Wed, 09/21/2022 - 3:41pm admin
Homesteading was a popular way of life. People could apply for free land to homestead on, then the cancellation of the Homestead Act in 1976 left the movement to those who already were homesteading.
Fast forward to today, and it's just as popular as ever especially here in Missouri and Howell County. I did it back in the 80's but didn't know it. It was just our lifestyle at the time. But, thanks to numerous television shows and YouTube channels, the homestead communities are huge with Missouri ranking number 5 for best state to homestead.
While this way of life isn't for everyone, it is for the Palmers, who bought land off the internet sight unseen just east of West Plains. For Jay and Lois Palmer, homesteading is a passion. They chose to live off grid in a 12x24 cabin where they rely on solar panels and generators for electricity.
"I've wanted to live this way since I was 11 years old," said Lois who is 64 now and proof that you are never too old.
I recently visited their High Ridge homestead and met with Lois who was eager to show me around. They have been here for only 14 months, taking an untamed plot of land and turning it into a working homestead. Aside from the cabin, they have built pens for chickens, ducks, and rabbits all of which are producing a product needed on the homestead. They have an outdoor kitchen that they use whenever the weather is good, a garden that did as well as most this summer, but were able to do some canning.
The cabin has no inside plumbing yet. They rely on rainwater catchment and water is hauled in as needed.
To give you some idea of their lifestyle, because Lois made sure to note that the notion of homesteading is not for the faint of heart. For the Palmers to run their refrigerator, the generator is hooked up, which holds 5 gallons of gas that will provide them with 9 hours of electricity. At the height of summer gas prices, they were spending $140 a week on gas just to use the generator. That one task that we take for granted proves that homesteading is not for everyone, but only for those committed to the land, as the Palmers clearly are.
Lois and Jay both work in town in order to build the homestead, not only for themselves but future generations to enjoy. It will be Lois's legacy one day. Lois made no point in hiding her age. She said hardest part was the extreme summer heat and humidity that took her by surprise.
"I'd wake up at 2am. I couldn't sleep and felt ill. The only relief I found was stripping down and lying in the stock tank that held cool water. Once my body temperature lowered, I'd go back inside and fall asleep in front of the fan," Lois said. They have no air conditioning.
When you convert to homesteading from city life there are some unspoken "rules" to learn that the Palmers would like to share. Everything takes longer than you think. There is always a project, and you must learn to prioritize. For those who often dream of buying some land to live off of, that is probably the romantic side, in reality it's more sacrifice than anything. For Jay, it's long days and even longer nights as the chores don't stop after he punches out from his full-time job.
The rewards are the amazing sunsets that fade over their ridge, and the clear night sky full of stars. He is proud of everything they have accomplished.
This isn't an easy way to live. It was never intended to be, but for those who do it, it comes from within. It was emotional for Lois to talk about their place at times. I witnessed the sheer joy of owning a dream. High Ridge Homestead is still an infant compared to other homesteads in the area, but Jay and Lois are settled, connected to the land in ways most people will never understand.
That, to me, is a real homesteader. The roots of homesteading can be traced back to 1862 and simply stated, "any dwelling with land and outbuildings where a family made it home” but today is regarded as much more with regulations.
Missouri is a favorite state to live off grid and from the land due to the ample growing season, fewer state regulations, and no laws against harvesting rainwater. Despite the challenges and hardships that most homesteaders face, some on the daily level, they all are a rare breed.
Homesteading won't look the same for everyone. Some are totally off grid and self-sufficient while others just want to grow their own food in their backyard. The Palmers have a great start and their own motto in which they try to live by, "We will raise it, grow it, birth it, slaughter it and cook it.”
If that sounds harsh, that's homesteading today.