridge and a washing machine for a week or two. Give yourself a chance to experience little or no power before you take the plunge into off grid living. If you are looking at moving to a tiny house, move into your lounge and kitchen for a week, a month, see if it can work for you.
Living off your land can also throw up challenges, if you are reliant on it for food then that is your primary role on your property, to make sure that food is there. Even if that means you are stuck eating silverbeet and pork for a week because that’s all that’s around. You see all these stories of people living off the land, or working towards it and what you need to understand is we all have times when there is just not that much in the garden. It could be the season or crops have been damaged by bad weather, drought may have dried up the garden so you struggle to grow anything. Or life simply threw you a curve ball and things didn’t get planted on time. We can get around this by having food stores, preserving the gluts and creating diversity in our food sources. But sometimes we just need to buy more food, and sometimes we need to buy more livestock food.
If you are hoping to raise livestock or just have your own ‘petting zoo’, you need to understand how many animals you can have. It is easy to over stock when the grass is growing well and find yourself short of grass as the growth slows. Best way to sort this is to talk to locals with livestock or just build it up slowly. But most importantly just be prepared to sell or put in the freezer some stock if you have overestimated your grass availability. If you have never raised animals before than I suggest you read this article, https://fodderfarm.co.nz/2018/12/15/where-theres-live-stock-theres-dead-stock/
I raise all these points not to put you off making your move back to the land. It is more about increasing your preparedness so that your move will be what is right for you and your family. We have lived through many difficulties on our journey and have even had to return to urban living for a time. We have struggled with little funds to make necessary repairs and improvements to cruddy old houses. Lived with no stove, no fridge, no bathroom. Struggled through droughts on limited tank water and watched our vege garden die. But we have learnt every step of the way and will never stop learning.
The land calls us and we listen…