Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

More than a few of us urban homesteaders — women especially — were fanatical readers of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books (and some, maybe, still are). We still harbor fantasies of a pioneer life, setting up our cozy homesteads on some pristine piece of prairie, mastering our survival skills, resting by the hearth after a day of hard work, our bodies and souls strengthened by the intrinsic value of having fed, clothed, and sheltered ourselves and our families.

It’s a distinctively American impulse, I think, that pioneer spirit. I recently decided to honor my own inner pioneer by venturing into the next “frontier,” if you will, in urban homesteading.

Meet Nellie Oleson, my first baby bison.

Nellie arrived on a methane-powered livestock truck from a ranch in Montana. She is a domesticated breed of the American bison, meaning that genetically she has some cow in her. This makes her (and the additional head I will acquire as I gradually grow my herd) easier to manage as livestock — hopefully she won’t knock down the rain barrels, for example, or trample my dog in a stampede.

Nellie’s getting lots of good, organic, locally sourced, non-GMO grains at the moment, but soon I’m hoping to free-range her in a large kudzu patch not too far from my house. The walks over there through the neighborhood will be good for both of us, too. I’ve already halter-trained her for a lead.

I believe that the bison’s presence in our city signifies a restoration of this land’s once-great biodiversity, not to mention the virtues of homesteading at its most Ma Ingalls authentic. But don’t get too attached. My plan is to raise Nellie to become a protein source, and I’m really looking forward to a nice, thick rug for my own hearthside. In the meantime, the manure is working wonders for my early spring crops. Check out this beet!

Slowly but surely, Nellie and Caleb are getting to know one another. Caleb was uncharacteristically timid at first and ran and hid in the hole he’s been digging under this cast-iron plant over the past few years. But Nellie’s good nose soon found him out. Here she is saying hello and trying to get him to herd her around the backyard a little.

I should add that in its typical progressive style, the City of Decatur and its officials have been more than gracious about my endeavors to conquer the next frontier in urban homesteading. I pulled some strings in city government, and the municipal code will soon be changed to accommodate this most American of efforts.

Also, I will be teaching a class later this year titled “Where the Buffalo Roam,” for city dwellers who want to get started with bison at home. Look for square-foot ranches to spring up in backyards all around town very soon.

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19 Comments

Filed under Making Things Up

19 responses to “Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

  1. Leigh Partington

    I still read those books occasionally (and I’m heartbroken that neither of my daughters have loved them like I did). When I first started reading them as a kid, I wanted to be Laura. Now I fluctuate between wanting to be Ma Ingalls and (still) wanting to be Laura, living with the super-competent Ma.

    As always, you are an inspiration!

  2. Deborah Wiles

    o.m.g. You *are* Laura Ingalls.

  3. Congratulations! I look forward to following the story of Nellie (love the name choice). Last summer we drove by Laura’s homestead in South Dakota where she lived as an adult, but didn’t have time to stop in and check it out.

  4. Fae Queen

    I had a neighbor — well, three miles away, but that’s a neighbor in the country — who raised bison. They were the sweetest things, very gentle. He had raised three from babies, and gotten them used to being bathed (because, quite honestly, they stink), and they came when called and stood quietly while he lathered them up and rinsed them down in the summer. We used to love to visit them. Someone stole the mother bison, just came in the middle of the night, cut the chain on the gate, and took her. The sheriff thought he knew who had done it, this white trash family that lived down the road and had been known to steal livestock before. Unfortunately, all they ever found of her was her hide and where they had buried the bones. After the trial, they were returned so that the community could bury her. Over 100 people showed up to the funeral. Luckily, this farmer was smart. He had had the bison’s DNA profile done and stored in a national database, to make sure they were purebred, not hybrids. They proved it was Martha, and put those idiots in jail, not for long, but long enough for the entire community to shun them and for them to lose their jobs and their house and be run on a rail out of the community. The newspaper ran a story during the trial titled “Bison Rustlers and the Murder of an American Icon” all about the theft and murder, with pictures of the entire family (well, except the kids). I bet those people will never eat bison meat again.

  5. Fae Queen

    Just want to say that I’m not criticizing eating bison meat. The above-mentioned farmer raised and sold the offspring for meat, and we bought some from him.

  6. Mary Weaks-Baxter

    Wow! You are an inspiration! I graduated from Emory, and first heard about your blog through SOUTHERN SPACES. Now I live up in northern Illinois in a suburb where people raise chickens and horses–no bison yet! I’m happy to say that my ten-year-old son read through the whole LITTLE HOUSE series last summer, and I’m hoping that this summer we’ll stop at the South Dakota homestead. Good luck with the bison!

  7. Rachel

    I am wondering if it’s possible to sheer Nellie and spin her coat to knit with. And I can’t wait for your class, sign me up!

  8. Mary

    OMG! I want one!!! Please details – where did you get her? How much land? What kind of fence do you have? etc, etc, etc… :)

  9. Oh, my dear friends and readers. Please, please do not hate me. I amused myself mightily with the idea of having a 2000-pound animal on my little city lot. Happy April Fool’s, and please don’t be mad!

  10. Sage

    The photoshop job gave it away to most of us…

  11. Charity

    You are so awesome. I can’t wait to meet her! ;-)

  12. Diane

    You did a good job. I believed it. Well, maybe I am among the world’s most gullible people, but still . . .
    Happy April Fool’s Day!

  13. Mary

    Okay, ya got me! I was so excited about the possibility, I didn’t even look that close at the photos! LOL, guess that just shows how bad I want to have a buffalo, huh?!! But at the same time, I remember reading about a guy who did raise a buffalo calf and trained it to ride in his convertible. It seems like he used it in his rodeo shows. He rode it and used it for doing tricks but he also did not live in the city!

  14. Dusty

    Of course we believed. Why WOULDN’T you raise a buffalo if you could?

  15. Oh my gosh, she’s so cuddly and adorable! I LOVE her. Cuteness is probably not the point of raising a buffalo, but a wonderful added bonus.

  16. I love how clearly well Caleb is taking to the wee bison babe!! Congrats, Allison! You are such a pieOHnear!

  17. Mary

    Okay, so I’m thinking of two different buffaloes. Here’s one: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/pet-buffalo-rides-in-car.html# I’m not seeing the other one but it was over 10 years ago.

  18. Barbara

    Loving all these replies from folks who didn’t check the calendar first…!

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