Acreage Inspiration

Seeing as queries on acreage living comes up in my search engine info almost as much as cob loaf dip (which comes up every day! Scary.), I thought I’d better write an appropriate post so searchers wouldn’t be disappointed or frightened by my bad housewife-ship or photos of the Irish Wolfhorse.

The writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first source of inspiration to a lifestyle on the land. Thirty years later, I found a new pile of books to inspire me because I finally realised the passion to live in a rural setting was as strong as it had ever been.  Stronger, even, seeing as I had kids confined to a pocket handkerchief yard.  Now I pass my reading list on to you, the people asking Google to help them find reasons to move to acreage, or is acreage living easy, or is there alot of mud on acreage, or bad farmer’s wife  (I LOVE seach engine terms!) – because, really, these are questions you have to find the answers for yourself. 

These books helped inspire me.  They helped me formulate an idea, a plan.  They provided reference, when I was confused.  Most of all they confirmed, confirmed, confirmed that this was a move that I wanted, needed to make.

Wheelbarrows, Chooks & Children – Margaret Simons (Aust., New Holland, 1999)

Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance – Martin Gurdon (UK, New Holland, 2003)

A Small Place in the Country – Toni Mackenzie (Aust., Fontana Books, 1980)

Any non-fiction book written by Jackie French, particularly The Wilderness Garden, The Best of Jackie French,  The Earth Gardener’s Companion.

Paradise In Your Garden – Jenny Allen (Aust., New Holland, 2002)

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture – Rosemary Morrow (Aust., Kangaroo Press, 2002)

The Permaculture Home Garden – Linda Woodrow (Aust., Penguin Books, 1996)

Built Like A Woman – Sandra Broman (Aust., Murdoch Books, 2004)

 Grass Roots magazines, publisher Megg Miller

The alternative lifestyle wave of the 70’s also induced a plethora of books which are still available in second hand bookshops, and many of these are worth a look, written as they are by people who took the lifestyle change ultra-seriously and really threw themselves into living and working in an environment they had no experience of whatsoever.  As usual with reading, having someone else experience the pitfalls and then relate them to me via the written word (so that I can avoid the same mistakes or feel less alone and stupid when I, too, make them) is very attractive  and somewhat compelling to me.

Certainly if you live outside of Australia, this list of books might not be so interesting to you; even within this list there are some books that I adore, but my climate is so completely different that I can only dream of tropical fruits and soil will make your shoes grow shoots if you stand still long enough.  But it’s the idea of what can be achieved.

More recently, Barbara Kingsolver’s book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (USA, Allen and Unwin, 2007) made me feel like we had brought our family out here not a minute too soon.  Fiction that plucked at my imaginaton were Robert Morgan’s Gap Creek and The Truest Pleasure, and of course Frances Mayes’ (creative non-fiction:) Under the Tuscan Sun – all of these illustrate the frustrations and pitfalls that I find challenging in a broader and less critical sense.

Really, all these books offer different facets of perspective, all or none of which might be parallel to your own.  The thing is, if you’re intrigued by the worst case scenario of rural life in the last century (Gap Creek) or the idea of what you can do to create an environment that frays the costs by feeding your family on a small amount of labour and a great amount of satisfaction (Jackie French & Jenny Allen)…read and be inspired.  If, on the other hand, you’re more than a little frightened and the idea of mud and dust  DIY makes you shudder, take another look at your own backyard and see if you can start there where it is small and safe.  Many of the pleasures gained from acreage living (vegetable gardening, keeping chickens for eggs) can be enjoyed in your suburban yard and your local Farmer’s Markets can provide the good food and the alternatives you may be looking for, to supermarket city living.

  Anyone got titles to add to the list?

7 thoughts on “Acreage Inspiration

  1. I went through a major live-off-the-land-and-do-everything-for-myself fantasy a number of years ago (now I realize I would go batty living isolated in the country) and a major inspiration was the Canadian magazine “Harrowsmith”. Now the magazine has been bought out and turned into a shell of its former self (catering to urban types with more decorative country fantasies), but back then it was chock full of organic gardening instructions, small building projects, canning recipes — you name it.

  2. Hello,

    A few to consider are A Year of Slow Food by David and Gerda Foster; Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn and Art Life Chooks by Annette Hughes. I’ve also enjoyed Patrice Newell’s books The Olive Grove and The River.

    Regards, Gary

  3. If folk don’t want to leave the cities just yet they could possibly join a ‘guerrilla gardening’ group which I guess is a kind of political statement too.

    Oh and for anyone in the UK there’s the granddaddy of them all – John Seymour – who makes it all look so easy! And an old, but excellent, book on livestock is the Complete Book on raising Livestock and Poultry by Katie Thear.

  4. Eyegillian, in it’s preferred format, Harrowsmith sounds much like Grass Roots. GR’s publisher Megg Miller has worked very hard to maintain the magazine. The mag stays as it was designed in the 70’s, offering alternatives to a fast paced economy and lifestyle, no matter where you live, and it still has a great following decades later with old editions as marketable as the latest one. Like you, I don’t want to go crazy being completely self sufficient, but I’d like to do what I can in my crazy world. Would you like a copy of GR to look at sometime?

  5. Hey Gary,
    While I haven’t gotten to those books yet, I’ve only ever heard ringing endorsements for them, and will look them up ASAP. Love your site BTW – I’ve been trying to remember to find a Ho Mai forever, now I have a direct link! Cheers!

    Now you’ve got a fence, Checkers, you and your little chicken mate will be set. Don’t eat it though 🙂 .

    Thanks, Paula. Sounds like a great group! I’m sure there are all sorts of resources now available for city folk to employ their rural urges – Hallelujah! It’s just a matter of doing your research. Great ook resources too – I’ve come across those before in my Dad’s library. Gotta love books with chickens in them. All of them!

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