Our Rented Homestead

If someone made me sit down and write a “How I Spent My Summer” essay, it would read more like the lyrics to a woe-is-me country song. Thankfully it would be missing the elements of Loretta Lynn songs involving being pregnant again. There was also no spousal abandonment but otherwise… it was a craptacular summer.

I’m not even going to talk about every little bad thing that happened. I’m thinking of Summer ’15  as that attention-seeking Internet troll. The more you talk about them, the more power they have to ruin your day. Be gone, Summer ’15. I will not miss you.

bye animated GIF

Worth talking about is how we struggled to find housing for our family that didn’t cost 80% of our income (no exaggeration. Love ya, Ithaca but the rent is too damn high! ). Beyond the cost of housing, there seemed to be a general lack of places to live for families and man, the discrimination….ugh.And I’m not even the usual minority who gets the bulk of discrimination thrown at them. I can’t tell you how many times I called about a place that was for rent nowhere near student housing to be asked, “Are you Cornell people? I only rent to students or grad students with families.” Other times I filled out really strange questionnaires that asked detailed questions about my relationship status that baffled me. Sometimes I got the impression they were trying to ask if I was a single mother and if the guy who was going to live with me was the father or my children or if I just had random men live with me and be my sugar daddy. Other times, the gist of it seemed to be…are you a “traditional” family. Like, married man and woman who have heterosexual sex and aren’t living in sin. Very confusing.Several wanted copies of paystubs and a verification of employment. I wondered what would have happened if a disabled or elderly person who couldn’t work would have wanted to live there?One landlord said he couldn’t rent to me because I have too many children and his water bill would be too high (I offered to pay extra for water but no deal). And then there were landlords who would rent to us but not without a credit check. We don’t have bad credit…. we just have NO credit. And on and on. Stupid reasons people couldn’t rent to us.

Oh,I know. It’s totally illegal but I just needed to find a place to live. I was in panic mode thinking we would have nowhere to go I didn’t have time to mess around with reporting these jerks and jerkesses. That’s probably why they can get away with it. People are so stressed and focused on finding a place to live NOW .Dealing with unethical landlords in is the last thing you want to deal with.

I was also amazed that so many landlords would not accept Section 8. We don’t have Section 8 because there’s a 3 year waiting list and I’m an eternal optimist who thought  3 years ago there was no point in getting put on the wait list because “there’s no way we’ll still be this poor 3 years from now!” .  Ha.
So, this doesn’t personally affect us but c’mon,people. Get over your outdated stereotypes about the types of people who get housing subsidies.

I was so irritated with people who told me, “Why don’t you just go live in one of the trailer parks?”
Now,let me say this first. I am sure there are some fantastic trailer parks out there but I grew up in one that was not and know that the ones here are even worse now. I will never-ever-ever live in one again, especially not while raising children. Living there  I witnessed and heard domestic violence and child abuse on a daily basis. I was sexually molested by a neighbor when I was 9. In my teen years, I was walking home from a friend’s 3 trailers away and was almost raped. Drugs were everywhere. Sickos mutilated people’s pets. No personal possessions were ever safe. And besides, trailer parks here did not escape the influence of Ithaca’s high cost of living. $950-$1,200 for a 3 bedroom box with no yard and shitty surroundings. I will take that nope train all the way back to Nopeville,thankssomuch.

Then I would mention an address we were looking at an apartment in and people’s reactions would be like, “OHMYGOD, but that’s THE GHETTO!” Funny thing is, I know people who live in that neighborhood and I have worked there. I saw it as a community. A community that doesn’t have very many white people living there.  Where my general concern would be that White families moving into that neighborhood would add to gentrification, other people were horrified and concerned for our well being because surely, I would die immediately just living among all those people of color.Or something. I’m not quite sure.

But sure, tell me to go live in the cesspool that the trailer parks are.

By the way… please be aware of the way you use the word “ghetto”. 


This story has a semi- happy ending. We found an affordable place to live and I’m in love with it, even though my beloved kitty was probably eaten by bobcats the first month we lived here. The area is one I have family roots in (the first two white settlers here were my ancestors. The town and school is named after the wife of one of my long dead relatives and there are all sorts of NY state historical signs all around commemorating things my people had a part in). It has a reputation of being rife with hillbillies and poor hicks (I have a lot to say about this and I will on another day) and so we moved here to add to the population,I guess.  We’re in the middle of nowhere yet we have bus service. I love it here. Best of all, the owner doesn’t care what we do with the land here. 5 acres, a barn, and a pond.


