May 25, 2018
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Searsmont family embraces sustenance farming and simple living

By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff

Buddy the Belgian work horse likely will greet you if you happen to wander onto the Kynd View Farm property. Or a gaggle of geese, strutting through the pastures, may be your welcoming party. Regardless, you won’t have to look far to find the owners, Iam Kynd and Sharyn Kynd, and their son Fyn, hard at work.

Life is a bit different at the Searsmont homestead when compared to the typical Maine household. The Kynds eat what they produce, tend their 50-some-odd poultry, work the land of their 26-acre property and live simply.

“Simple living is a fabulous thing to pursue, but you don’t wake up one day and change everything,” Iam said. “And it’s a misnomer, because when you live simply, you have so much to do.”

On one particularly beautiful day in October, the trio worked together to transfer a flock of chickens into a larger coop; then with Buddy’s help, they would move the chicken coop to another pasture.

These mobile coops — a family design that is constantly being improved upon — are periodically moved throughout the pastures. The chickens can then feed on fresh vegetation (in addition to corn), and the waste they leave behind fertilizes the soil.

The Kynds also own ducks, geese and turkeys. The birds’ eggs and meat are staples of the family’s diet.

“I don’t think I should eat what I can’t kill,” Iam said. He dislikes the act of butchering the birds, but he believes meat is an integral part of a healthy farm diet.

Their gardens and greenhouses produce most of the vegetables they consume. They freeze, can and dry some of the crop to be eaten throughout the year.

“It ultimately comes back to personal consumption,” Sharyn said of the family’s simple lifestyle. “It’s little steps and trying to be more grounded in the place where you are.”

The Kynds used to live on an old farmhouse on the property, but two years ago they finished building a more eco-friendly home. All the posts, beams, rafters and rough boards of the new house came from timber harvested on the property and were hauled by Buddy to the buildsite.

To construct three of the home’s outer walls, they used an ancient Norwegian building technique.

“Essentially, you create a stacked woodpile with mortar in between all the pieces,” Sharyn said.

The walls are 16 inches thick, with an insulating layer at the center. Together, the three walls cost about $500 to build. The whole house cost about $1,500 — not counting labor; they did all the work.

“The stress involved in the planning and the implementation, that stress is really good for us to work through,” he continued. “Building a structure that a family then builds their life in …”

“Well,” Sharyn cut in. “It’s either going to bring you together, or you’ll realize that you shouldn’t be.”

For the Kynds, the colossal project brought them closer together.

The house sits on about 2.5 feet of sand and a layer of tile that acts as a heat sink, with a foundation known as a rubble trench, built by filling a trench with with stone and concrete.

The front of the house is dominated by an attached glass greenhouse, which heats up to 100 degrees on a sunny winter day.

“It’s passive solar. Sun comes blasting in, heats up the floor, heats up the walls, and then slowly radiates it back through the night,” Sharyn said.

At night, they fire up a small woodstove.

And every two weeks, the family takes a trip to town to stock up on items such as bread and dairy products, animal feed, gas and other necessities. They try to limit their spending to $400.

“The goal is self sufficiency — it’s impossible to achieve,” said Iam. “But closing the loop is something you’re always trying to achieve.”

Because the family consumes the majority of what they produce on the farm, they work part time for income. Sharyn works at a nearby convenience store and cleans homes, while her husband and son often do landscaping work and stack wood for local residents.

Fyn, who recently turned 13, is “unschooled,” an educational method that rejects compulsory school as a primary way of learning. He learns through life experiences, household responsibilities, books and Internet resources — and he’s encouraged to pursue topics of interest.

“People my age aren’t meant to sit at a desk all day,” Fyn said.

Each day, he wakes up early to do chores with his family. Above all, he’s in charge of the farm birds. He feeds the chickens, geese and turkeys, cleans their pens and tracks down any wanderers. It’s also his decision which birds becomes dinner and which birds are bred.

“I just couldn’t live any other way,” Fyn said. “A boy needs a farm.”

“For us, it’s far more important that he knows how to feed himself and shelter himself and know how to think for himself,” Iam said. “We’ve always talked to him about everything. He knows where our budget is, what we need and want in the short term and the long term.”

Fyn spends more time studying the topics he’s interested in such as entomology and ornithology. But he also keeps up with more basic subjects such as math and writing. Fyn, who has been reading since age 4, loves books. Every day, he spends time on various wildlife websites, chatting and sharing wildlife photos with fellow naturalists.

“I first got into birding when I was eight,” Fyn said. “And, I mean, once you start noticing birds. you get interested in everything else you see when you’re birding.”

“I just connect with nature,” Fyn said. “Whenever I get angry or anything, I just go for a hike.”

The family has built a network of woodland trails throughout their property, and they often visit local hiking spots, such as Camden Hills State Park and Tanglewood, where Fyn attends camp during the summer and winter.

“What I’d really like to do is lead birding and animal tours in North America and in the tropics and be a photographer,” he said of his future. “Anything nature-related.”

Over the past two years, Fyn has taken on the project of identifying, recording and researching all the moths he can find at Kynd View Farm.

“The best nights for mothing is between June and September, and nights when it’s warm and cloudy — best if it’s humid,” Fyn said, cradling a large light bulb in his hands. Behind him, a sheet was nailed to the side of an old barn. Screwing the light bulb into a socket clamped to a tripod, he demonstrated how he attracts moths by lighting up the sheet.

Each night, he checks the sheet at 10:30 and takes photographs of any insects he finds. And if it seems to be a good night for moths, he heads back out at 3 a.m. for more photos. This year, he estimates he’ll identify and photograph approximately 450 species of moths.

After the quick demonstration, Fyn unplugged the light.

“Don’t want to waste electricity,” he said, smiling.

This past summer, the Kynds made use of the old farmhouse transforming a large part of it into a greenhouse for growing vegetables and herbs year round.

“It’s a giant experiment, really,” Sharyn said.

But that’s how they operate. Neither of them grew up on a farm. They learn as they go. It’s an experiment, and so far, they’re happy with how it has turned out.

“We’re definitely outside the norm,” said Sharyn.

To check out Fyn’s wildlife photos, visit Kynd.

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