Close your eyes and imagine this: It’s another picture-perfect Western North Carolina Wednesday morning with Chamber of Commerce weather and nary a cloud in the sky.
As Don Casada veered off-trail and began bushwhacking his way over fallen logs and through overgrown shrubs along the shore of Lake Fontana, he barely glanced at the trusty GPS unit in his hand.
He’d been this way before, many times, and knew just where he was going. Casada finally stopped at a clearing marked by a looming stone chimney, all that is left of a cabin that early Appalachian settlers had once called home.
Some years ago, confined to an office through work obligations but dreaming of farming, I spent more time than I should have surfing the Internet in search of agriculture and back-to-the-land related sites.
Amazingly, many of the same ones I visited regularly then are still up and running. Though these days, I find more pleasure in the actual doing than the reading, still sometimes I turn to old favorites for information or to recharge my batteries. Here’s some of the ones I’ve found most useful:
• urbanhomestead.org — The Dervaes family lives in a sustainable fashion on a tiny (1/5th of an acre) lot in southern California, where they grow a garden, raise livestock and undertake interesting homesteading projects. The father, his grown son and two daughters (the wife and husband divorced many years ago) have developed a slick Website chronicling their journey. In fact, the site has gotten a little too slick and commercial for my taste, but maybe I’m just jealous of this family’s exceptional marketing abilities and beautiful urban homestead. There is a lot of good information here if you are willing to dig around, and this is a particularly useful site if you don’t have much room to create a sustainable lifestyle, but still are looking for ways to do just that.
• www.homesteadingtoday.com — General homesteading forums that, subject wise, ranges far and wide. The forums are moderated, which helps keep people on-topic. Forums include general subjects such as “homesteading questions,” “countryside families” and so on, plus specialized areas on goats, bees, gardening, market gardening, sheep, rabbits, guard animals and more. Also includes a useful “preserving the harvest” forum and a recipes forum (need to know how to cook a possum? These are the folks who will likely know).
• www.gardenweb.com — Skip all the junk and go directly to the gardening forums. These are terrific, and you’ll soon find your own favorites if you poke around long enough. Some of mine include “vegetable,” “tomatoes” and “organic gardening.” The search engine for the site is also quite good, allowing you to search within individual forums, so give it a shot next time you have a gardening question.
• www.thecontraryfarmer.com — Writer Gene Logsdon’s site. This man writes and writes and writes, and yet still finds time to run an actual farm in Ohio. He has published more than 20 nonfiction titles, including his latest, “Holy Shit, Managing Manure to Save Mankind.” He also writes fiction, and these days, blogs on the Internet. Check him out, he’s funny and knowledgeable and agreeably opinionated (in that I agree with most of his opinions).
• www.backwoodshome.com — If you can handle the survivalist paranoia that crops up here, then this is a good general source of homesteading and information on self-sufficiency. I subscribed to the magazine of the same name for a year or so, but didn’t renew because I couldn’t handle the rightwing Republinuts agenda. That said, the basic information offered here is sound, if you skip articles on storing up ammunition and the need to buy gold coins. Unless, of course, those are the sort of topics that interest you.
• www.motherearthnews.com — So sad, so bad, but true: Mother Earth News is not what it once was. Still, ignore the yuppie, often shallow content and use the archives online, and you can tap right back into the original and best back-to-the-land magazine.
• www.ces.ncsu.edu — At your fingertips, here is all the specialized agriculture-related information on North Carolina you could want. This site serves as a direct line to decades of state-funded research and work. On that same track, check out www.growingsmallfarms.org, a site built and maintained by Debbie Roos, an organic specialist for the state in Chatham County. Here you’ll find very specific information for organic and small farms in North Carolina, from marketing information to specific state regulations and laws.