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Back to the Land:
The Call of the Homestead

It's a basic human instinct to want a place of your own in a serene country setting. The desire tends to overwhelm us sometimes, especially when you're stressed out in the rat race, or at major life events -- just starting out, about to start a family, empty nest, or retirement. My advice: yield to temptation! A country lifestyle is tremendously rewarding if you do it right.

And to help you do it right, I have a country-living newsletter and blog, and have republished my favorite back-to-the-land classics.

Back to the land

Country Living 101

This topic is too broad for a single Web page, but here are a few pointers:
  • Adopt a rural lifestyle in stages. If you're from the city or the suburbs, there's a lot to learn. It takes a while to get acclimated. Renting a place in the country for a year before looking for a place to buy is probably the single smartest thing you can do.
  • Approach everything with an open mind. Things aren't going to work out the way you expected. You're going to hate some of the things you thought you would live, and vice versa. Some of the glittering opportunities that well-meaning people told you about will turn out to be fantasies. On the other hand, you will discover real opportunities out there that are even better. Let your life unfold. Don't become too attached to your plans.
  • If you don't like rednecks, you've got your work cut out for you. I live in an area with a strange mix of loggers, aging hippies, ex-loggers, college professors, former loggers, high-tech professionals, occasional loggers, and artists. It would be silly to live here if I didn't like loggers. Sadly, a lot of people think living in the country allows you to isolate yourself from humanity. That's not how it works. Country life is full of incidents that put you face-to-face with your neightbors, such as when your pigs get loose and eat the neighbor's garden, or your pickup ends up in the ditch and your neighbor winches you out. The country is a terrible place for hermits.
  • Start slowly with livestock. The urge to do everything at once is immensely powerful, especially in the spring, when everyone is half-crazed with cabin fever. But you need to be careful not to get in over your head with livestock, because you don't want your inexperience to cause suffering. Start as slowly as you can.
  • "There's a livestock auction every Thursday." This piece of advice was given to me by a wise neighbor when I asked him what to do about a goat with a bad attitude. By selling the goat at the auction, I exchanged a goat that I couldn't handle for cash that I could. Many problems are not worth solving, especially when you're a beginner.
  • Size up neighorhoods cautiously, especially large-lot suburbs. In the country, it matters who your neighbors are, and you might have the same neighbors for fifty years. Watch out for neighbors who moved to the country for no obvious reason, and think everything should be the same as in the suburbs. This can be especially bad in large-lot suburbs (housing tracts with multi-acre lots), where such people tend to run in packs. They will throw tantrums if you have a beat-up pickup truck or don't mow your lawn obsessively. They will call the cops if you have livestock that are old or otherwise aren't suitable for a magazine cover. Recognize that you can't have a stress-free existence if you're surrounded by anal-retentive people. (If a neigborhood has some heavy equipment and gently rusting cars in plan view, that's a good sign.)
  • Don't quit your day job. It's harder to make a living in the country, which is why it's not crowded! Don't bet the farm on the idea that you can make a living from the farm. You'll be able to eventually, if that's what you want, but not at first. You want some kind of steady source of income in addition to your new venture.
  • Take advantage of altered standards. No one expects someone with a small farm to drive a brand-new car, to dress in designer clothes, or to have a fancy house. Having a small farm is far more respectable than any of these things, anyway, so you can aggressively dial down your consumption while maintaining your social status. This can allow you to build the financial cushion that's so helpful with a stress-free lifestyle. There's nothing quite so comforting as having low expenses, no debt, and money in the bank during a recession.
  • Read back-to-the-land books. I've reprinted some of the great American back-to-the-land classics, which I'm sure you'll enjoy.
  • Read my newsletter and blog. I share my country-living adventure in my newsletter and blog. Check 'em out!

Sign Up For My Newsletter and Blog

  • My newsletter emailed every month and covers a variety of rural-living topics, with an emphasis on free-range chickens. Sign up at the bottom of this page! You can read the back issues at this page.
  • My blog gets updated every day or two, with things that are going on in my life -- mostly farm and country living stuff, though I wander off in other directions from time to time.
  • Follow me on Twitter to receive notices of all my blog and newsletter postings, plus anything else I find link-worthy.

Back-to-the-Land Books

Our new line of back-to-the-land books has three of our favorite classics: We Wanted a Farm, Ten Acres Enough, and Gold in the Grass. These are entertaining, thought-provoking, useful, and provide charming slices of Americana that are impossible to get any other way.

We Wanted a Farm is a forgotten classic by M. G. Kains, author of "Five Acres and Independence." It is full of anecdote and tells the tale of his three-step back-to-the-land program, where he first moved from Manhatten to a rented house in the suburbs (where he raised a big garden), then a purchased house in the suburbs (where he planted a bigger garden with plenty of berries and fruit trees), and finally a move to the country, where he went into orcharding in a big way. Very entertaining, especially the chapter about the on-farm uses of dynamite!

Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris is a wonderful book, a classic back-to-the-land adventure from 1864. Because the passage of time has made it increasingly inaccessible, we have copy-edited it from end to end so it will make sense to today's readers.

Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow is a back-to-the-land adventure from 1954, ninety years after Ten Acres Enough. It tells the rags-to-richest story about Alfred and Margaret Leatherbarrow as they attempt to wrest a living from a played-out farm, and finally succeed after adopting soil reclamation and sustainable farming techniques.

Back-To-The-Land T-Shirts and Stuff

Proclaim your dream with back-to-the-land T-shirts from Artsy Android, a virtual T-shirt shop that I helped create.

Our shirts are designed by us and sold by, which has the best quality and customer service of the custom T-shirt vendors.

Check 'em out!

More Back-to-the-Land Gifts at Artsy ArtsyAndroid

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