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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All the time in the world

When Risa and Beloved started out in 1977, they lived in a one-room house, with cedar siding and a cedar shingle roof, with a wood-burning heater sporting a good cooktop, and a little jade tree in the one window. This house lived on the back of a massive two-ton cab-over 1946 Chevy truck with a flatbed and dual wheels. Its tiny engine, with five forward speeds and two reverse, could make all of thirty-five MPH on a straightaway, yet, being young, they were quite willing to take this lumbering beast as their primary transportation when following work from Oregon to Idaho on the freeway.

For their honeymoon they simply drove to a clearing on the pristine North Fork of Middle Fork of the Willamette River, in the Cascades, and stayed there for two weeks.

They dreamed of owning land and saved up to do so, but their cash flow was low, so they hit upon the idea of printing up 1,000 bonds at twenty dollars apiece, redeemable at twenty-five dollars. They would buy back the bonds as they were able, selected at random. This scheme found favor among friends and family, and so they began the search for that first homestead.

When they lived in the truck, known as the "Ritz Hotel," they spent most of the rainy winter evenings reading. They read The Lord of the Rings aloud by lantern-light, and wept over the falling Gandalf together; but much of their reading at this time was preparation for land ownership and homesteading essentials.

They read Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book, now known as The Encyclopedia of Country Living. They read Ruth Stout's How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back and her Gardening Without Work. They read John and Sally Seymour's Farming for Self-Sufficiency. They enjoyed Country Women: A Handbook for the New Farmer, by Jeanne Tetrault and Sherry Thomas.

jacket image for The Most of all, they read The Have-More Plan by Ed and Carolyn Robinson. Subtitled A Little Land -- A Lot of Living, its downright gushy enthusiasm could be a little off-putting, but this couple had a specific goal -- move to a Very Large Lot/Very Small Farm parcel in the suburbs and make it feed them while they worked to pay for it. And they communicated the basics with a compelling clarity.

Published in 1946 and apparently never out of print since, The Have-More Plan is just that -- a plan, or blueprint, for adapting in place. Here's what the parcel should have -- how you'll lay it out -- what to do to make an existing house a "harvest home" -- start the garden -- pasture the animals -- build the barn -- you'll be caring for all these things and letting them take care of you.

All in seventy pages.

Risa and Beloved would keep The Have-More Plan on the dining room table, just as soon as they got one. They noted the strong opinion of John Seymour that one must dig like a badger in order to garden, as opposed to Ruth Stout's view that it was not at all necessary to dig. They would try it both ways. They would try everything all ways and find their own procedures.

After all, they had all the time in the world.

Home is the nicest word there is. -- Laura Ingalls Wilder


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