Living Simply During Simpler Times

Reader Contribution by Bill Holland
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I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
Lao Tzu

A picture and a thousand words….literally!  Join me as I use pictures of the magnificent Rutledge Farm in telling a story of a simpler time here on Earth.  What I am about to tell you may sound foreign to you.  In fact, you might think it is impossible that such a place once existed.  In today’s world of modern conveniences, technological advancements and rush, rush, rush, it might be hard to grasp the following tale, but I swear it is all true.  It is a tale of how our ancestors once lived.  Perhaps by telling the tale we can gain a new appreciation for a lifestyle that has been forgotten but will never be outdated.

Rutledge Family Barn 


The barn and farmhouse were built in 1853.  Washington was a fledgling territory at that time, and citizens were few and far between, often separated by a mile or more of streams, hills and unbroken forest.

Building a barn back then was a community project.  Word would spread that there was going to be a barn-raising, in the tradition of the “old days,” and neighbors from near and far would congregate on a pre-arranged day and build the structure.  They used what they had to do the job.  Tools that were carried over the Oregon Trail; trees felled on the property, tall Douglas Fir so plentiful as to seem endless; wooden pegs to fasten the boards together in lieu of nails which were scarce.

A barn this size would take weeks to build no matter how many neighbors pitched in to help.  As tall as a three-story building and easily 150 feet in length, the barn had to be big enough to house a winter’s hay and other miscellaneous farm implements.  Ladders were built to handle the tall work, and men scrambled from beam to beam securing the cross-sections so it would stand tall and strong throughout many a Washington winter.

They ate together during the building of the barn, and oftentimes slept under the stars until the job was completed, and then one by one they would gather their tools, hop up on the wagon seat, and urge their horses back down the path that led to their farms. There they would work their own farms until the call was raised to help another neighbor.

To help another neighbor…..these pioneers sensed that they were all in it together.  Taming a wild country required teamwork.  To lose at that game meant death.  To succeed meant survival and another day of sunrise, work till dusk and a hard sleep.


The farmhouse came later.  During the early years the farm family lived in what could generously be described as a cabin.  The barn was built first because the barn was necessary.  Need vs want was a doctrine that was required in this tough country, and the barn was the working hub of this farm.  The farmhouse was a luxury that would be built when time allowed.

So slowly it took shape,  One room was framed, and then another, the family room and kitchen in that order, and later the bedrooms, study and pantry followed.  Water was of course needed, so a ditch was dug from a stream a half-mile away, and water then flowed to the new home and farmland.  Rocks the size of wagon wheels were dug from the earth and used to make stone walls, and constantly the sound of falling trees was heard as the forest was changed into farmland.

After a decade of labor it was a working farm with all the “modern” conveniences.  A town sprung up five miles out, and postal delivery came intermittently, and neighbors multiplied as the territory approached statehood.

Rutledge Family Homestead 


There is something about working together and ensuring each other’s survival that forms a bond among men and women.  These were people who wanted nothing more than a simple life.  They had fled the crowded cities and the madness of the east coast in hopes of finding a new beginning, and here is where they made their claim and bet it all.

They looked out for each other.  They partied together, celebrated holidays together and respected each other, and in so doing they formed a bond that would get them through the tough times to come.

There was, in short, a feeling of community.  National politics meant very little to these folks.  Statehood or no statehood, that debate held little interest for them.  They seemed to sense, innately, that they were only as strong as their weakest link.  Nobody was left behind and everyone shared in the bounty of harvest time.  When the fierce winter winds blew they all kept a vigilant eye, making sure that a straggler had not fallen by the wayside, and if one had they all mourned together.

Yes, it was a community.


The yellow orbs looked from the fringe of the woods at night, and the howl was mournful and frightening, one and the same, and the neighbors would sit around a campfire and reassure each other, with their presence, that all was alright.

When trouble came a’callin, no matter its shape or size, there the community was, backing each other, providing strength and courage.  This was a tough area and it had broken many a pilgrim, but it did not break the Rutledge clan and others like them.


I see a revolution happening.  Do you see it?

I see more and more people returning to some old, but not forgotten, principles of community.  I see neighbors looking out for each other. I see community gardens growing where residents work together with a common goal.  I see an increasing number of people who are becoming involved in the area that they live, starting projects for the benefit of all.

I see the Rutledge legacy passed down to a new generation of socially active human beings who want what the Rutledge family once had.

Are you a part of it?  Have you finally said “ENOUGH” and decided to slow things down a bit and get back to basics?  Does that sound good to you?


We took a road trip this weekend to a chicken farm about thirty miles from our home. Our goal was to pick up six chicks so we can raise them and have fresh eggs each morning.  We ended up buying nine, which is three more than we are allowed in our neighborhood but oh well.

We achieved what we set out for, but in the process we met a wonderfully kind man who taught us a lesson or two about life.  He is a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He came back from that war with PTSD, and he has struggled over the years.  His wife died twenty years ago and then the struggles became demons and he was on a downward spiral with No Hope the next destination.

That was when he bought his eleven acres and decided to raise chickens as a hobby; something to take his mind away from the demons and focused on living rather than dying.

He now has a working farm with hundreds of chickens, four cows, some goats and some geese. He told us that his son and family help him when they can, and neighbors stop by to lend a hand, and all of them share in the labor and share in the rewards.  He has found peace on that farm, and just talking with him filled me with peace and hope for the future.

I want what he has.  I want what the Rutledge family had.  No, I am not talking about farms, although I would be quite happy living on a small farm.  I am talking, rather, about a lifestyle where people help people. I am talking about being in control of my own financial future, and relying on my labor and ingenuity to make it happen. I am talking about living in a community of like-minded people who have my back as I have theirs.

I am talking about Living Simple!

Simplicity….patience….compassion…..according to Lao Tzu, the greatest of treasures.  I will add a fourth….do all things with love as you live a simple life.

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