The intent of The Modern Homestead Manual is to enable a positive homesteading experience for those folks seeking a new life away from the city, as well as to offer enhancement to those already ling beyond the sidewalks and power lines.
The number of topics covered and the complexity of each, means that a book of this size couldn't possibly deal with each topic in detail. Instead, we decided to delve into those areas not already covered by the many "homestead" publications already available, and present enough information on each topic to create a solid foundation. From that point, we offer a Resource Guide that directs you to further reading that we've researched to provide you with accurate and authoritative information that covers all areas of the subject. We especially sought out material that is well-presented in both text and supporting illustrations, and in language easily understood by all.

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This may be the most difficult chapter for many readers to get through. Unlike what you read in some "homesteading" publications, this chapter tells it like it is. Owning and old Chevy pickup and a dozen chickens does not make us homesteaders. Nor does it make it possible for us to "live off the land." This chapter might just decide for many whether or not they'll even give country living a try. It spells out in real-life terms what it takes and how to assess your own potential in attaining self- reliance.

Here's and excerpt:
"Are you a self-motivated person who does well with no supervision? Are you skilled in most of the areas that you will need to make it on your own away from the city? Can you deal competently with mechanical things, the things that need to be fixed when nobody else is around to help? Can you improvise? Could you get the tractor running without the right parts? Do an emergency repair on a water pump with whatever you can scrounge up at the moment? Are you prepared to administer first aid to an ailing person or critter? Are you ready, willing, and able to let the seasons and even the day-to-day weather dictate your activities? And to do it all with a glad heart?

"If consideration of any of these concepts puts you in a cold sweat, you need to become more comfortable with them during your pre-move year, or you need to rethink your plan to move back to the land. You need to be especially clear about being self- motivated."

The Modern Homestead Manual is about building the confidence that is essential to make a success of real country living. It pulls no punches. It doesn't try to smooth over the "negative" aspects, because it is exactly these things which cause so many would-be homesteaders to toss it in and head back to the rat-race they were trying to escape.

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If you are planning to share your homesteading experience with a partner, the first step is to establish the move as a joint venture. Do your skills complement each other's? Do both of you have sufficient skills and talents that one of you isn't going to have to carry an unfair share of the load most of the time? Lack of togetherness can make or break a move to the country.

You can overcome some incredible odds with the support of your partner. Togetherness and adequate finances provide the cornerstones of a successful homestead adventure. With both intact, success is virtually assured. Shaky capitalization can be worked around, to a point, if the togetherness is there, but no amount of money is going to take the place of any missing togetherness.

This chapter shows the ways to assess your togetherness, and gives ample red flags and examples to let you know when things are not right. And for those who are still searching for their start on togetherness, it also covers finding a partner with "personal ads."

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The Year Before the Big Move
When we set off for a picnic with our family, we have to make certain preparations if the event is to be a success. At the very least, we ought to take along the food, right?

If we were to set sail across the ocean, our preparations would be a lot more involved and very much more important. The success of the trip, even our likelihood of survival, would clearly depend on careful planning.

Embarking on a successful adventure into homesteading requires even more planning than a sailing voyage, but many folks treat it like a picnic. While a sailing trip requires fairly extensive and very careful preparation, it is all pretty specific. Much of the information needed can be taken directly from the many how-to books on the subject.

Sailboats, regardless of size or rigging, have lots of things in common. Sailing hasn't changed much over the last few hundred years, and the rules, once learned, always apply.

Homesteading isn't nearly so specific. Since every individual's idea of "homestead" is unique and each person's experience with it will be different, there are few rules in homesteading. The requirements for "sailing" each are unique.
This chapter brings to light dozens of areas in which we can prepare ourselves for this change in lifestyle of moving to the country and becoming self-sufficient. It then goes into detail on ways to use the year before the move to do just that.

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Choosing Your Destination
Considerations in choosing your new location may include weather requirements, availability of water, access to maintained roads, proximity to nearest town and schools (not to mention the quality of each), local building regulations, proximity to relatives, and even such things as the political climate of your chosen state or locale. You might also want add a few items of your own to the list, and then sort them all out in order of importance. Any of these topics can influence the future success of your homesteading adventure.

This chapter will give you the tools for making objective choices in all of these areas, and more. You'll learn how to make accurate assessments of each area of interest, so there will be a minimum of unwelcome surprises later.

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The Big Move!
The actual Big Move is only one step in the process of gaining self-sufficiency. It is one of the most significant steps, however, if only because of the rather awesome commitment it involves.

