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Making it on your own: some advocate for ‘homesteading’

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
May 29, 2013

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Homestead…the word might bring to mind visions of the Little House on the Prairie. But it’s not that quaint. It’s the idea of being self sufficient, and for some, it can actually mean making some money. And according to Oscar “Hank” Will, the author of the book Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low Budget, Homesteading Solutions, it doesn’t have to be so intimidating…

“I think it can be taken on by the average person. I don’t think that a slightly more simple model for basically growing food requires a four year degree.”

Hank practices what he preaches in Kansas. He’s not just a homesteader, he’s editor in chief of the agriculture magazine Grit.

“Oh gosh, the days are crazy. So, up probably at least by 5, out to do chores – this would be for me. And my wife would be up about the same time. We each have our own sort of sets of chores, in the wintertime, animal chores, in the summertime, animal and gardening chores.”

In the book, Hank takes the reader from start to finish. Plowing with pigs is just the title – there’s fences, row crops, grains, sheep, goats, and fowl all here. And it’s truly a do it yourself book. Step by step directions that are simple to understand, whether you know the difference between a harrow and a plow.

“Sort of begin our days and end our days out on the land, and do whatever we need to do during the day.”


This isn’t limited to Hank, or Kansas. In Oklahoma, there are people like Paulette and Gary Rink in Covington, about 20 minutes west of Perry. They don’t call themselves homesteaders, but fit the mold. Just like Hank’s book details how to care for a wide variety of animals and harvest a number of crops, they have a little bit of everything.

“Well we’ve kinda always done it, so it’s not like we wanted to be, all of a sudden, sustainable or take care of ourselves. We were really kinda brought up that way.”

But being in small town Oklahoma, they say they’ve faced their share of obstacles too.

“We would have quite a few discussions, like graduation parties, they’d be sitting around here ‘You can’t farm that way, there’s no way you can make a living doing that.’ ‘You can’t raise sheep that way, it’s never been done.’ Yeah we can. So far, it’s been working.”

Homesteading is meant to be more natural, without the chemicals and pesticides often seen in industrial farming. Both Hank and the Rinks say it isn’t about just that one change though. Before doing, he tries thinking, and in the process, ends up winning.

“Part of what was intriguing to me about it is that if you actually link the various components that were arguably once linked in agriculture at a single farm, you can actually find some efficiencies in time and some efficiencies in cash.”

“We’re trying to incorporate everything. There’s no waste. Everything’s got a turnover.”

All of this takes time. And Hank told me you have to be prepared to fail, and then try again. That may happen a couple times. Here in the 21st century, we often want things when we want them, and fast. So to ask someone to take a leap and do this?

“That sort of flies in the face in some ways, of the instant gratification component of our society that says ‘Well, I’ve got a bunch of cash, I want to buy this life that I think looks like it might be interesting or cool or that I’m passionately committed to or whatever.”

“I really haven’t found an appealing part of it yet. We work terribly hard, we’re on a pretty strict budget, but we enjoy it. We have fun.”

Lots of physical work, long days, patience and you’re at the mercy of the weather? So why do people do this?

“It’s a good feeling to be able to do something that’s from the dirt.”


Paulette and Gary Rink sell their products at

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