Farmers Without a Farm | Pt. 1

People frequently use the words Determination and Perseverance to describe a recent Grad, or an accomplished Athlete. I would use these words to describe Kevin Jackson, who feels he is called to farm and is going to make it happen, despite the hurdles in his path.

We came back to Michigan, choosing Leelanau county to make our home, knowing that we’d face some challenges to get our farm started. The bigger picture goal is to have land, pasture, outbuildings and the farm – that can be passed down to the next generation – giving them a business/homestead to get a start in a life on their own, beyond what we’ve been given. Bringing back animals from Kentucky, we’re kind of doing this thing backwards. We literally have a farm (the livestock) without a farm (barn/land/home). Read the previous post about moving from KY to MI and why. 

“We’re farmers without a farm.”

Step 1.

Secure a rental home to live in while we build our business plan and search for the ideal property.

Once the property is found we can put in an offer and complete the USDA Agricultural Farm Loan through their office in Traverse City to purchase. But in the mean time, we need to still live somewhere. Thanksgiving weekend, we moved back into the rental house we’ve called home for the last four years on Hlavka Rd. in Maple City, MI.

Step 2.

Secure a barn through the winter.

The barn we were able to use all winter long was off-the grid, and a half mile snowshoe hike away. We were at least fortunate enough to discover that barn did indeed have water (wouldn’t have stopped Jackson though) an old gravity fed well. All winter long Jackson literally hauled hay, 50 lb bags of feed and sometimes even Abraham, on a sled from the house to the barn…twice a day.

“No guts, No Glory.”

Step 3.

Ok, so our rental home SOLD.

Find new rental that’s in the area to stay close to our barn, in our monthly budget, that’s clean and not a mobile home.

Step 4.

Oh. If finding a new home location isn’t enough work, now we have to move barns/farm again! Ok. Deep breaths.

When we moved our farm into it this past winter the property owner was not interested in selling. Now we’re being asked to move everyone out. The property and barn you see pictured here, nestled in what we lovingly refer to as Hlavka Mountain, is now listed on the market for sale at a premium price.

Step 5.

Find a property and barn in the “Bohemian Rd” valley that can be leased long term, that we can reliably operate the farm business out of host our animals year round and allow us to store equipment, hay, feed, etc.

Next Post:

“Farmers without a farm | Hay Season” 

KY to MI

KY was a great adventure, full of new terrain (literally and figuratively), plenty of character building (don’t think I was ever going to get use to no cell phone service for a radius of 10 miles or the poisonous snakes) and got a few more tools in the tool belt (literally). Kentucky launched us into the next chapter…back to Northern Michigan.


Kentucky provided humbling experiences, living among history of our great country’s’ beginnings. There were rock walls on the property that were built by slaves, muck boots became a required piece of apparel, copperheads and rattlers could be lurking near by, seasonal swarms of lady beetles, and stepping in a cow pie on the way to your car door – were all commonplace. All of this provided perspective, acceptance, strength and growth.

IMG_6040 Jackson station at Gusty Branch

We had a great opportunity to work and live in the same place. Jackson got to work on a historic replica of a Toll House, located in central KY, about an hour and half south of Lexington, in the rocky, hilly hollars. A gorgeous home built down the creek, .5 mile up a nob and back into the woods. He acquired tools of the trade, on-site education and became quite the craftsman. He did everything from finish plumbing and electrical, to creating his own trim, bead board and solid wood doors.

IMG_8651 Jackson wood working; processing wood paneling

If the job itself didn’t keep him busy enough, he also started a farm. The job-site property was set on hundreds of acres, providing the chance to start what Jackson has been waiting to start for years. If not now, never? Right?! So it was. Farming, here we come! We raise hair sheep, goats, turkeys, cows and pigs. Fencing mishaps, runaway goats, disappearing turkeys, and plenty of births provided more than a few stories along the way.

IMG_1206 raising hair sheep

Oh, and we got pregnant and had a baby too!

One of our biggest life lessons Ky provided was “you can’t do it all.” It’s better to invest your time and resources into a few things and do it really well, rather than be eager to achieve, spreading yourself too thin. So, we downsized and re-prioritized.

While we built friendships, two church families, gained experience (and some farm animals), we decided at the end of the day what’s really important to us: investing in sustainability for our  future generation and being close to family/community – in a place we feel like home.

Leelanau County, here we come!

moving back to MI_truck gusty branch KY_IMG_1584


welcoming Levi James

We welcomed Levi James Jackson to the fold November 4th, 2015!

He was born at our temporary home, on Gusty Branch Road, by the creek, near the hollows and rolling green hills of central Kentucky.

The labor came on strong and fast, giving us nearly no time to use any of our at-home preparations. Our midwife was on her way over, on speaker phone, as Jackson and Madre competently delivered the new baby, with our other son Abraham at my side. Fortunately, she had prepared us for such a scenario. Before we knew it I was loudly announcing….”This baby’s coming!”

Gods grace and provision surrounded us – I believe due to my surrender and obedience, to be open to a home birth experience. Everyone is healthy, happy and flourishing!

FYI – We are heading back home to northern Michigan to live, work, give and love very soon!

#homebirth #naturalbirth #livewell #thelandrovers #rockwell #thejacksonshouse

Seized Defenders | Our Rover Story

When the Sheriff comes looking for you…

Never would I have imagined a my mom, calling me in a panic, saying “The Leelanau County Sheriff was here looking for Jackson.” Of course little information was given and we had no idea why. So all we could do was call them and find out.