Since this move is intended to bring you to the realization of a degree of self-sufficiency, there will be planning involved that goes beyond that required for a regular move from one place to another. That planning will make it possible for you to have in your possession--before your move--most of the tools, equipment and supplies that you will need to see you through until you are thoroughly settled in. If you are moving onto bare land, your list should include everything you'll need to get your living quarters, electrical- and water-systems in place; plus building materials, unless they're as easily obtained near your new homesite.

This chapter covers the nitty-gritty of the move itself and the variables depending on what kind of environment you're moving to. It also covers options for actually getting your things from one place to another, some of which can even make the move absolutely expense-free. Also discussed are some options for temporary shelter while building your house or developing your property.

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Country Neighbors
Country neighbors are generally wonderful folks who are happy to lend a helping hand. Your own thoughtful planning will make it possible for you to become a good country neighbor as well.

It really is important to get to know all of your country neighbors. You will no doubt find that you have neighbors who live and think much as you do, and you'll also have neighbors who live in an entirely different world. You don't have to have a lot in common with a person to be that person's good neighbor. The essential ingredient here is co-operation. Matter of fact, we've watched some of the most interesting, if not downright unlikely friendships develop between our country neighbors.

This chapter discusses the differences between country and city neighbors, how to get to know your new friends and neighbors and some of the interesting customs and quirks common to most country folks in America. It covers a lot about the philosophy of co-operation and community that is pervasive beyond the sidewalks.

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Country Kids
The normal, contemporary city family is often a working dad, a working mom, and a youngster or two. The kids are trucked off to child-care, and are with mom and dad for a few hours each day and on weekends. The children are never involved with whatever it is that mom and dad do for a living; they only know that they are "gone" all day, every day, except weekends. In the evenings, quality time is hard to come up with because mom and dad are beat from the day's work.

The normal, contemporary homestead family is together a lot. Unless the kids are being home-schooled, they are away at school for the usual daytime hours, and except for that time, the family is together. Mom and dad work together to make their homestead function, and the kids are right there, not only able to see how it all happens, but to be a part of it. From a very early age, they are intimately involved in what makes a family run and how that family works within the community. From a very early age, homestead kids start developing that priceless commodity, common sense. They also learn that all-important value that many adults have never learned, responsibility.

Discussed in this chapter are the considerations parents need to look at when moving out of the city, including the quality of country schools, the parental participation that's often involved, transportation issues, and the concepts of loneliness and socialization of your children.

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Money Matters
It's difficult to separate the discussion on money from the one on independence; as reluctant as we are to admit it, money and independence are closely related. We know a lot of good old hippie-types who do not hesitate to tell us that we've sold out to the establishment for admitting such a thing, but (and we're about as much old hippie-types as they come), there it is.

It is not impossible to live entirely without money; there are those who manage to pull it off. They might live somewhere where they can exchange some work for the rent, or even move from place to place house sitting. They might be lucky enough never to be presented a tax bill, and might also be able to swap chickens or eggs for whatever they can't provide for themselves.
However, it takes a pretty sharp barterer to wheel-and-deal for doctor bills, insurance, auto or truck purchases, tires and repairs, and the other fairly spendy expenses we all seem to be faced with from time to time. It is possible. It's just not likely for most of us.

In this chapter, you'll learn how to figure your expenses, do some financial planning, and you'll get some options for financing your new adventure. Also discussed are the financial pros and cons of building your own house as opposed to buying a place with an existing dwelling, the concept of bartering, the need for a sustainable income, and even some ideas on a retirement income.

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Buying Your New Home
This very complete chapter covers all phases of inspecting a potential house for every conceivable defect, the special considerations of inspecting a recently remodeled house, how to present an offer so you will be buying the house for the least amount the seller will take for it, how to use contingencies for your safety in presenting an offer, some notes on "fine print" in offer-agreements and contracts, some considerations unique to "view" properties, and even a discussion on the ups and downs of antique houses.

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Building Your Own Home
The days when you could go buy a piece of land way out in the woods, and just go ahead and build yourself a house are gone. Even if it's your land, you paid for it, it's big enough that your house will not be visible from anyone else's property, and the house is for you and your family, you will probably be required to go to the county building department and ask their permission to build your house.

Along with a discussion on the politics of building permits and the attendant hassles and restrictions, this chapter guides you through the process, introduces the Uniform Building Code, tells you what you need to take into consideration before even putting pencil to paper designing your house, gives you some tricks to circumvent a lot of the restrictions, tells you how to deal with building inspectors, and explains the permit system. Also covered are considerations and cautions on easements, which are plentiful in many country areas.

