Fischer Family

Central Idaho, USA

Elk City Idaho Area

Our Country Living Story

Mom and Dad were both raised in the country—in Utah, Washington, Oregon and Mexico, respectively. In Africa, we were at a self-supporting mission, where my dad was the farm mechanic, and Mom was involved in sewing and teaching grade school. While there, they were married, and I was born. Coming back, our first stop was in Rexburg, Idaho, where Dad took Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic’s training, and worked for Case on farm tractors. My sister was born there. Then, we moved to Tooele, Utah, where we lived on the edge of a mobile home park overlooking open fields and the Great Salt Lake. We moved there because Dad had gotten a job at the airport, but the facility went bankrupt in a few months, and he went to work for Case again, working on construction equipment.

Feeling a need to get out of the city, we started hunting. For us, there was no way we could comply with the Planning and Zoning regulations in the area, which were passed “to prevent the scatteration of the population.” It would have been a MINIMUM of $250,000 ($1 million in today’s funds) to get outside a subdivision. We were in debt, with a low-paying job.

Yet,

“Parents can secure small homes in the country, with land for cultivation, where they can have orchards and where they can raise vegetables and small fruits to take the place of flesh meat, which is so corrupting to the life blood coursing through the veins. On such places the children will not be surrounded with the corrupting influences of city life. God will help His people to find such homes outside the cities.–Medical Ministry, p. 310. (1902)” {CL 24.3}

When God says, “Can,” that is fact.

Great-Grandpa’s Place

Mom and Dad started to think about the “ideal, perfect” kind of place. They thought, something like Great-Grandpa’s place in Idaho–small, with water, out in the mountains, close enough to a town of a few dozen people, but secluded by the river. But, of course, we’d never get that one. Well, it wasn’t 4 months until the Lord put us in that very spot! It was a genuine miracle (actually, lots of them). First of all, Grandpa was very attached to the place, and desperately wanted to stay there to the end. He would give the place to anyone who would come and care for him. But he was bitterly anti-SDA, and domineering. It worked much better for him to stay in a little cabin at my grandparents’ place. Furthermore, he had offered the place to any family member who would make him an offer. But for some totally inexplicable reason, nobody would make an offer, except to pay whatever Grandpa asked. Finally, he was ready to sell it to a neighbor, and Grandma (his daughter) told us that if for some reason we were interested, to hurry up and let him know. We responded that we were definitely interested, if workable terms could be arranged. That all worked out, to our amazement.

So, during the Thanksgiving holiday, we drove to my grandparent’s place, and we did the paperwork. On the way home, we stopped by the place. Before we reached it, we arranged to have the power turned on, but that took a while. Arriving there, I still remember how cold and dark it was in a 40-degree house. Wood smoke was a very unfamiliar smell to me. The house was musty, and full of rats. And I was scared to go across the creek (which was 3 feet from the house) for fear I’d be in someone else’s yard. Moreover, we could see the mouths of several old mine shafts in the hillside. The only caves I knew about were the wolf-dens in the story of Jabel the Shepherd, in My Bible Friends. So naturally, I expected those holes to have wolves in them. (By the way–it was 15 years before I saw a wolf–which was 6 years after large numbers were imported.)

Dad was laid off from his job just before Christmas, so had some unemployment funds coming–but no job. For Christmas, we took a load of stuff up to the place–including our 10 x 12 storage shed that Dad had built. Then, a few days later, Dad’s parents came with their pickup truck, and we made our last trip. It was a convoy of 1 car, 1 van, and their pickup. That trip was made mostly on January 1, 1987. The last 120 miles were snowy, and between messing with tire chains and driving slow, took 8 hours. Several of us were sick. We arrived at about 1 AM. The house was in very poor condition. The water line from the spring was laying on top of the ground, and froze in cold weather, so we would carry water 1/4 mile from the spring for drinking, and chopped a hole in the creek ice to get water for other uses. Dad started looking for work immediately. Several logging companies promised to put him on when spring arrived, either as a mechanic or in the woods. But spring was a flop, and the one job he did help with for a couple days never paid a dime. People asked, “What kind of work have you done?” “Welding, machining, and mechanics.” “Oh, well, we really need a good mechanic. The old man wants to quit.” Finally, Mom painted a nice sign on plywood, and we put it at the bridge, where our 1,000-foot driveway joined the main road. Work came in, bit by bit. The bills were paid. And Dad found himself needing to run a business! He’d never done that before.

