This is the continuing saga of my personal “greening.” Last month I discussed what this thing called “green” means to me and why I was not prepared to accept a lighter shade of shamrock as my model. In short, I feel one must decide to be the genuine article or not.
A little bit of green isn’t good enough. Can one be a little bit pregnant for example? Of course not; one either is or isn’t. For me it is the same with going green. For me, going green is our best hope for a safe and healthy future; perhaps the last hope for tomorrow’s world. Going green is a way of life that promotes wellness and healing; it is a conscious path toward making the world a better place for us all and for those who are yet to come.
Taking a step or two at a time is a move in the right direction, but it may take forever to arrive. For me, forever is too long. So my family and I agreed it was time to find a piece of land somewhere and begin building a green lifestyle together, literally from the ground up. However, there was a problem with this plan. For all practical purposes, quite a serious problem. Actually there were hundreds of problems, but we figured the main one was funding.
While my wife and I were both employed, we had never seemed to have enough left over each month to build up any kind of savings. In fact, we had five or six hundred dollars in reserve. So how could we buy that piece of land we dreamed of? Surely it would be impossible without a sizeable down payment. Even if we could purchase the land, how could we then fund the greening of our new property without money?
Prudence suggested we put off our plans until we had saved up enough to make such a serious change in our lifestyle feasible. However we were tired of being prudent. We were tired of being slaves to a system we felt was at odds with our sense of right and wrong. We were tired of supporting an economic culture that was daily growing more out of control; an expanding abomination of nightmare proportions where goods and services were traded in trillion dollar figures, made possible by credit, credit and more credit given to people and firms who could ill afford to exist without such seemingly easy cash.
We dreamed of living the green life in a paradise we were certain was just waiting for us to find, somewhere beyond the horizon or just around the bend. We were determined to accept nothing less!
We decided to just do it; we believed doors would open and a way would somehow be found! Looking back, I know how crazy this sounds. I am telling you this because it want you to understand that money is not the key to everything. True, it will open doors more quickly and it goes a long way toward “smoothing the road” but it is not as essential as you might think toward instigating serious change in your life. In fact, having sufficient funds can even be a detriment!
It’s true. Though you could never have convinced me of this back then. All I knew was, we were going to burn all our bridges and take a great leap into the dark! It was so terrifying it was wonderful! However, we didn’t just leap without looking. We actually did do a little planning and some preparation.
First, we moved from our very modern and convenient and very comfortable three bedroom apartment into an old and shabby two bedroom house. Though I had lived on a farm as a youth my family was used to a fairly up-scale lifestyle; they were not used to living close to the land. So before actually moving away from the city we decided to create as basic a lifestyle as possible while still in the city in order to see how everyone might handle such a drastic change.
Not having any financial resources to speak of, we assumed we would either need to purchase a raw piece of land and build some kind of really basic home (read shack). It most likely wouldn’t even have running water or electricity at first. So we decided to mimic the same home environment as a test! To do this we rented a small old house (read dumpy and run-down). We didn’t have the electricity turned on, though there was running water.
I quit my job. My partner was a nurse and kept working at a major hospital for the time being. I spent my time planning our future and boning up on homesteading skills. As a learning experience we put in a garden in the back yard of the house. Since there was mainly barren dirt with almost no grass, it was a lot like working raw land. I also served as house husband.
We learned a lot pretending to be out in the wilderness. Of course the neighbors were curious. They saw we often cooked over an open fire in the back yard. They decided we must be members of a strange religion or perhaps were even poorer than they! They were correct on both counts!
During this time I learned to make all kinds of vegetarian dishes using camp fire and a couple of large pots! We used candles for light in the house and simple oil lamps. We had no TV nor anything else that required electricity. And for some strange reason, we thought it was fun! We thought it was OK. We also wondered if we’d gone as crazy as everyone thought!
Our plan called for living this way for six months and saving up what we could. During that time, I continued putting together a plan of action that would define the essentials of our new proposed self-sufficient lifestyle. I came up with several ways to earn a living in the middle of the wilderness and I also studied and learn ways to fashion small buildings from natural materials and as much more about basic homesteading as I could.
