Starting Over: Going Back to the Country


A photo of the Modern Day RedneckVisualize this. The game is baseball. The batter is warmed up and ready and steps into the batters box. First the left foot then the right, grinding the toe of his shoe into the dirt to get the right grip. The pitcher is waiting, leaned slightly forward one hand tightly gripping the ball behind his back and staring straight ahead with extreme focus. The batter takes a couple of practice swings to find his grove then sets back ready for the pitch. He has studied this pitcher for many years and knows without a doubt, this pitch is going to be a fast ball.

Here’s the wind up, swing and a miss. To the batter’s disbelief, it was a curve ball. This is the best way to describe what life did to me a couple of months ago.

At age eighteen I promised my newlywed wife a life of luxury and ease. Fifteen years later she finally called my bluff. We started out in a two room shack I built paycheck by paycheck back on the family farm. This place was temporary, of course. “Just for a year or so,” I kept telling myself.

Our temporary two-room old farm house turned into 15 years of memories. I added on to that old thing at least four times. In the end, the house covered the whole hillside. With never building much more than an animal barn, the walls were so loose you could have thrown a full grown mountain lion through them and never hit a stud.

Life on that hill was not easy, and I feel that I am a lucky man that she stayed right beside me for all those hard years. We were so broke we could barely afford food much less propane or electricity to cook it on. We cooked outside in open pits for most of the year, and when it was too cold or the rain kept us inside, we cooked on the pot belly stove we had tucked in the corner of the living room. To this day I still think a pot belly stove cooks the best pot of red beans.

For power, we tapped into my dad’s shop over 1000 feet away. All we could have on was the small ice box (refrigerator) and a couple of lights. Anything else would trip the breaker, and I would have to make the long hike down the hill the turn it back on. So we ran oil lamps for light during the evenings. When the kids started getting older and asking questions, we would just say, “We are play camping.” They never seemed to mind.

Paul Gardener
2/17/2010 1:12:54 PM

Funny how what you think you don't want, or what is wrong with what you have, may just be the thing that makes you the happiest. I work a full time desk job, and while I consider myself blessed for the fact that I earn a good living and can provide a very comfortable living for my family, for years I was miserable in it because I was focused on how it was not the life I thought I wanted. I wanted the home in the country, room to have chickens and big gardens and to provide more for ourselves. One day the epiphany came that I wasn't even using the land I had, why did I want more? I had an idea of what life was supposed to look like if I got what I wanted but forgot to live the life I had. Things have changed in the last few years. It's amazing what happens when you stop focusing on what you think you don't want and start focusing on what you do. I think you're certainly going in the right direction. Family, freinds and a life lived honestly are the best things one could ask for in this world. Thanks for your honest account. I look forward to more. Paul~

2/16/2010 7:31:33 PM

I cannot tell you how poignant your post is. My wife and I live on a family farm in the same home as my parents. It is a large house and comfortable for us all. But it isn't what I originally told my wife we would have for ourselves. In fact, when we met I had quite a bit of money in the bank and a lot of ambition to take us any further. But life happens and we soon found ourselves needing to downsize and wanting to sacrifice our hours of work for more quality time together and to begin our own family. In the past two years my family has created such a cool place; one that I could not even have dreamed of a few years ago. With our barn, chicken coop, gardens, hoop house, outdoor adobe oven, raised beds, goat pen and other little accouterments we have learned what life is really about; love, laughter, time together, sunrises and sunsets. My man, you are at such a good place. You have seen both sides of the coin and as I see it God has richly blessed you. You have a wonderful wife it seems, children, good health and a home. Good on you! Thank you for sharing your story. I feel like I know you now and if you ever invited me over for some BBQ you better believe I'd pull up on the grass if need be!

2/16/2010 4:47:32 PM

You've got a great start on a new life and it sounds wonderful. I think that's the only way to go (off the grid)-the more we can do for ourselves the better. vickie

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