All this is followed with a section on plans and planning, and a discussion on whether or not you should hire a contractor. Owner-builder options are covered, along with the special considerations for site-preparation. Included in the section on site-preparation are some thoughts on how to find the equipment operators who will do the job exactly how you wish, with the minimum of damage to the surrounding terrain.

There's a section on dealing with subcontractors, and the chapter closes with a section on inspectons and another on completing the finishing touches.

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Alternative Electrical Systems
Most folks seem to feel that alternative electrical power ought to have something to do with an electrical system powered by the sun, wind, or water. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that will support any of these options, and if your power needs are either modest enough or your budget is big enough, sun, wind, and water are the ways to go.

A hydroelectric system is ideal, because it runs day and night and its performance is not dependent on good weather. Hydro systems, especially those capable of producing 110-volt AC power directly, are exempt from much of the complex and expensive control hardware necessary in solar systems. But there are two major considerations. The first, of course, is having access to a stream with sufficient volume and drop to make it work. The suppliers of hydroelectric hardware can give you the methods and formulas necessary to determine the potential of a stream (see Resource Guide). But the second consideration, at times insurmountable, is dealing with bureaucracies.

This chapter goes into brief discussions on solar, wind and hydro-electric systems and their relative virtues, and then delves into another kind of system: the generator based electrical system. There are many excellent books available on solar and hydro systems, but hardly anything is available on an efficient, environmentally-friendly system that is powered by a generator.

Discussed here are all of the considerations necessary to establish such a system. It's not for everybody, but it is easy to build and maintain, it's affordable, and it will produce power when the sun is behind the clouds. The following chapter, "Our Own Electrical System," is a description of the exact system that powered our 108-acre mountain homestead for ten trouble-free years.

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Our Own Electrical System

Rather than tell what can be done with an alternative electrical system, this chapter tells what has been done. This is the system we used to power our homestead for the ten years we owned it, and the system is still in service many years later. The chapter explains why we selected this type of system and how we went about building it. It tells about the research we did into existing systems and why we found most of them unsatisfactory. Explained are the many advantages of a diesel generator over a gasoline-powered one, some technical details on the installation, the philosophy behind our choices and finally, what changes we'd make if we were going to do it all over again. Check out More Power To You! for a complete, illustrated, step-by-step manual on how to duplicate this system.

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Water Systems on Alternative Power
Designing a water system for a conventional home on public power and with a normal water supply is easy and straightforward; if you don't already know how to do it, there are lots of books available to guide you (see the Resource Guide). Water systems for homes on alternative power are a different story. There are also some specialized cases where homes which are hooked to the grid still have to deal with unique water management problems, and the material in this chapter may apply to them, too.
In most cases, the plumbing in the house itself will be the same as in a conventional system. The differences are in the equipment required to get the water under pressure and then into the house. The Resource Guide lists excellent books to steer you through the basics of standard, residential plumbing.

This chapter includes the variables for the following possibilities:

Source of the water:
Water from a well, cistern, spring, creek, or hauled-in.
(A cistern can be supplied with water from a rain
catchment system, or it can be hauled in or pumped in
from a nearby creek or other source.)
The quantity of water available:
High- or low-production well or spring, rationed
trucked-in supply, seasonal supply, unlimited supply.
The quantity required:
Limited residential use, small garden use, field
irrigating, etc.
How it is stored:
Pressure tank, gravity-feed (elevated) tank, ground- level tank, cistern.
What kind of electricity is available:
220 volts AC, full-time 110, part-time 110, full- or
part-time 12-volt DC. (Not as confusing as it sounds.)
The amount of that electricity that's available:
How many amp-hours per day.

Each of these considerations is discussed in detail, and solutions are presented for just about any contingency. The book takes each special application to the point where conventional plumbing techniques can take over.

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One more element of independence is transportation. Will you need four-wheel-drive in the winter and during the spring thaw? Will you need a heavy-duty pickup? An economy-car for passenger trips to town and elsewhere? We heartily recommend two vehicles if at all possible.

Heavy-duty pickups and trucks or vans can be expensive to operate. They gump indecent amounts of fuel, and have big, expensive tires that wear out fast if used for daily transportation. If you need an occasional truck and you also have an efficient, small car, you can save the truck for when you need its utility.
Another real bonus of having two vehicles is that if one becomes inoperable for any reason, you have the other as a backup. This becomes ever so much more important the farther you are from town.