After six months, we were still go! In that time I had determined it would be best to have a family home based business that would fashion things from natural materials we could then sell to tourists or in small gift shops. My first choice was deadwood. I had used my time well and ventured out into the surrounding country beyond the city limits of San Antonio, Texas. I learned there was an abundance of natural raw materials material available! One of which was deadwood! So why not make this into things one could sell?
In my studies I also learned it was interesting how modern peoples had figured out ways to enslave themselves. For example, in olden times, when two people began a family, they and their friends and relatives gathered together and build a wonderful dwelling for new couple! It was fashioned from the materials at hand, such as logs, stones, earth, straw, mud, grass, etc., etc. When the dwelling was done it was simple, comfortable and cost nothing other than the labor of those who fashioned it.
Next, the tools for living were fashioned from the vary same materials. And again, the cost was in the making . . . the time and toil it took to fashion a rake or a bowl or a piece of furniture was the only real cost. The raw materials were gleaned from the earth or from the plant and animal kingdoms. Land was not owned and available for use by all. The main decision was where to place the homestead . . . which spot would be the best for all things considered, not how much can we afford!
The more I learned the more positive I became! Money might not be the most essential part of our relocation after all! But first, we must find that all important piece of land!
To begin our search, my spouse and I left our two children with grandparents. Our intention was to travel for a month or so looking at various properties I had listed as potential homestead sites. My wife had three weeks accumulated vacation time and enough sick leave and favors due to get a month with pay. Since we planned to sleep in the car, we thought it best to spare the kids this ordeal.
We set sail just before the summer of 1976. Winding our way through most of the western states of America, we saw country we could die for, but everything was either too expensive or the winters were too harsh or there was some other flaw.
Having satisfied ourselves there was nothing, better to be had, we returned to Texas and Plan B, which was to find a plot of land in the hill country near San Antonio. Perhaps our trip seems like a waste of time, but really it was not. It was like a vacation for us, perhaps the last we would ever take. It cost us little more than gas money and food, and it gave us a chance to examine our decision from afar to determine if we were serious enough to do this incredible thing.
The answer was absolutely yes! And sure enough, upon returning to Texas we found, almost without effort, a five acre plot of land that, while not perfect, was OK. We decided on the hill country because some people refer to it as “God’s gift to Texas”. A high desert region of rugged natural vistas, crystal clear brooks and natural limestone-bed springs, it certainly is one of the most scenic areas in the entire state. The part of the hill country we chose is know as “the country of eleven hundred springs”.
Our proposed plot was part of a large ranch that was divided into tracts because the previous owners decided there was no future in the cattle raising industry. So the barbed wire fences came down, roads were made and the land was put up for sale. We thought this sounded like poetic justice!
Since we were following our destiny, we were charged with the righteousness of our mission! How could we be lead astray? How indeed?
Since the Texas hill country is prone to flooding during heavy rains, I wondered how our proposed future homestead would fair if the foods came. As luck, or unluck would have it, heavy rains came to the area shortly after we put down a couple hundred dollars in earnest money which was required to prove our intention to buy.
Fate is a fickle thing, as they say, for when we drove out to see if our future homestead was indeed flooded, we missed the turn and found ourselves in an area that was simply beyond paradise! It was like a different world! And there, on the side of the road, in the middle of paradise was a small obscure sign advertising 20 acre tracts at terrific pricing with easy terms!
Happily, when we finally turned around and found our original choice, it was half underwater! Since we had been assured by the realtor this would never happen, yet it did, our earnest money was cheerfully refunded! Before you could say “lost in paradise” we were at a pay phone arranging to view the said 20 acre tracts with easy terms! And it just so happened we could do so immediately! So we did!
Sure enough, we found one that was wonderful beyond words, though totally undeveloped! So we would need to start from scratch! It was just too perfect! We put down our money and signed the purchase contract on the spot! We were so thrilled! What a stroke of luck! The price was right, the terms were easy as can be! We couldn’t wait to get back to the big city and tell the kids!
It as mid summer in 1976 and we had one foot in paradise and the other itching to pack and get started building our new life! Everything was sunny and bright and just too good to be true! We were so filled with the green spirit, joy was just leaking out of us all over! Life was good!
Little did we know, there was trouble looming in paradise, even for the meek and pure at heart! Or should I say, especially for the meek and pure at heart!
Please tune in next month for the continuing saga of the greening of Ezra.
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