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The Philosophy of Modern Rusticity

November 9, 2010

It’s been ten years since I left the Hobo Hut, my first attempt at homesteading. It was a 12×12 shack on the rainy side of Maui, Hawaii, built in a week out of scrap materials and $80 worth of 2×4’s. I bought a gas two-burner stove and dug a hole in the ground. The box which used to connect my childhood basketball hoop to the garage served as a toilet seat. For a year I lived with candles and dry food.

Then my parents got divorced and the property sold. Did Henry David ever have this problem?

After some wandering and adventures, I landed in Portland Oregon. Not so bad as cities go. More places to rent than Santa Cruz. More jobs than Detroit. Everything I could ever need was within reach; all I had to do was pay for it.

Now it’s been ten years. I’ve earned a degree, bought and sold a house, gotten married, started a business, and fathered a child. I live in a nice house and drive my dream truck. This is the American Dream, right? I should be happy with it, right? Right?

I’m ready to leave the city. I’m ready for another attempt at homesteading. Unfortunately nobody’s handing out 40 acres and a mule these days, and I can’t lean on my parents anymore. There’s no running for the mountains with a five year old either, so I’m stuck playing by the modern rules of land ownership. Which means paying a mortgage. Which means maintaining a connection to the city. Which means that homesteading in the 21st century is going to look a lot different from Thoreau’s experience at Walden Pond.

I want to minimize my dependence on supermarkets. I want to be the house with lights on when the grid goes down in a storm. I want to build an outdoor cooking facility whose fire also heats a hot-tub and warms the floor. I want to build an efficient house from local materials. Just how self-sustainable can I get?

And, just as important: can I find community to connect with outside of the city? Will the little one thrive? Will it be as rewarding as I’m envisioning? Can I still be a country boy?

I’m willing to find out.

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From → Rants

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