HOMESTEADER & BLOGGER
Santa Barbara, California to Foothills of North Carolina
To get to Kendra Lynne's and her husband Jerry’s homestead, you wind down country roads in the lush foothills of North Carolina, past the pond the family fishes from, the woods they hunt in and up a steep hillside until you reach a clearing. Their modest but functional off-grid manufactured home sits proudly surrounded by young fruit trees, a large garden and projects in various stages of completion. Kendra’s journey to rural living and homesteading was in stages. In her late teens she left the coastal city of Santa Barbara because her mother didn’t think the superficial lifestyle was making Kendra thrive. After relocating to North Carolina to be closer to her father, Kendra met her husband Jerry and they started a family. The couple lived in a suburban neighborhood, she stayed at home with their young children and was a daycare provider for other families. With a growing family to feed Kendra got really into coupon-ing and started a coupon-ing blog. She loved saving hundreds of dollars every month on their groceries and shared her enthusiasm and knowledge with others online. Several years in though, she realized that the processed food she was buying, although a bargain, wasn’t healthy or providing her family with the proper nutrition. She began shopping at farmer’s markets and making friends with the producers she met. Kendra and Jerry dreamed of leaving suburbia and moving to an off-grid homestead where they could grow and raise their own food and become more self-sufficient. Kendra’s father gifted the couple with an acre of land on his retirement property in the rural foothills of North Carolina and the growing family left the suburbs and moved into a temporary trailer. In 2008, they found a repo’d manufactured home, relocated it to their property and fixed it up. After making to the move, Kendra committed herself to learn how to homestead. She found mentorship through people she met in her new community and started her blog New Life on a Homestead. Her blog served to diary her own journey and also build a supportive community of other homesteaders. At the time, there was still very little on the internet about homesteading so her engaged audience continued to blossom. They aren’t able to live off of the revenue the site generates, but it does help offset the family's yearly homesteading expenses. Jerry works full-time out of the house and although someday they hope to both be able to work from home, their monthly mortgage doesn’t allow for that flexibility. Kendra’s one regret is that they took out a mortgage on their manufactured home, instead of saving up to build something small that didn’t require a loan. As her homesteading journey continued, Kendra learned the art of canning and preserving food. After an instructional Youtube video she posted on canning went viral, Kendra became the online authority on pressure canning and was sponsored by All-American to produce the DVD “At Home Canning for Beginners and Beyond.” In addition to her blogging, freelance writing and video tutorials, she also home schools her four children. Her children are incredibly bright, creative, adventurous and engaged. Her eldest 12-year-old daughter enrolled in an online college robotics course this year and has been taking apart and putting back together any electronics she can get her hands on. In-between lessons, the kids take breaks climbing trees, performing bicycle tricks, looking for newts in their stream and helping Kendra with home projects. Each year Kendra and Jerry make strides to work towards their dream of living a completely self-sufficient life. They are bringing home goats this year for dairy and meat and continue to build out their medicinal herb and home gardens so they can eventually grow, raise and preserve all of the food and medicine their family needs. Their future goal is to start producing online homesteading courses so that others can learn the foundations of homesteading without needing to suffer the heartaches and expenses of learning via trial and error. (Click here to jump to Kendra's interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
We were tired of loud neighbors and the fast pace of city living. We were starting to raise a family and wanted to live somewhere where the kids could run free and enjoy nature.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move?
My first few months in the country were definitely an adjustment. It seemed so quiet! I was used to sirens, horns and helicopters. Out here all I heard at night was crickets and frogs. At first, it was hard for me to fall asleep. I grew to love it, though.
What challenges came later?
As we began to try to homestead on our land, there were many challenges to face. At every turn it seemed Nature herself was out to destroy us. Wild animals killed our livestock, pest destroyed our garden, termites chewed our clothesline down, the goats got loose on more than one occasion and devoured the berry bushes and fruit trees we'd worked so hard to plant. The challenges are never ending, really. This lifestyle has given me so much respect for the early pioneers!
What surprised you most about country living?
I continue to be in awe at how much I love it here. I never imagined myslef as a country girl. Who knew such peace could come from getting your hands in the dirt and felling the hot sun on your face.
Did it meet your expectations?
I was ready for a change, a slower pace of life away from the rat race. I certainly found what I was looking for.
What were the hardest things to get used to?
I would say shifting the way we think about what's most important in life. I grew up in a very superficial culture, where looks and possessions were extremely important. Out here, with a very limited income, I have to constantly remind myself to be content and just do the best we can with what we have. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses anymore. It's about being at peace and enjoying life and our time with each other.
What do you miss most about the city?
I do miss the convenience of being able to walk to a store or hop on a city bus to go downtown...but it's definitely worth the trade-off!
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
Not for a million dollars!
What do you appreciate most about life you've created here?
I'm so grateful for the peace we have in our lives. Nobody is rushing us to do anything or go anywhere. We make our own paths and do what makes us happy. And we do everything together as a family.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving out of the city?
Don't even hesitate. Just do it. There is something amazing that happens when you get back to your roots and rediscover how incredible nature is. Life takes on a whole new meaning. You will never know a peace like this when you are constantly being bombarded with the distractions of city life.
What inspired you to start your blog New Life on a Homestead?
I was brand new to country living and had so many questions! I wanted to share our journey so that others might be able to learn from our mistakes, but I also gleaned a lot of great advice in the beginning from readers who had already been there and could guide me as I fumbled along.
Have you noticed a trend of more young people wanting to homestead or be more self-sufficient? If yes, why do you think that is?
There is definitely a growing interest in getting back to the land. I think people are fed up with what society tells us life should be. They're realizing that working a 9-5 job that they hate just so they can own a big house and new cars isn't really bringing them fulfillment after all. Many people are becoming more and more concerned about the direction our country and our economy are headed, and want to hedge themselves against what might be very hard times ahead. There are many deep, personal reasons that people are feeling called out.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
My family is my inspiration and passion. I think as a mom, my deepest desire in life is to provide the best for my children. They are what drive me to work hard. Everything I do, whether it's growing organic produce in the garden, learning herbal medicine, canning food for the off-season months, whatever...it's all so my children are healthy, happy and have a bright future. And that they have these skills to rely on when they are grown with families of their own.
Have you noticed a change in yourself or your work since moving away from the city?
Absolutely. With age comes maturity, but experience molds character as well. I'm definitely more patient than I used to be. And happier. I finally feel at peace. I appreciate the little things, and take nothing for granted. I'm so much more grateful for all that I have, and am content with simplicity. I'm more open and trusting than I ever was in the city.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
I don't think it ever would have crossed my mind to try to live off-grid in the city.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
Taking a walk through the woods and around our property always rejuvenates my soul.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country?
It definitely isn't easy if you're trying to grow your own food and live off the land. Country life is often romanticized in the media, but it takes a very strong-willed person to stick it out through all of the trials and challenges.
What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
You'll enjoy life much more if you get out into the community, meet your neighbors and make friends. Out here, we need each other. Trying to go it alone and isolating yourself will only prove to be counterproductive.