A modern homestead in Welcome Lake
It was a cold and blustery March morning, and as I made fresh tire tracks through the light dusting of snow, I saw a mink dart across the driveway and under a rock along one of the three ponds at the Augusta Acres homestead in Welcome Lake, PA. It was too cold for the sap to be running yet, but the plastic tubes and hundreds of buckets lining the way to the house were ready for the sap to flow as soon as the temperature rose above freezing. In the distance, a small flock of ducks waddled along the bank of the frozen pond as if also wondering whether the ice would melt soon.
Today was the first day of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Maple Producers Association’s “Self-Guided Maple Tour,” and Todd and Sue Klikus, the operators of one of 10 local “sugar bushes”* participating in the event, were busy boiling away in the sap house when I arrived. [*Sugar bush: A wooded area where sugar maples predominate]
Producing maple syrup is the most recent of many projects on which the Klikus family has embarked since building their home in 1993 on the old 20-acre hunting and fish-rearing property once owned by Sue’s grandparents, John and Augusta Rickard. What began as an interest in horses, gardening and outdoor projects has today blossomed into a modern-day, diversified homestead that currently produces meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, honey, maple syrup, cut flowers and even some of its own energy.
Todd and Sue grew up in Pike and Wayne counties respectively and spent part of their childhoods working or playing around dairy farms. However, when choosing a career, neither decided that farming was in the cards. Todd became an electrician and now owns Tri-County Inspection Agency, while Sue served as an elementary school teacher in the Wayne Highlands School District for over 30 years. After her retirement, the couple’s latent interest in farming reemerged.
With the encouragement of their family and the help of friends made through a committed group of local farmers (the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Wayne County group), the couple and their son, Carson, began working to develop a sustainable, diversified homestead.
In recent years, “homesteading” has experienced a resurgence in popularity as more and more people seek to produce as much of their food and energy as possible. Thanks to many new technologies and the ability to learn and share knowledge and skills easily through online blogs and forums, modern homesteading has become an achievable, self-reinvented way of life for thousands of families all across the country.