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Eustace Conway prepares dinner with vegetables and herbs from his own garden, which lies outside the kitchen of a log house he built himself, cultivated by a horse-drawn tractor. He's a homesteader, living without the conveniences of instant meals and pre-made tools, and he has dedicated his time and his farm to teach others how to do the same. Homestead Living takes us to the remote reaches of Turtle Island, a natural preserve that Conway founded to experience the complete immeresion of nature that he says kept eluding him as he was growing up.
Eustace bought Turtle Island, a tract of land in the Appalachian wilderness, after living for 17 years in a teepee and roaming about as he hunted for food. As a boy, he grieved as he saw houses and roads replace the trees and grass that delighted him. Wanting to be in touch with a part of life that he missed, he decided to spend his adult years homesteading--building his own tools and shelter, growing his own food and making his own clothes.
In Homestead Living, Eustace introduces us to activities nearly forgotten by most people, activities that are part of his everyday life. Building a shelter, blacksmithing, raising horses and gardening take us back to a time before refrigerators were even a concept and department stores were available. Younger people who train on Eustace's farm stay for a year and find an inner strength that teaches them about their environment and gives them an appreciation for the land around them.
Turtle Island is in a remote hidden valley in Triplett, NC, in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Separated from the busyness and conveniences of modern living, this homestead is more than a "camping trip" for the adults and children who visit-it's a unique way to experience what the earth has to offer. Besides the year-long homesteading experience, making your own food, clothes, utilities, and equipment, Turtle Island offers week-long and summer camps for both adults and children. In addition, several North Carolina schools have taken groups of students there for day trips to learn skills such as recycling, how to treat animals, and making crafts using nothing more than hands and some primitive tools.
Families or individuals who stay at Turtle Island for a week or more learn how to live the way the early pioneers lived, gardening their own vegetables, gathering their own meat, making household items like flour and soap, cooking on a wood fire, using outhouses and streams for water, and training animals to pull farm equipment. Living quarters are built from scratch, and some hardware, like ladders and chains, is also built from raw materials. Residents learn how to use some of the simple tools like an adz, broad hatchet, wedges, drawknife and axe.
Eustace Conway's vision for Turtle Island is for visitors to have a life-changing experience, realizing their own abilities and potential to be stewards of the land and "specialists" in tasks like building or plumbing that most people contract out to professionals. Living at Turtle Island is not "roughing it," but understanding how to negotiate the natural materials the land and environment provide to meet our most basic needs of eating, having shelter and appreciating nature's beauty and resources. A group that builds a work table, for instance, not only learns how to split and measure the wood from the tree, but they also learn how to work with the grain of the wood without the benefit of electric tools (although they occasionally use chain saws). The exercise gives participants an appreciation for their history and an understanding of the relationship between different trees and plants and their practical uses.
Things kids and parents can do:
1. Recycle (cans, bottles, newspapers, etc.)
2. Re-use (some spaghetti jars in the grocery can be used for home canning) Almost any clean container can become a bird feeder, a science project for school or an art project.)
3. Buy wisely - Example: The Body Shop recycles all of their packaging as a service to their customers. They are also against animal testing and are considered a green corporation. (Also, purchasing products that are made from recycled products, can be recycled or have little or no packaging.)
4. Kid's garden - This could be anything from a window seal garden on up to a garden that feeds the whole family. Kids learn where their food comes from, they learn about the seasons and they can learn about the cycle of growing (composting, seeds, etc.)
5. Compost - Helps kids learn what can be kept out of landfills, provides nutrient rich soil for gardens and teaches kids a little science along the way.
6. Yard work - Put a little muscle into it! Use a push mower instead of a gasoline powered mower, rake leaves instead of using a leave blower, get a little exercise, be outside, pollute less and another plug about composting.
7. Take a hike - Visit a park, listen to the sounds - and the lack of sounds. Learn about the animals living there and how to respect their home.
8. Volunteer and/or join an earth-friendly, outdoor organization.
9. Learn about your environment by reading, doing hands-on activities and thinking about how your actions affect the environment. (Example, if you eat cereal for breakfast what type of packaging is it contained in? Where did that packaging come from and what process was used to make that packaging?)
10. Educate your parents, family and friends. Remember that old habits die hard and that your parents or grandparents never thought about recycling. Also, ask your parents and grandparents about how they used materials growing up. They may have some great tips for reusing materials.
11. Plant trees.
12. Make your backyard creature friendly.
13. Don't litter.
14. Conserve energy.
15. Celebrate Earth Day.
Web Pages for Kids:
Turtle Island Homepage
Read about Eustace's homestead and about what you might expect there.
North Carolina ABANA
The North Carolina Chapter of the Artist-Blacksmithing Association of North America provides information and educational materials to serve traditional and contemporary blacksmiths.
A resource for those considering homesteading.