This chapter discusses every imaginable consideration on vehicles in a rural application, all the way from lightweight country applications to serious mountain use in snow and mud. It covers such essentials as insurance; selecting the best one or two vehicles (and how to decide whether one or two are better for your use); tires; use of trailers; what optional extras are practical, useful, and why; the pros and cons of four-wheel- drive; whether or not "newer is better;" maintenance; and more.

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Will you be building your own house? Farming? Setting up a home business? Will you need snow removal equipment? Let's look at some of these topics and see just what the necessaries entail.

Some folks are disgusted at the thought of power tools, electric lights, and other trappings of civilization. Others won't do without them. You'll have to decide that for yourself. But if you think that you will be comfortable with kerosene lamps instead of electric lights, an axe instead of a chainsaw, and shovels instead of a tractor, be VERY objective in your thinking and don't neglect to try your new style out in your pre-move year. There is no conflict between homesteading and the utilization of technology. "Homesteading" is not synonymous with "austerity."

Among the topics covered in this chapter are discussions on taking along existing equipment as opposed to replacing it when you get to your new environs; how the distance you are going will affect this decision; power tools in general, and how to find ones that will last for many years; what kinds of tools to avoid no matter what; tool warranties and what they mean; what you'll need if you're going to build your own house; equipment necessary for any kind of serious farming; where to find killer deals on all this stuff; tractors and how to find the right one of your needs; snow-removal equipment and even how to build your own; what you'll need if you're going to be building any roads or clearing land; buying vs. renting equipment vs. hiring the job done, and more.

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Getting the Most out of Your Wood Stove
If you are moving to where it gets cold, when winter comes will your wood stove be all ready to go? Is it efficient enough to meet your own and the EPA's requirements? Will you be ready to make the investment that the purchase and installation of new heating stoves has become?

There are dozens of snazzy new stoves on the market, both with and without the catalytic converters which are required by law in some areas. All new stoves are very expensive. Some don't even need firewood.

Sounds confusing, doesn't it? This chapter makes it easy. Discussions include making the best of what you've got already; overhauling antique stoves and making them perform almost as well as some of the new ones; chimney cleaning; maintenance and some tricks to help avoid the need for periodical chimney cleanings; making your stove work in its specific environment as efficiently as possible; and even warm-air circulation tricks that cut wood consumption by a large margin. This chapter goes into all the neat stuff that you rarely find covered in other publications on heating with wood.

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Earning Your Keep at Home
We have already established that it is nearly impossible to run a homestead without a dependable source of income. Ideally, wouldn't you like to earn that income right at home? Not only would you enhance your feelings of independence and self- sufficiency, but you could enjoy another level of togetherness with your family.

We've seen a lot of folks pack it in and head back to town because they "couldn't find a job." It seems somehow foolhardy to set off on a homesteading adventure when the whole show is dependent on finding a job in the nearest town. Especially when most small towns have one thing in common: significant unemployment. When a job does come up, it's much more likely that it will go to a local than to a newcomer.

OK, that said, what do we do about it? This chapter offers lots of examples of home businesses, and a discussion on whether or not you are even cut out to run your own business. Some of us are, and others are not. There's nothing right or wrong about either; we sure do need both! More often than not, though, the kinds of folks who have the motivation and self-discipline to be successful homesteaders are also the kinds of folks who do well in their own businesses.

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When Things Look Hopeless
This last chapter is about something that happens to all of us from time to time. It's especially common during the long, slow progress of major undertakings, like building a home, or even preparing the property to get started building.
The one-thing-at-a-time concept came to me one summer evening as I sat on the edge of the unfinished roof of the unfinished portion of the unfinished addition I was building onto our unfinished house. From my vantage point, I could see it all at once. Not only the house and addition, but the shop building, tank house and the greenhouse, which were all--you guessed it-- unfinished. I looked around at all the work ahead of me and was overwhelmed. I just sat there with my head in my hands and wept. I was overcome by a massive dose of depression, thinking about the thousands of hours of work required to finish just the parts I could see.

This chapter offers a way to handle these times and come out smiling!

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About the Authors

As a kid, Skip often asked his father why he chose to work 49 weeks of the year at a job he didn't like so that he could go up to the mountains he dearly loved for the other three weeks. He said that was how life was: a lot of sacrifice for a little pleasure. The kid didn't buy it.

But he struggled with this dismal philosophy for years. He was somewhere in his thirties before he figured out just how wrong his father was. And in 1974, he and wife Sande moved out of the San Francisco Bay Area to the hills of Oregon. They got their feet wet in their quest for self-sufficiency by buying a rustic owner-built A-frame on four acres of woods. They heated with wood, raised almost all of their own food, and earned their keep in the shop they built on the property.

