Get Email Updates
Demented Diary
Going Wodwo
Crochet Lady
Dan Gent
Sky Friday
Kindle Daily Deal
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

2411040 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

Back to Basics
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (4)

When I was a just-turned-eleven-year-old, my mother read Thoreau and Emerson and other books extolling the return to living the back to basics rural lifestyle. She was convinced that back to nature, to our roots, was healthier and a way to be more attuned to the real world of earth and tree, sky and water.

So we sold our house in the suburbs of the University of Connecticut and purchased a 50 acre farm in northeast Connecticut for the lordly sum of $12,000. The house, rebuilt in the mid 1700's, had been abandoned, taxes unpaid. The barn was a wonderful old original building, constructed of pegged timbers, with a series of stalls for animals dug into the ground beneath the main floor, and a loft high up to store baled hay for feed.

The original house had been built earlier in the century and had burned; the 1766 rebuilt one was the one we lived in. It was two storeys, with a central fireplace chimney allowing a fireplace in every room, hand built, which meant nothing was true square. The house had no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing. I don't mean that the services were turned off; I mean there was no wiring for lights, no ducts for furnace heating, no pipes for running water or toilets. And of course no hot water heater. When my mother said back to nature, she wasn't kidding.

We heated the house by building fires in the fireplaces. The kitchen had a big fireplace for cooking; all the other fireplaces were small for heating. The whole complex chimney/fireplace arrangement was the work of a Native American mason, and was a masterpiece of design.

We uncovered the old well (up the hill from the outhouse). It gave us sparkling clear water. We reinforced the outhouse so it wouldn't fall over when you sat down. We cleared the scruffy weeds from the garden area, dug it up and planted vegetables of all kinds and potatoes. Some flourished, some didn't. We discovered large areas of blueberries, an abandoned but still productive asparagus patch, and many hedges made up of blackberries, so many in fact, they were considered weeds. An old apple orchard several acres into the land area had trees of the Macintosh variety.

We got chickens for eggs (and later, meat). They were free range (to use today's terminology); there was plenty of grass and seeds and insects for them to munch on and at night they went back to their roosts (once accustomed to a roost, a chicken will always return to it). Our neighbors had cows and grew corn; we traded with them our vegetables and fruit for milk and corn. The only things we bought were flour and rice and candles. And later, when we had goats and a horse, animal feed.

Sounds romantic and earthy and wonderful, no? No. It was Hard Work. All the water had to be pumped by hand and toted into the house. Wood, chopped. Water heated in a cauldron over the fire. Outhouse hole dug, old one filled in, outhouse building moved every few months. Clothes washed by hand and hung out to dry on clotheslines. Books read by candlelight or kerosene lamplight. Food canned or put away in the root cellar.

We worried as winter approached if we had enough firewood, enough food put by for the time when we were snowed in. Enough feed for the animals (we let neighbors hay our fields in exchange for part of the crop). In heavy snowfall the county plows didn't even come down our dirt road, nor could we drive out. If we didn't have it, we did without.

It was heavy labor and risky living (no wonder our ancestors had shorter life spans and hired servants if they could afford them or put their children to work on the farm as soon as they were old enough). The one thing we did have that our ancestors did not was a telephone. In an emergency, we could call for help--though how it would get to us in the dead of winter, I'm not sure, nor was I even sure the emergency vehicles could find our house. Fifty acres is a big place.

I think of this part of my past whenever I hear someone praise the back-to-nature movement, extolling the virtues of living in harmony with nature. Some aspects of civilization are wonderful and I'd hate to give them up (as I did when I lived in India): electric lights and running water and a stove are the main ones. One can sit and commune with nature only if someone else (usually a woman) is doing the laundry, cooking the food, cleaning the house, and caring for the children.

Turn on the lights and turn up the thermostat!

Read/Post Comments (4)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 JournalScape.com. All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.