We grew up watching the Ingalls, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to live back then? We’ve been able to take the best parts from the Little House on the Prairie and incorporate them into our 21-century way of living.
Why we Traded Urban Living for Little House on the Prairie
Do you think you could transition to a lifestyle like Little House On The Prairie? Obviously, we can’t travel back in time, but if you could live more like Ma and Pa Ingalls, would you? This is the question that we asked ourselves for several years.
As adults, both my husband and I drifted away from our country roots and settled for a more urban life where we were raising our three children. I honestly can’t recall the exact moment it started, but bit by bit we started to gradually inch our way back to those roots. We began growing our own food, raising chickens, milk goats, and bees. We also started cooking from scratch and making our own household products. Unfortunately, that all came to a screeching halt when the country changed their laws.
Fast forward a little bit, and we decided that it was time to leave our coastal community and make our property lines much larger– much, much larger.
Ways of Old
Some of the major decisions we needed to make were what were we willing to live without, and what we wanted to keep. Our main goal was to reduce our dependency and expenditures. We wanted to limit our dependency on others for our quality of life, including electric, water, food, medicine, and entertainment; all of which take valuable resources, such as time and money. If we reduced our expenditures, we could reduce the amount of money we needed to make, hence freeing up time we could spend together as a family doing the things we enjoy.
The characters of Little House On The Prairie were very resourceful. They understood the value of a hard day’s work, and they all helped each other in the community. Each moment of the day was filled with intentional living. There was a scheduled time for play, but only after the daily chores were done. The question was, could we take our modern-day family and transition back to the ways of old?
Things we didn’t want to Live Without
There were many things that we were all willing to give up in order to have a lifestyle that was more about living off the land than living a life of instant gratification; however, some of the things we knew we wanted to keep were:
- Internet Access. My daughter’s school was online and I work online, so wifi was a must. I would like to add that good wifi and rural living is a double negative.
- Close-ish stores. When we were urbanites, we had five major grocery stores all within a ten-minute drive from our home. We knew that would change when we moved to the mountains, but we wanted to be within a 40-minute drive from a major store. I’m happy to announce it takes me 37 minutes to get from here to where I need to go.
- Shelter. While some off-grid hardcore enthusiasts are willing to live in the bush, or forest, making homes out of twigs and leaves, we were not one of them. We have three children, two of which are in school, and one of whom is a teen daughter. We needed shelter.
- Fresh Water. Access to fresh water at all times.
Other than that, everything else was pretty negotiable.
Incorporating Little House On The Prairie with Modern Society
I can honestly say some transitions were easier than others, and some we are still getting used to. Leaving the urban instant gratification life for a life that most have forgotten about was not for the faint of heart. Nor was it impossible. Unfortunately, much of the information has been lost from generation to generation. The way of old has become lost in the past and was never taught to us, so it’s like we’ve been living in uncharted territory. Fortunately, we do have modern conveniences, like the internet, to help guide us, and books like the Little House On The Prairie series to inspire us.
The rest of our transition has consisted of trial and error– life’s best lessons.
Trading Urban Living for Little House On The Prairie
As I mentioned above, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose which elements of the Little House On The Prairie lifestyle we wanted to incorporate into our lives, and which elements of modern living we wanted to keep.
Some of the changes we’ve made would be:
- Living Off The Grid. We’ve been able to drastically reduce our energy consumption, invest in renewable solar energy, and use non-electric appliances.
- Cooking with a wood stove. We opted for wood stove cooking instead of having another bill by using propane.
- Washing clothes by hand. Even back when we lived in suburbia, we quit using our dryer and hung our clothes to dry in an effort to reduce energy consumption. We’ve taken that up a notch by using a washboard and wringer to wash our clothes. The cost to run? Free.
- Using an Ice Box instead of a refrigerator
- Using wood-fired hot water instead of a hot water heater
- Collecting our water. We collect our water from our spring fed creek, our artesian well, and our rainwater collection.
- No Indoor plumbing. We haul all of our water and we don’t have any indoor plumbing. We use a Berky Filter for all of our drinking and cooking water.
- No blow dryer, curling iron, or clothes iron.
- Wood Heat. Our house is heated by our cast iron stove and wood cook stove.
- No Air Conditioning. I grew up without air conditioning, despite the hot summers the area would endure. With proper insulation, window placement, an extended roofline, and tree shade we manage just fine.
- Square Footage. Our urban home consisted of four bedrooms and nine other rooms totaling just under 3,000 sq ft. We realized the more square footage we had, the more stuff we bought to fill those rooms. We now have a tiny modest home and a lot less stuff.
More in the Horizon
Although we came from a life of instant gratification, we realize that this is a lifelong journey and things take longer– a lot longer. A prime example would be our coffee. Back then, we just pushed a little button and received instant coffee. Now, we have to build a fire, haul water to fill the percolator, and wait around thirty minutes for it to brew; however, each daily task is a moment to meditate. It causes us to live in the present and appreciate the labors of our efforts. Before we made the change, coffee was just coffee. Although I loved my coffee, it just wasn’t a labor of love.
In addition to the changes we’ve already made, we plan to mill a lot more of our own lumber for other building ideas and cabins. Our children want to build homes here and we would like to add some cabins for friends and guests. Of course, none of these projects will happen overnight, but I’m thankful we finally have the time to do them instead of having to put them off for “when we retire…”
Watch our Build from Beginning to End
Without a doubt, this lifestyle isn’t for everybody. Nevertheless, if you think you would like to pursue this lifestyle, learn more about it or just see what we’ve been up to, we’ve got good news.
We were blessed with the opportunity to document the building of our off-grid Smoky Mountain Homestead for the Discovery Channel and the DIY Network/HGTV. From cutting our first tree to building our home, the entire process was filmed so we can share it with you. The TV show is called Building Off The Grid: Smoky Mountain Homestead