“I don’t care what you do here.” – our landlord

It’s a great property but it’s been neglected for awhile and it’s going to be a lot of hard work but having the freedom to have chickens and grow food and properly homestead while renting is a serious blessing. Longtime readers here know that I am vocal when it comes to poor people shamed for not growing their own food. I totally stand behind all those reasons but I also want to show the possibilities for people who may not have the same limitations. Get ready for Rented Homestead  posts in the future. They will be honest and frugal because as much as I love living here, I’m still as poor as ya’ll know what.
(That’s why I said “semi-happy ending”. Still poor,dammit.)

Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.
Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.

12 thoughts on “Our Rented Homestead

  1. Your summer sounds as craptastic as mine. Single mom with 5 kids,a grandkid and a housing subsidy , we ended up living in a friends semi vacant apartment for a month while our paperwork got conveniently lost. We finally have a place and I’m over the moon to be settled again. Congrats to you and I look forward to your homesteading posts. We have a tiny backyard that might just be perfect for a garden.

    1. Congrats to you,too! I think the whole stress and uncertainty of it all makes getting settled in an even more joyous thing.
      Hope you’ll share some of your garden happenings! 🙂

  2. Wow, that’s a great looking pond! Sorry to hear you’ve had such a crappy summer, but glad life seems to be looking up. Hopefully you can start getting your garden set up now. Fall is a great time to prep the soil and even plant some things (like garlic).

    1. I’m using the cardboard from the boxes we moved with to build a lasagna garden. At least part of the garden will be done that way. The soil is AWFUL, at least in the area that’s fenced in. Of course !

  3. I arrived at your blog to read a recipe entry. I stayed for the blue collar honesty.

    It’s so refreshing to find a blog within two days of joining that reminds me of the fiery working class folk that raised me. This blog entry of yours, along with “EVERYONE DESERVES A LIVING WAGE…. EVEN IF THEY CAN’T SPELL ‘FRIES’”, are wonderful gems in this potentially endless sea of blogs. I subscribed almost instantly!

    I live in Toronto, but I have friends in the Ithaca area who tell me upstate New York is reeling from over two decades of de-industrialization. The same is happening in some parts of the province I live in. It’s tough for working folk to catch a break, and the condescension I see directed at them from both sides – conservatives and liberals – is infuriating.

    I’m from a working class family and still consider myself part of their ranks, even if I’ve managed to cobble together a semblance of a “professional” career. You mentioned Loretta Lynn, and in some ways I’m kind of like her song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – I stay true to my roots.

    Here’s to more great stuff from you. Cheers!

  4. I am SO glad you found a place — it looks and sounds amazing. 🙂 We went through this last year when our house went up for auction about a year sooner than we expected, and it is terrifying to come so close to being homeless. (Family were happy to take US in but not our cats, and that is a deal breaker.) We checked out trailer parks (would not be able to get in because they do a background check for ALL your life, not the past 10 years, and my 60 year old husband has felonies from 35 years ago). The cats were a big issue, but we did finally find a lovely place to rent.

    I am on SSDI and my husband is a disabled vet — for pay stubs/employment verification we have letters that show our monthly income. I imagine a senior on Social Security would show income the same way. That was not an issue for us, thankfully!

  5. I am so glad that you and your family that you found a happy place to live, with an understanding landlord! The two are so rare.

    By the way, I thought I was the only one who absolutely and utterly refused to live in a trailer park. My friends always told me I was limiting myself too much. One actually suggested I BUY one of the damned things for investment purposes! (I told her I’d rather invest in the *bleep*ing lottery.) Those places are nothing but depressing, horrifying, and oh-so-inadequate for human life. I also spent several years in one when I was young, had many of the same experiences. Lost pets, drugs, sexual assaults, creepy men… One time our trailer got struck by lightning! It broke my mom’s heart when at age 13 I left the trailer park and moved in with my dad and his new wife. I hated leaving my mom so much and living with that woman, but being in the trailer park was worse. Never again. Ever.

    Buh-bye summer! Here’s to a fantastic autumn filled with settling in, successful gardening, and growing children.

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