From Nomadic Marine Corps Family to Rooted Modern Homesteaders


Overlooking The East End of the Homestead

Overlooking The East End of the Homestead


“Just don’t do things too quickly, take your time, you don’t want to get overwhelmed.” These are the words we have heard over and over from well-meaning friends and family. Maybe they understood a little more than we did, maybe that’s a good thing- ignorance is bliss!

We were making a radical life change and we are not the type of people to ease our way into it, we jump, with both feet, straight into the deep end, and learn under fire. So here we are, on 40 acres in the mountains of Northern Idaho making a go of it.

I spent 24 years in the Marine Corps. My family was accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle, if we didn’t like where we lived, that’s okay we’d move soon anyway. Gardening? By the time it got established we were taking off across the country (or the world, our last duty station was in Okinawa, Japan). My days were filled with long hours at work meeting “mission requirements”, long deployments fighting wars for reasons that were ambiguous and unclear at best, basically they were filled with constant uncertainty (don’t count on anything until orders are in your hand), the only exception to that was our steady and predictable income, and with seven children that income was a real, tangible benefit. But, after years of talking about, planning, searching and purchasing our land we were ready to trade that security for the unknown challenge of becoming homesteaders.

Harvesting the Game

Harvesting the Game

When we moved here a few months ago we didn’t come totally unprepared. Neither my wife nor I had grown up on a farm or learned any “homesteading” type skills; we knew that we needed to get an education. This started several years before we made the move, watching videos, reading books, books and more books and discussing ideas with each other. The closest I came to getting a “formal” education was to take Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Design Course. Once I discovered permaculture I knew this had to be our approach to homesteading.

We got here in August of 2014 and we hit the ground running! One of the first things we discovered is how useful my business management degree and all my years as a planner in the Marine Corps are to our homestead success. We have very ambitious, lofty goals and the only way for us to meet them is through serious planning. We have homestead annual planning conferences, quarterly planning, mid-term goals, short-term goals, action plans, weekly meetings, assessment periods…you get the picture.Our Property Designed With Zones and Sectors

Our Property Designed With Zones and Sectors

So, what are our goals? Well, one of our long-term goals (August of 2016) is to produce at least 80% of our caloric needs on our homestead in a sustainable way (it will continue to produce with very little input), averaged out over any given week. People may think this goal is unattainable, we disagree. Is it challenging? You bet. Will we be stretched, busy, sweaty, tired, and dirty? Yep! But we’re working for our goals, our objectives, and our family; it doesn’t get any better than that.

The Rabbitry is Up and Running

The Rabbitry is Up and Running

For us, though, getting back to the land means more than just growing our own food. It means unplugging from the system that we’ve been entangled in for many years. We have observed for quite a while the dysfunction of the modern American family. They are no longer close-knit, they send their elderly off to die in old folks’ homes, and they can’t depend on each other for support when they need it (that’s what the government is for, right?) We know we can’t fix all of this but we want to attempt to change what we can, at least in our family. We want our kids to learn self-sufficiency. We want to develop a family economy. We want to provide the opportunity for our kids (all seven of them) to be an integral part of our homestead and any businesses that derive from it, should they choose to do so. This is about leaving a legacy.

One of the other things that we see as a real problem in our modern culture is the loss of community. In a city of millions and all the available social media sites, no one really knows each other, we are virtual strangers with no real connections. To us, homesteading doesn’t mean isolating ourselves on remote property in order to withdraw from the world. We want community. We want to love our neighbors and develop bonds of mutual benefit. We have found that here. We always knew we couldn’t do this alone. We made great efforts to get to know the people around us when we moved to Idaho. We met our neighbors, we found a food coop, a local raw dairy farmer, a church, and I enrolled in a forestry short course. We plugged in. This helped immensely. The community was glad to help, they still are. An important trait for a homesteader is humility. Knowing what you do not know and be willing to ask for help.

Our Goat Snacking on Pine Needles

Our Goat Snacking on Pine Needles

We are in the very early stages of implementation. We have started our rabbitry, acquired dairy goats, purchased two pigs to be delivered in a few weeks, planted a variety of productive trees and bushes this last fall, have our annual garden mulched and prepped for spring planting, and started a podcast to share everything we are learning ( We have exciting plans for 2015 filled with an incredible amount of work; we wake up each day thankful for this opportunity. We would love to share our adventures with all of you!

family photo Xmas 2014

Our Family Plus a Family Friend

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4 Responses to From Nomadic Marine Corps Family to Rooted Modern Homesteaders

  1. Mervin Thiessen says:

    First of all, I want to thank you for your service to our country. Next, let me introduce myself. I am a great-uncle to your wife, I believe her name is Monica. I live in Georgia. I don’t believe I have seen Monica since she was a little girl. I’m not up to date on modern technonoly, so I trust that you will excuse my ignorance. However, I did see your post on facebook. I read your story, and find it very interesting. I guess it brings to memory my early years when times were difficult for us, but now I find myself wishing we were back then. Like I said, I am not well versed in the internet, so would like to know how I can keep up with your postings. Thanks!

    • The Courageous Life Podcast says:


      Thank you and yes, Monica is my wife and, coincidently, the designer of this site and most of the technological aspects of what we are trying to do. So I am completely sympathetic to your technological woes.

      The best way to keep up with us is through our Facebook page: and if you like to listen to podcasts you can find us on iTunes or stitcher radio by searching for The Courageous Life. Other than that this website is where we will try and put the vast majority of our content.

      If you have any further questions please let us know, we are happy to help and glad you are interested. Let us know if there are any particular areas of interest you are curious about!
      Semper Fi and Soli Deo Gloria

  2. Hi Sean, Monica and family!!! Love the family picture at the end.
    I love being able to read and hear about your family and what y’all are up to. I am enjoying getting to know Monica, you and the whole family through Facebook and now here…hope you would also check out our blog to keep up with us…even though we have not seen Monica in years we are thankful to be part of your family. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Can’t wait to see your place and connect with all of you in person…but for now from our home in Missouri to yours in Idaho…greetings and blessings.

    Cousin Ali to Monica, married to Ron Workentin (Monica’s birth cousin from the Thiessen side :) and Grammy Ali to your kids…glad I can love on them as no one can have too many grandparents or grandchildren.

  3. Mervin Thiessen says:

    Just curious about a few things. How far to the nearest town? Are your neighbors close enough that your children can interact with them on a regular basis? were you homeschooling before you moved to northern Idaho? What modern conveniences are available to you? What is your energy scourse for heat, etc? Would you care to share the name of the nearest town?
    I might add that my dad, Monica’s great grandfather also raised rabbits for food.

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