Different Kinds of Rural

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.”

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!
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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

3 thoughts on “Different Kinds of Rural”

  1. That’s why there are things like hydraulic tractors and air powered t-post pounders.

    BTDT with the outdoor toilets and hauling water. In midwinter you really appreciate good indoor plumbing. Perhaps its different if you are in an area with minimal snow.

  2. While there are always exceptions to the rule, I believe Robert is mostly right on this one. The problem is there is a lot of ‘homesteader’ information out there written by ‘Thoreau’ homesteaders (tried it for a short time and wrote the book – but wasn’t exactly skipping Sunday dinner at the Emerson’s house).

    The funny thing is I’m currently one of those back to the land folks (still in training). After reading Robert’s blog we decided to start free ranging our chickens. Neighboring farmers thought we were crazy city people – they just shook their head at the ‘newb’ on the other side of the fence and waited for the flock die off or run away. At least until they tasted the eggs and our flock didn’t disappear after a week in the ‘wild’.

    On the other hand, it only took scything a half acre (the internet says you can do it!) before I invested in a Ford 640). Scythes make great barn ornamentation…

    -Newbie who still thinks monolithic domes are cool 🙂

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