Home Improvements

That summer, my uncle and his family came to visit. Dad had the shed we brought up to store his tools in, but had no other facilities. My uncle helped pour a 14 x 30-foot concrete slab, mixing our own in a borrowed concrete mixer. That was a huge improvement over rolling around in mud and wet grass, or laying down a sheet of plywood! And, for many years, that is where Dad earned the living.

From the time we moved to the place, it was in continual flux. Always changing. As we were able, we landscaped, remodeled the house, buried the water line from the spring to the house and put a 1 1/2-inch water line for gravity-flow irrigation in the same ditch, brought more land under cultivation, built many rock retaining walls and terraces, planted more fruit trees, berries, and grapes, tore down old fences, built new ones, and the list goes on. One of the blessings in that old house was that Grandpa had put pipes in the concrete floor for radiant floor heat. That made it possible to keep the mess of dust, smoke, and wood out of the main living quarters, in a room of its own. Thus, our feet were warm, the house was evenly heated, and it was easier to keep clean. Grandpa had a 1/4 hp electric pump for circulating the water through the floor, which we eventually replaced with an 18-watt 12-volt pump. The little pump was perfectly adequate, and required far less electricity. We could see the difference on the power bill.

Specific challenges we faced, included the decaying state of the house; rocks everywhere; poison oak (or was it ivy?) and blackberry vines; the aforementioned rats and mice; steep terrain; lack of sun exposure; deer; rattlesnakes; racoons; skunks; a river that would occasionally submerge the entire garden in June, burying it in sand; sandy soil that would drain dry very quickly, requiring that everything be watered 3 times a week all summer; and other things. And, of course, fluctuations in income. The fluctuations of income is something that comes with freedom. Self-employment is far better than being tied to a regular job, and the fluctuations teach us faith. Time after time we see how the Lord lets us come to hard places, and then opens the way, delivering us from financial distress.

Honesty Pays

Having Dad working at the house was a great blessing to all of us. He was almost always available if we needed something. We never felt isolated, because customers were always knocking on the door, and the ranchers who had easement across our land were checking on their cattle (sometimes sheep) multiple times a day for 6 months of the year. Learning to deal with customers was interesting. There is always a class who will try to get something for nothing, and we got the short end more than once. We also got vehicles dumped on us occasionally. Some owners changed their minds about what they wanted done, decided not to pay the bill, and signed over the title to the vehicle. Others simply abandoned it, and we had to have the Sheriff clear the deal, so we could have the junk yard take it. One vehicle was repossessed by the bank, from our premises. One customer from the late ‘80’s still has not paid his bill. We ran into him a few years back, and he brought the matter up and said, “I’ll pay it as soon as I get the money.” We aren’t holding our breath. If he wants us to do more work for him, he can pay the old bill first. If we see him in an honest pinch, we’ll try to help enough to get him out of the ditch. Some wealthy customers were always whining about whatever price was charged. Then, they would turn around and make lavish offers of assistance. Finally, Dad told the one man (a multi-millionaire who lived like a pauper), “If you want to help me, just pay for the work. That would be a big help.” He never whined again. Overall, Dad has developed a solid reputation for doing high-quality work at a reasonable price, avoiding needless repairs, and standing behind it if something goes wrong. Honesty tends to be in short supply among mechanics, so this one element can make or break a person.

