Tag Archive: Laura Ingalls Wilder Lifestyle


Farewell My Subaru by Doug Fine, My Book Review

Doug Fine’s “Farewell My Subaru” is an excellent introduction to the idea of transitioning from a gas based economy to alternate fuels.

I discovered Doug Fine and his book “Farewell My Subaru” when a man who had read my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” emailed me through this website to say that he had enjoyed my book and that I reminded him of Doug Fine.

I was totally delighted to get that piece of fan mail, and even more delighted to be compared to Doug Fine… once I had googled him and come up to speed on what Doug Fine is doing.

“Farewell My Subaru” was obviously required reading that I had so far missed, since my urban homesteading curriculum is self-complied. Because i’m self-taught. Which explains my motto “Learning by doing it… the hard way”

“Farewell My Subaru” was published in March, 2009… right about the time we began to dismantle our New Mexican lives because our local economy had not recovered from the Crash of 2008, so I was late to the party. Doug Fine’s story was about his transition to rural New Mexican life, and his effort to get away from a gasoline based lifestyle.

Doug’s homestead was in Southern New Mexico, and I was in the North, but that didn’t change the similarity of the culture, climate, wildlife, and experiences he described. It was like he was writing about our place. Except that he started out with solar panels and he jumped feet first into biofuel, which we didn’t do. And his chicken chapter was very short, and not only because his chickens kept getting carried off by the wildlife… but because he was already in love with his goats. I’ve raised a goat. I’ve felt that love. 100 plus chickens cannot compete.

His book is an excellent read, and I would place it at the beginning of my growing library on urban homesteading. It’s perfect for someone, like me, who is just beginning to explore the idea of biofuel, and who has heard of solar panels, but not experienced them. For someone who is well along that path, I think it would be too light, but those folks are not the intended audience. This adventure was only the beginning for Doug, who is currently behind a new book delving into the world of legal cannabis and it’s economic effects.

“Farewell My Subaru” was an important book to me in two ways that I’m quite sure Doug Fine did not intend. He described, in his year of homesteading struggle, the difficulties of raising enough crops and food sources to support himself from the land he was standing on, and he carefully detailed the cost – and longterm amortization – of the alternative fuel sources he was using.

One of the reasons I decided to leave my beloved New Mexico property in 2010 was that I had done the math on my farming dreams and seen that, so long as I had to pay for my water (even if it was just the electric bill of the well pump) and so long as I had to pay for the feed, I would not be able to make my farming support itself, much less me. My real homesteading dream had failed. My urban homesteading dream has now begun.

The book is an exploration, not a solution. It’s not intended to be a solution. Doug makes it very clear that the isolation and climate of his remote ranch were problems to an off-the-grid lifestyle. I add that places where solar panels work beautifully are places where fresh running water is scarce. Places where fresh running water is plentiful are places where solar panels don’t work as well as Doug’s did.

Piece by piece, with prudent combinations and community teamwork, we can make progress on issues like sustainable energy, urban farming, local living, and our impact on our environment. “Farewell My Subaru” is an important piece.

And it’s a super easy, funny, fresh read.

 

Biosphere2 Is the Ultimate In Urban Homesteading

The ultimate in attempting self-sustainable farming away from farmland!

Despite being born and raised in the city, many cities, I have been fascinated with farming.

I tried my hand at dry-land farming. That’s the basis of my book “Just A Couple Of Chickens”, which is funny because it didn’t really go well. But it also didn’t cure me of the farming itch. I’m back in the city again, having flunked farming 101, and now I’m starting to look to urban homesteading. That’s farming my urban habitat, no matter what it may be, using ingenuity and science and techniques the neighbors probably don’t want to know about.

Recently, I realized that my twenty-year-long fascination with Biosphere2 was because it is the Ultimate in Urban Homesteading.

Biosphere2 was an attempt to test what is required to have a self-sustaining enviroment isolated from the planet earth. While the facility is certainly on our earth, it could be completely sealed away from the ground, air, and water.  Sunlight pours in through glass, but sunlight would pour on to anything out in space as well, so that’s part of the plan.

In the 1990s, two teams of people were sealed inside on a mission to see how well it would go to be totally self-sustained. Like, including air and water and all food. They had chickens and goats and crops and five biomes of wild plants and animals. The general media likes to call the mission a failure, but it wasn’t. An experiment is a test, and if it doesn’t make the goal, that’s still good information. The biosphereians were not able to grow and produce enough food to sustain themselves comfortably, as well as suffering other problems, but they learned a lot. They learned not to bring monkeys next time, for instance.

I claim the Biosphere2 crowd as members of my distinguished crowd of failed farmers, which includes the Laura Ingalls Wilder clan.

As I begin my sequel to my first book… which will probably be titled “Just A Couple More”, I’m turning my thoughts to urban homesteading more and more. I’m in the perfect city to do it. Portland, Oregon has a fan base of sustainable agriculture in the city.

Biosphere2 is in Tucson, Arizona and well worth a visit. I think it’s very much like what I would do with urban homesteading if I had 250 million dollars to spare, and about 50 additional million dollars a year for upkeep. My farming plans are smaller in scope, but not in impact.

 

Juno and a Polish Chicken in Just a couple of chickens

Raising poultry and a family had some really good times.

The second most common question I got from family and friends when I was living the story of “Just a Couple of Chickens” was…

“What’s it like to be living the Laura Ingalls Wilder life?”

(the first most common question I got was:  “Are you insane?”)

I gave the Laura Ingalls Wilder question a lot of thought
… as I pulled my boots on at 3 am in a snow storm,
… or stuffed sodden partridge down my shirt in a flash flood,
… or tried, yet again, to make something tasty out of a rooster.

I thought about how the Ingalls Family didn’t have all my modern conveniences,
…like a garden hose for instance.

But they did have a lot more knowledge and experience,
… so they probably would have known to drain that garden hose before the first freeze.

They did have debt and money worries, and they did have weather issues, and political complications, and they did face health problems.
So I did feel a close affinity… in the romance of the beginning.

But as time went on, I realized that I really wasn’t living true to Laura’s world.
And I never would be unless I made profound changes.

The Ingalls Family, and most of the people involved in that pioneering time, were doing it with total attention and with no back up plan. It was their whole life, and the whole family was involved in every aspect of it. Every minute of every day was spent doing something related to their home, or basic needs, or food maintenance.

They were not trying to work a full time job on the side. They were not coming into it as a hobby.
As deep as we got into our story… we still had to have at least one adult pulling a full time living in our contemporary world to support our adventure.

And so that truth colors my answer to the second most common question I got from family and friends…
but even so, I wonder if my answer is nonetheless accurate.

“What’s it like to be living the Laura Ingalls Wilder life?”
“It is the same for me as it was for them. Extremely difficult, often uncomfortable, and totally – wonderfully – fulfilling.”

And I then also point out that our story ended up the same as Laura’s story.
We lost the farm and had to go make a living some other way…
She eventually became a highly renowned author…

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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