BurningTwo years ago when we originally scouted our land in Eastern North Carolina we knew that because it was wooded and had no proper address that it was going to be tough to prepare as a future homestead.

Owned by Crystal’s brother and S.I.L., the land was being offered to us so that our family can continue to do what we feel called to do and what we feel is so essential to the future of our nation; live in community. Moving on to the land with our tiny house would mean being almost within earshot of a sibling and his family, a stone’s throw from a mother and father, a short jaunt to another sibling and his family, an hour from yet another sibling and his family, and also a short road trip to a large portion of my family. Yes, it would mean uprooting from the state I call my home state – Georgia – but it also meant putting down roots and raising my daughter in what I consider to be one of the most dynamic states in the nation; North Carolina.

Within eight hours you can drive from the beautiful coastline of the Atlantic Ocean (with all of its delicious shrimp and white fish, as well as village art and seaside attractions) to the magical mountains of the Appalachian Range (with its whitewater adventures, autumn sites, and Native American history).  All parts in between offer up such things as the urbanity of Charlotte, the academic opportunities of the Raleigh-Durham area, the hunting land in Northern Carolina, and the country landscapes from one highway to another. We felt such a peace knowing that when we stopped in Carolina and began our family there that our daughter would have amazing, hands-on, learning opportunities, we would have countless day trips and destinations, and each weekend could present an unofficial family reunion of sorts.

Our very first challenge though was just clearing the land.

Just before Christmas 2010 we drove up to what would be our new home. The weather was not all that cold and we knew we would be able to start clearing away the dense brush that had consumed the ground over the last twenty years or so. We started with just rakes trying to pull out matted leaves and thistles. After some frustrating hours we switched to machetes and our gas-powered weed wacker (which we had outfitted with a blade rather than string). Three hours in we had enough piled up that it made sense to start burning the pile off. By day’s end we knew we had a long road ahead of us.

Over the course of the next seven or so months we both lived near our spot in North Carolina – in what we affectionately began calling ‘The Bungalow’ – and working on the land. Each weekday involved my “day job” and each weekend involved some form of cleaning up and clearing out. We hauled literal trash piles to the landfill and the scrap yard (at one point we found a complete truck axle with wheels under a pile of thicket), burned off matted and compacted leaves, and pulled out what seems like miles of “spider roots.” In February we had help from my dad who came with his 24” commercial chainsaw. We cut down, cut for firewood, and otherwise burned off nearly 18 trees and accompanying limbs. In March we had a hired backhoe operator come over and remove stumps, more “spider roots” and miscellaneous tree debris.

April brought promise though and just as we said goodbye to the last frost we were able to stand back and look at the land we had finally finished reclaiming and rest just long enough to call in a truckload of dirt, a half a truck of chicken litter, and some good topsoil to begin planting for the summer garden.