I’m a fourth-generation back-to-the-lander. This means I’ve done the back-to-the-land thing twice: once when my parents moved from Los Angeles, where my dad was an aerospace engineer, to Northern California, where my parents built and ran a campground nestled into the redwoods. Then later I moved from Silicon Valley, where I managed a technical writing group, to Oregon’s Coast Range, where I do the sort of thing you read about in this blog.
It’s interesting watching other people embark (or at least talk about) their back-to-the-land journey, and to compare them to the folks who’ve been here for a while.
For example, take hygiene. Long-time rural residents want indoor plumbing, hot water, and flush toilets. These are non-negotiable. But there’s a whole industry built around people who want to make their ablutions and bodily functions less convenient and more expensive. I shudder to think what Freud would have made of this.
The emphasis on inconvenience and unreliability mystifies me. Try this test on people: tell them your house is a geodesic dome. If they say, “Cool!” they’re newbies. If they ask, “Does it leak?” they’ve been around a while.
I think the difference is that, once you achieve the lifestyle, you no longer need the toys. Toilets and roofs are no longer interesting: you have other fish to fry.
The other thing I notice is that newbies and wannabes talk a lot more about the wonderful rural lifestyle than long-time practitioners. If you read back-to-the-land literature, only a fraction of it was written by people who have been on the land for more than three or four years. Sadly, that’s about the amount of time it takes for newcomers to become completely broke and move back to the city. The people you really want to listen to are the ones who’ve been on the land for five years or more, but they aren’t so communicative.
I will close with a piece of rural old-timer wisdom: “Never do by hand something you can do with power equipment. You only get one spine, so make it last.”