By Rebecca Kneale Gould
Encouraged variously by way of the will to reject consumerism, to reside in the direction of the earth, to include voluntary simplicity, or to find a extra religious course, homesteaders have made the unconventional choice to head "back to the land," rejecting glossy tradition and facilities to reside self-sufficiently and in concord with nature. Drawing from vibrant firsthand money owed in addition to from wealthy ancient fabric, this gracefully written research of homesteading in the United States from the past due 19th century to the current examines the lives and ideology of these who've ascribed to the homesteading philosophy, putting their reviews in the broader context of the altering meanings of nature and faith in smooth American culture.
Rebecca Kneale Gould investigates the lives of recognized figures comparable to Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Ralph Borsodi, Wendell Berry, and Helen and Scott Nearing, and he or she provides penetrating interviews with many modern homesteaders. She additionally considers homesteading as a kind of dissent from shopper tradition, as a departure from conventional spiritual lifestyles, and as a convention of environmental ethics.
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Fittingly, my exploration includes attention to the ongoing legacy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, the original sacred text of homesteading for so many who have followed his lead. Thoreau’s experiment at Walden was too fleeting to qualify as a full-fledged homesteading project, but it was a lived expression of Transcendentalist visions of nature and the divine, which set the stage for other similarly post-Christian, but nonetheless religious, experiments in getting close to nature. In terms of tracing the Thoreauvian legacy down to the present, this book is a work of intellectual history.
14 Similarly, Wendell Berry warns his readers of the practical and spiritual chain of life that is broken when local culture is compromised or destroyed: “The triumph of the industrial economy is the fall of community. But the fall of community reveals how precious and necessary community is. ” The recipe Berry offers for the preservation of meaning in the industrial age is to foster a deep practical and spiritual relationship to a particular place. By living and working “in place,” Berry argues, we become aware of the interdependencies that industrial culture seeks to have us forget, deny, or destroy.
While not yet selfsufficient, Dale and Robin have managed to create a life that is centered on home. The task that remains is to circumscribe this achievement further, to become less dependent on outside means, both means of support (the electric company and regular pay checks) and means of intrusion (health insurance companies and public schools), often flip sides of the same coin. The image of a successful homestead that Dale and Robin created in conversation with me is an image of the homestead as island, not a deserted island, but an inhabited and cultivated island, kept up in part by significant ferrying back and forth to the “mainland” of mainstream culture.