1984 Land Rover Defender, TheLandrovers.comIt’s the Spring of 2014. We were traveling frequently from MI for Jackson to begin his work on Gusty Branch in KY, while I was busy maintaining my business Rockwell Art & Design throughout the transition. In addition, we committed to attend various events and weddings last summer, not allowing us to be in one place for what seemed like more than two weeks at a time. With that said, you can see why we were “hard to find” from the Sheriff’s perspective.

They looked for us at our last know address. We could have been in either Leelanau, Brighton, or Kentucky. Later we found out that not just the Sheriff, but Homeland Security was looking – not for Jackson -but for our Land Rover Defender. Not only was Jackson not in Leelanau, but neither was the Rover. We had driven it down-state to Brighton, in one of our hauls on the move to KY. It happened to be parked in my in-laws’ driveway. Little did we know, that’s where our Rover would stay…for an entire year.

Bullet-Proof Vests & Guns in Holsters

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a man named Darin gets his Rover seized.

“Dozens of the iconic Defender models were seized by the Department of Homeland Security after U.S. buyers purchased them from abroad and had them shipped here. Vehicles that do not comply with safety and emissions standards cannot be purchased from foreign sellers unless they are 25 years or older, and therefore exempt from the regulations” ~Fox, June 12th, 2015

Only by fate did Darin meet Will Hedrick, a lawyer that lived just 2 minutes down the road, whom he’d never met – until now. By fate, they met and Darin shared his story. Will wanted to help Darin, but didn’t want to charge him for it. Will slept on it and the next day decided, “If I’m going to help this one man, I need to help the others.” So with Darin’s support and permission, they agreed to take on this case of seized Rovers and all help represent ALL Defender owners across the country that were involved in this rover seized by feds

While we were pursued by a Sheriff and Homeland Security, by grace, apparently we had it easy. Some Rovers were taken rather violently, like Jennifer who reports,

“I had seven law enforcement officers block my driveway and take my Land Rover, with bulletproof vests and guns in holsters.”

Some Rovers that were seized, got almost totally wrecked from lack of care while getting impounded. While the Feds claimed these vehicles were initially imported illegally, failing emissions regulations, doesn’t this SWAT team type force, towards non-criminal classic car owners, seem a little extreme?

Helped by a Stranger

Not only did the Sheriff have a hard time tracking us down, but so did Will.

Fast forward to Winter 2015. On our way to church in Danville, KY one Sunday morning, we get a call from a stranger. “Hi, this is Will Hedrick, is Kevin Jackson there?” “Yes,” I replied. “Oh great! I’ve been trying to find you guys for over 6 months! Your Rover is the only one I’m not yet representing in this case!” Will said. While excited, and a little skeptical (what Lawyer wants to help you for free?), An exciting and uncertain journey with our Rover began, and a stranger turned into a friend.

While other defenders were getting taken by force, only by miscommunication and grace, was our Rover the only one NOT SEIZED. One department thought it had already been taken, while another department opted to drop out of the case.

Defended_Jennifer gets her Rover backFor most “personal property seizure cases” the value of the property gets far outweighed by the potential legal fees and the long haul of fighting a case that’s involved. Most people are forced to cut their loses and then opt to not fight it. So if it wasn’t for Will, and his choice to take on Goliath, there would be a lot of us across the country “cutting our losses” right now. Instead, he joined forces, and together we came out victorious, with the Government settling!

Final Score: Hedrick – 30 (Rovers). Governement – 0.

Here we are today. Will is still working on getting some of the Rovers back to their rightful owners, meanwhile, we’re working on getting our Rover back to Kentucky with us.

The Defenders Return!

#defendersreturn #hedrickrover #thelandrovers

the defenders return_Rover owners celebrate victory over the governmentRelated story: Celebrating the return of the Defenders > GO

MI to KY

Five years ago dear friends of ours were trying to sell their property and partially finished home in KY. Curious as we are, we ventured down south and camped on the property for a weekend to “scope it out.”

Fast forward to 2014, we needed to find a new direction to move in and were offered an opportunity to work, live and start farming on the very same property in Kentucky.

Jackson is now the sole general contractor and property manager of Gusty Branch. Since we moved to KY last Spring, we’ve also partnered with the owner to begin raising animals. The variety and numbers continue to grow and we’re excited to start living out some of the sustainable lifestyle farming has to offer.

#Kentucky #thejacksonshouse #livewellrockwell #sustainableliving #farming #family

Our story, continued.

Kevin Jackson and I both grew up downstate Michigan. But after beginning our lives together there, we soon realized that our larger goals and dreams were not going to happen where we were at – so we had to make a change. We sold our first home in Howell, MI, sold a lot of our belongings in order to simplify our life, and headed West in the Land Rover, for the adventure of a lifetime.

After having our first son Abraham in Boise, Idaho where we stayed for 6 months, Our search became to find a place where we could obtain property, live as a small community to farm, where we could live a self-sufficient lifestyle, providing not just for ourselves, but a place for others in need.

So our search continued. The next step towards farming, was going to be education along with work. Jackson applied to many positions on farms across the country, but just so happened to get a Farming Internship in Leelanau County, where our trip began, at a Certified Organic Farm, Isadore. So back across the country we headed.

We first moved to Northern Michigan in a friends bunkhouse above their garage, in Glen Arbor. Next, to a lovely rental home up a hill in the woods in Maple City, where we’ve been at for over a year. We believe that the next step will take us to a larger place on some land here in Leelanau County: A place where we can find some roots, begin to start a farmstead, grow a small business, grow our life, grow some food, raise our son, and eventually help grow our community.

Dreams happen by taking action on a passion, and for Kevin, it started years ago with an unfamiliar burning in his belly. Now he is leading us to farm, raise animals and food organically, sustainably, and responsibly. We’re traveling towards unfamiliar territory, but living our life with more purpose.