Simple living. Homesteading. Off-grid. Self-sufficiency.
These buzz words have become more popular as a growing number of urban Americans are beginning to yearn for “the simple life.” They are tired of the constraints of the city, and/or afraid that one of these days the sh-t is going to hit the fan and they’d better be out in the middle of nowhere when it happens.
If you are one of those Americans, I want to give you some perspective. J and I have been on both sides now – city dwellers and country living – and we have come to a glaring conclusion: the ideal life does not exist.
Why we moved out here
We moved out here in part because we both wanted to retire to a pretty place where we wouldn’t have to listen to traffic and deal with neighbors who get mad when you forget o trim the grass in the back alley.
I wanted to move out of the city and into the country for three specific reasons:
- B needed a lot more space to run around. I was going to go insane if we didn’t give him that.
- I didn’t want to have to keep breathing the dirty city air.
- I wanted to be able to produce most of our own food.
Over the past two years, let me tell you which of those three objectives are still valid to me: the first one.
While the air definitely smells fresher here than it does in Plano most of the time (sometimes a south wind will blow up what I call “stinky Dallas air”), we are surrounded by cedar trees which are well-known for causing year-long gunk in the lungs, throat, and/or sinuses. And as healthy as we eat, we are not immune.
What about growing our own food? I came here as an experienced suburban gardener, and so didn’t think it would be so difficult.
I thought wrong. The irrigation issue should be taken care of within the next couple of years as we put the Back To Eden philosophy into place, but there are other challenges with gardening in the country that I’m not going to get into right now. Suffice to say that I now understand why organically grown food is so dadgum expensive.
And I am incredibly glad to have a goat dairy nearby. I will gladly keep paying them money to do the work to provide us with raw milk.
I miss several aspects of city living. The first is easy access to a health food store and local food co-op. The second is having five library branches to choose from, all within a ten to twenty minute drive. The third is being able to get contractors in to do a job within twenty-four hours of me calling them. The fourth is not having hardly any grasshoppers (going back to the gardening issue).
What I don’t miss
We are not under any codes. Nobody is telling us we can’t use a composting toilet, or that we have to keep our weeds and grass down to a certain height. I don’t miss the tight regulations of living in Plano, Texas.
I don’t miss having neighbors so close. Especially renters who are about to get divorced and therefore have a screaming fight in the middle of the night right outside our front door.
I don’t miss the big house we used to live in, nor the teeny backyard.
You see, there are advantages and disadvantages to either kind of lifestyle.
“You never had it so good.”
About twenty years ago, I came to southeast Oklahoma to camp in a state park. One of my campsite neighbors was a senior couple. The man often said to me, “You never had it so good.”
In my early twenties, I really didn’t understand what he meant.
I think I do now. No matter where you live, there will be pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. But if you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food to eat, you’ve got it pretty good. Count your blessings and don’t moon over the grass on the other side of the fence.
Simple living. Really?
Question for you: which is simpler, living in the middle of nowhere without electricity, and living on animals that you hunt and weeds you forage, or living in an apartment in the city and working a job you enjoy?
Well, do you really want to spend time every day skinning and butchering animals? How about starting a fire with flint and steel – which is not, by the way, easy? And what if there’s a drought that kills all the weeds? Or, what about in the winter, when all the weeds are dead? Perhaps you can get all the nutrition you need from the squirrels, rabbits, and other animals you catch…if you eat all their organ meats.
Why is that simple, and not living in an apartment where all you have to do is flip a switch or turn a knob and you have whatever light or heat you want? Where you have a choice of three grocery stores within a half-mile radius?
“The grid might fail one day.”
So, be prepared. Have a fall-back plan for your major needs.
“Monsanto is destroying all commercial food.”
So, buy from local farmers and ethical companies that produce organic supplements and health food.
I hear people give me even more arguments to the suppose self-sufficient lifestyle. The supposed simple life.
I’m not going to address them all. They all come down to, “This world is going to hell in a handbasket! We need to live the way people lived 200 years ago!”
Okay. So 200 years ago people died in their sixties (and younger) because they didn’t have access to a rounded enough diet in order to live longer. Two hundred years ago in cities, there were two groups, the poor and the rich. The poor lived in abysmal circumstances…and were the vast majority.
“Then we need to live how our prehistoric ancestors did!”
Then what in the name of Pete are you doing on the computer, pontificating on survival forums and on prepper Facebook groups? There was no Internet back then. Practice what you preach.
And since when did they have it easy, anyway? Can you say, “Lunch for a saber-toothed tiger”?
I mentioned in an earlier post that “the grid” isn’t as evil as some people have made it out to be. Imperfect? Absolutely! But in some instances, such as energy and food production (I’m talking about whole foods, not processed), it is a lot more efficient for one entity in one place to set up a large production facility to serve many people, than for everyone to try to do it themselves.
Going back to the goat dairy, the folks there already have the infrastructure set up, as well as the knowledge and skills, to produce quality milk. For us to do so – to buy and set up fencing, to build a shelter and milking pen, to deal with breeding and medical issues, etc. – for just a few goats would cost us a lot more stress and upfront money than simply buying the money from the dairy.
We didn’t start the fire
So many people think that the bad times of today are the worst ever. Hmmm, do I have any survivors of the Depression out there? Can I hear from descendants of the victims of the Jewish Holocaust in World War Two?
Since the beginning of recorded history, there have been wars and natural catastrophes. We didn’t start the fire, folks. It’s been always burning since the world’s been turning. (Uh, in case you’re a bit on the young side, I didn’t make that up.)
People throughout history have looked at current events and been convinced that the world was about to end.
A new look at what we call “simple”
Every single human being on the planet is different. That means, every single one of us has a different idea of the perfect life. Even, of the simple life.
Usually, it’s a life we have not yet attained.
It doesn’t exist. The grass on my side of the fence has just as many brown spots as the grass on yours. Unless you feel a strong calling to cross the fence, how about you just enjoy where you are right now? That would make your life a lot simpler.
You never had it so good.