Gardening, Dogs & Other Adventures

Deer were our worst enemy. They eat everything! It is better to have a tiny garden inside a good fence, but we got a garden, orchard, and vineyard without such amenities. We finally got an area 60 x 80 fenced effectively, but the trees, grapes and berries were all outside. Two good dogs were our only effective remedy. One on duty while the other sleeps. They also serve as a doorbell, do an excellent job at detecting racoons, skunks, squirrels, and marmots, and are helpful for directing neighbor’s stray livestock to proper places. Where we were, we had a lot of cockle-burs, burdock “pull-apart burs,” and beggars’ lice, so it helped to have short-, stiff-haired dogs. If you can make your house, pantry, cellar, and everything else mouse-proof, it can save the lives of a few thousand rodents for the coyotes, hawks, owls and snakes to eat. Better yet, it prevents a lot of damage to your stuff, is less of a disease risk, and saves many hours of unpleasant business.

Trees, Rocks & Critters

While the steep, rocky, weedy terrain made for a lot of work, it is priceless. We lived in one of the deepest canyons in the country (deeper than Grand Canyon), and really came to love our steep, semi-arid terrain. It does good things for a person’s health, and promotes a courage and determination that are of a type all their own. Up higher on our mountains were the firs and pines. We’d usually drive between 8 and 20 miles, one way, to get firewood. A few sturdy Ponderosas grew along the river, and the creeks were lined with alder, birch, mountain maple, hawthorn, hackberry, and black and English walnuts. Apricots, plums, mulberries, and apples grew wild. Wild roses grew sturdily on the north slopes, bearing their tasty fruits. The most rugged bluffs and hillsides grew curl-leaf mahogany, which is an extremely hard evergreen hardwood. In that place, our rock was primarily quartz and limestone. Down the river a few miles, it changed to basalt. The river rock was more diversified, and the local sand and gravel operation produced some of the highest-quality sand and gravel in the state, for concrete. The basalt quarries were ideal sources for road-building rock. And yes, I learned how to throw rocks. The neighbors teased me about filling the river up, since I was always throwing rocks out of the garden. But somehow, my aim got real bad when a rattlesnake showed up. That is why we carried sticks when hiking. The stick provides a way to keep the snake away from you, as well as providing a way to pin it down.

We had chickens and goats. Early on, we had the chickens free-run, with no chicken house. That might work fine for a while. It can actually take 2 or 3 years for the predators to discover how tasty they are. Then it’s all over. Do it right, start out with 24-hour protection for the birds. They needed it in the daytime to keep dogs, hawks, and bobcats away. And those bobcats were bad! (But they were beautiful, secretive, and special to see–elsewhere.) When we got the goats, we built a predator-proof barn for them, and locked them up every night. Never lost one, although when we had a billy goat, the neighbor saw a young cougar just outside the cage. I found a coyote checking him out one night, also. But we never lost a goat to predators. We almost lost a 2-week-old goat to a rattlesnake bite, however.

Goats

The best thing that every happened to our garden was the goats. We treated them like royalty, with the best food, lots of clean bedding, and the results all went on the garden. I wish we had known in the beginning what we do now regarding soil. We could have had much less insect, fungal, and weed problems, more food, and better nutrition. For most of the time we were there, our soil was basically sand and cow manure. We put wood chips on the berries, grapes and trees also. But in the earlier years especially, we made the mistake of burning a lot of weeds that should have been composted, and we did not haul enough wood chips. The goats caused us to haul in far more material, and created a much better mulch/compost.

Irrigation System

Another thing that the subsequent owners seem to have conquered, is the irrigation system. They put in a better filter, and installed an automatic sprinkler system. They need the “automatic” part, since they are present mainly on weekends and holidays. But I needed the filter. The creek water was silty, and was constantly clogging sprinklers. Irrigation was nearly a full-time job in the summer months. We learned to handle the system to eliminate most of the clogging, but never got it to where we could go through a week without having to wash dirt out of things.

