Son Number Two is looking at joining an intentional community a few hours north of us. It's basically an eco-conscious group with shared values looking to acquire land together where they can live off-grid and raise their own food and leave a smaller footprint on the planet. He doesn't know yet if he's going to do it, but he's looking into it.
Of course my mind leaps automatically into action and I'm already planning and researching as if I were the one who was going to be chopping wood and hauling water. I discovered a really cool company www.lehmans.com where you can get anything from high-wheel cultivators and treadle sewing machines to hand-cranked washing machines and lamp oil. I've researched out the best wood-fired cook stoves and found the cheapest stove-top popcorn popper (I mean, that's an essential, right?).
I really think you can live as a rough homesteader in relative ease now, compared to our ancestors' challenges. So much is available to support you. I used to joke that as long as you had a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, you could survive anywhere, because they teach you everything you need to know. But now you also have Youtube videos and tons of homesteading websites and books. The information is there, the supplies are there...now it just takes the bravery of doing it, and the sweat and tears that will inevitably be required.
If I were twenty or thirty years old, I'd join up and be out there chopping wood with my son, in a heartbeat. I always wanted to do that -- to challenge myself, to see what I was made of, to be as self-reliant as I could, and to live lightly on the planet. I love the idea of being closer to the earth and the basic essentials. But as I get older I admit I'm a bit more reluctant to give up my running water and gas furnace. My eyes may not be able to read by lamplight anymore. Could I do it? Probably. But there's a definite hesitation now.
When I was expecting Son Number Two, we lived in a log cabin on fifty acres out near Guelph, Ontario. This wasn't one of those fancy log homes you see on TV. Two old ladies with axes had built it themselves. We had a well and a septic tank and a wood stove that needed constant feeding. We never did get the hang of banking it for the night and had to get up to feed it several times. It ate wood voraciously and it was difficult to light, and toward the end we grew desperate and resorted to using those wrapped fire-starter logs you get at 7-11. The temperature in the cabin was either too hot or too cold. The logs sucked any humidity out of the air and dried your skin, and the dust was amazing, and your hands were constantly chapped. And don't get me started about the spiders. I remember one day a knock came at the door, and there on the front step stood several men with rifles.
"Keep the kids in the house for a little while," they said. "We're hunting wolves on your land."
Well, enough said. The job and investment eventually fell through and we packed up and moved to Guelph before the baby was born. But I wonder if something of that experience...the smell of the wood smoke, the feel of rough pine, the sound of the wind in the trees, the taste of fresh well water, the loneliness of the countryside...affected Son Number Two in the womb. He's the only one of my children who has expressed a desire to be out in nature, to embrace the earth and find his role in it.
Whatever he decides to do about this community project is okay with me. Life is an adventure, and you don't know what you're capable of until you try it.