But they wanted to get farther out and really start from scratch. So in 1978, they put a down payment on 108 acres of forest on the northeast slope of Mt. Hood. The land was at 2600 feet elevation, sixteen miles from the nearest town, and there wasn't so much as a shed on it.

In the following year, they accumulated all of the materials they would need to build their cabin, mostly from old city houses that had been carefully disassembled to make room for yet another freeway.

Every time they made the trip over the mountain to their new homesite, they took as much stuff as their stout old pickup truck, with a rack to match, could hold. They made quite a few trips carrying up to 24-foot long lumber to their new homesite. They found a great 40 year-old Case tractor with a loader, grader, and plow. Skip built a heavy-duty six-foot-wide snow plow to mount onto the loader mechanism.

Their first few years were busy and exciting. They built their cabin, shop, greenhouse, poultry house, water and electrical systems; put in a great garden, raised chickens and turkeys, and again, earned their keep right on the place. They were also successfully home-schooling their son, Jake, who was by then about six years old.

Then in June 1984, Sande was killed in an auto accident. Jake and his dad made do for a little over a year, and then late in 1985, Skip ran a "personals" ad in a Portland art paper looking for some possible female companionship. He wasn't looking for a wife; just a compatible lady with whom he could share some time and maybe develop a friendship. One didn't meet a lot of people living out where they did.

One of the respondents was Cathleen Freshwater, who later did become Skip's wife, friend and partner, not necessarily in that order. Cathleen had had experience in almost all of the areas of life that interested him the most, and proved to be an enthusiastic homesteading partner. Her editing expertise and their common interest in computers would later be the inspiration that started their first home-based publishing company, Oregon Wordworks.

During the next few years on the mountain, they totally debugged their electrical system. Visiting friends had a difficult time believing that they made their own electricity; they had all the electrical gadgets found in most city homes, and then some. They ran their home, shop and office with that system, never had a blackout, and the cost of operation was next to nothing.

After listening to repeated requests that they write a manual on how to duplicate their electrical system, they finally did. They self-published Skip's first book, More Power to You!.

Skip, Cathleen, and Jake have always loved the ocean. They made countless trips to the beach from the mountain. During 1988 and '89, they started going to the beach at least once a month. Soon they were going every two weeks. When their trips became even more frequent, they decided that they were ready for a change, and they put the homestead up for sale.

With the proceeds from the sale of their place on the mountain, they paid off what they still owed on the land, and made a down-payment on a little house at the beach on the Oregon coast. Their intent was to stay in that house until they found just the right spot on the coast to start over with a brand-new homestead. They built an addition to accomodate the Oregon Wordworks office, and while Cathleen ran that business, Skip started a construction company. Over the next four years, they published a newspaper and two more books, and built (and sold) four houses and remodeled two, including the house they were living in.

Meanwhile, they were warily observing the changes happening to the Oregon coast. Their once-sleepy little community was discovered by affluent city-dwellers looking for tax-deductible second homes. During their four years there, the number of homes doubled, the price of real estate tripled, and, for them anyway, the charm began to evaporate. And if that weren't enough, the timber business--which includes both government and private interests--continued to rape the forests of Oregon to the point where much of the reason for moving there was lost forever.

They started looking for other options. Knowing that they were going to have to find another destination for their next home, they started to analyze their priorities. They had moved to the coast to be near the ocean; they wanted to stay near the ocean. They loved to play in the water, so a warmer ocean would be even better. They loved lush forests, low population density, warm weather, and a laid-back lifestyle. It didn't take them a whole lot of research to focus on the Island of Hawaii. In August of 1993, they sold their little home at the beach, had a huge garage sale and packed everything that was left into a 24' container, and moved to Hawaii. Once again, they were in a little temporary house, this time in a fantastic tropical forest. And, once again, looking for that perfect spot to build their homestead, not far from where they were.

But then, in late 1994, Cathleen decided that she no longer wanted to be married, and she rode off into the sunset.

Fast-forward to 2002: Jake is now 25, married (!) and out on his own working in the computer industry in California's Silicon Valley, and Skip and his bride of 3 years, Camille, are enjoying the warmth and wonders of rural Hawaii and doing writing and Web-page authoring in their spare time. Life is Good!

In addition to several books, Skip has written numerous articles for various publications, including Backwoods Home Magazine, Back Home Magazine, Mother Earth News, and others. His newest title, Affordable Paradise, The Secrets to an Affordable Life in Hawaii was published in late 2001.

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