Moving On

After 16 years there, we sold the place. We left the “banana belt” and moved up into the cold country. When we told the neighbor where we were going, he said, “Oh no! That’s enough doom and gloom for one day.” He had lived out here in some rather uncomfortable mining/logging camp conditions, and remembered having to keep two stoves running wide open, and still having a pitcher of water freeze on the kitchen table. They could see plenty of light between the wall-boards, and it was -60 outside. So, why did we move? For one, we had filled the place up pretty well, and were starting to feel cramped. The 4- and 6-year-olds were now 20 and 22. The area across the river had changed from a coyote/bobcat farm to an RV Park. The political climate had changed drastically, and we were feeling like we lived in a fishbowl/megaphone–a spectacle to men as well as angels, and the men were getting more malevolent. The land around us had changed hands several times, and the owner’s children were taking control as the parents aged. The parents had been raised on farms and had a working level of common sense, but the children were something else. So, we were in serious danger of losing our hiking privileges, and running into other trouble. Finally, our spiritual environment was at a stage where a move was helpful. We had the signal providence of God lead us to that place.

We had various calls to go elsewhere, but knew that we needed Providence to give us equally clear direction to move on. Well, that direction finally came. It was clear and urgent, and the doors opened. So we moved. I had lived there 2/3’s of my life, and there was some serious transplant shock. It seems that, after nearly 7 years, most of my dreams still contain a mix of that location and this location (and a lot of nonsense, of course.) But, while we really like the general area, we’ve never had a regret about leaving that particular set of circumstances. Here, we have no rattlesnakes, skunks, or raccoons. Even the magpies (which I encountered in Alaska) got left behind. Fewer mice, and very few rats. No poison ivy or blackberry brambles, stinging nettles, cockleburs or burdock. Relatively rock-free loam and clay, and more level (yet hilly) terrain. One of the big blessings is that we get about twice as much annual precipitation, and we have trees! Now we don’t have to drive for miles to get wood. There is much more space to work, more privacy (even on Main Street), and far less natural insect pests. We haven’t used toxic sprays on the garden or trees for 5 years. We traded wide-open spaces for woods, steep hills and rocks for fallen logs, and we got moose and elk. Moose are dangerous, but less of a bother than the rattlesnakes. And we can hike! No worry about running out of space. We’ll never use it all, but it’s a comfort to have.

When we lived on the river, we rarely had enough snow to float a sled. Here, we have plenty. And if we want more, we can get up to where it is 10 to 20 feet deep if we so desire, on snowshoes. Living in a new setting opens up a whole new set of natural laws to our view. We get to watch the trees grow. We see the effects of the weather, disease, and human activity (or lack thereof) on the forest. The wild plants are different. We have far more fungi, lichens, and moss. For gardening, we have better sun exposure and a better soil matrix. It has a low enough carbon content, but that is being fixed, gradually. We are getting a new experience in coping with frost, but as already stated, cold comes with advantages as well as detriments. And yes, the greenhousing has begun in a small way, with more in the plans. Now, in November, we are still picking tomatoes. We moved far enough that our customer-base is 99% new, but that is fine. There aren’t as many of them, so we have needed to diversify more. And the change in spiritual environment has been a blessing.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, let me urge each one to make it their first and highest priority–your lifework, in fact–to seek for spirituality. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He that doeth righteousness is righteous. The work of God is to believe on Him who He hath sent. If we do this, the works of God will flow out through us. When we become channels of the active, working graces of our Lord, all things needful to the body are supplied. Remember this. Our nation is presently plunging over the precipice. War, famine, and pestilence are on the horizon. Hoarded wealth is being swept away while men sleep, and the world is soon to awake to a sorrow for which there is no earthly cure. In the midst of these things, the words of an old song come to mind: “O, my loving brother, when the world’s on fire, don’t you want God’s bosom to be your pillow? Are you anchored to the Rock of Ages? Rock of Ages, cleft for me!”