Thursday, August 5, 2010

Romancing the 'Stead

This past winter on a snowy December day, snug at home with nowhere to go, I watched Alone in the Wilderness on PBS.

Somehow watching this story of Richard Proenneke in his early fifties building his own cabin in Alaska where he lived by himself inspired me. I, too, could be a rugged homesteader.

I borrowed the DVD from the Somerset County Library and watched it several more times; don't forget it was a very snowy winter last year. Then I borrowed the companion book One Man's Wilderness - An Alaskan Odyssey and read it through twice.

Although I now understood that Mr. Proenneke had certain talents, he was a carpenter and diesel mechanic, it still seemed as though all things were possible.

I continued my reading marathon by working through back issues of Mother Earth News where I found the story of Jenna Woginrich, a modern homesteader. In her twenties, a web designer by trade, Ms. Woginrich homesteads in upstate New York on her recently purchased farm. I borrowed her book from the library Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life and began following her website

Next from the library came The "Have-More" Plan, a magazine-size publication explaining everything you needed to know to homestead in Connecticut in the 1940s. Very inspirational, but a little outdated. Also, some of the romance wore off when I got to the section about killing your chickens; I had a pet chicken for a while when I was about ten.

I moved on through the library stacks to some of the books addressing the philosophy of homesteading, enjoying Better Off - Flipping the Switch on Technology. In this book author Eric Brende, an MIT grad, and his wife move to a mostly technology-free community (think down-sized Amish) for a year.

Finally spring sprung around central Jersey and I was refreshed and ready to attack my vegetable garden, my cooking from scratch, the turning off of the air-conditioning. I could do by myself some of the work for which I had previously hired services - mulching for example.

I went and purchased two yards of mulch, got it home in our trailer, and took three (four?) hot days to spread it around. Two yards down and about 18 to go. Maybe later when it got cooler.

Despite my previous experience with vegetable gardening, I got a little overambitious. The garden and I both suffered in the heat.

A large tree in the yard obligingly dropped two large limbs. I enthusiastically cut them up and dragged the logs over to the side of the shed. They just need to be split and added to the woodpile...when it gets cooler.

As for the turning-off-of-the-air-conditioner?

I don't think so.

No comments: