Following in the footsteps of Scott and Helen Nearing, who in the Sixties jump-started the back-to-the-land movement in the Northeast, survivalists and homesteaders alike are redefining self-sufficiency in new and unique ways, from urban guerilla gardening, to eating roadkill, to providing all their own energy off-grid. These are the new homesteaders, and this month Popular Mechanics profiles a few of them.
As a side note, if you want to find out more about becoming self-reliant, check out these titles from Chelsea Green Publishing:
- Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting
- Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community
- When Technology Fails, Revised and Expanded: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency
- Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
From Popular Mechanics:
At Ghost Town Farm, Carpenter cleared the head-high weeds from a 4500-square-foot lot and started planting. She didn’t ask permission. When the lot’s owner discovered the squat garden he warned that he would soon develop the real estate—that was five years ago. Now the lot is verdant with lavender, sage and thyme; lime, rhubarb and raspberries; artichoke, collard greens and avocado.
Strolling through the garden, I became overwhelmed by a feeling that could only be described as vegetable lust. But something deeper than my appetite had been stimulated, too. My grandfather once worked a small mountain farm in Greece. He immigrated to California’s Central Valley in his 20s, opening a produce stand and then a grocery store, but he never totally severed his connection to the land. I remember strolling through fruit-laden trees in his backyard as a boy. Now, I was gearing up for major changes myself—the arrival of my first child, the purchase of my own home—and I had been thinking about what sort of sanctuary I could create for my own family. The house I envisioned was solar-powered and garden-ringed, a little safer, smarter and more productive than the wasteful world around it. I was deeply curious about the experiments of modern homesteaders because I wondered just how self-sufficient I could be, too.
The specters of financial crisis, climate change, uncertain energy reserves and a fragile food supply loom large for the new generation of survivalists—and though I don’t share their apocalyptic mind-set, I find myself relating to the urge to run for cover. In April, the top-selling action and adventure book on Amazon.com was Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, a work described to me by its author, James Wesley Rawles, as a “survival manual dressed as fiction.” Its plot appeals to those on the political right, who fear a too-powerful government—and the anarchy to come in the wake of its inevitable collapse. Leftie off-the-gridders gravitate more to the “grow-local” approach championed by author Michael Pollan. “We’re using up the world’s resources more quickly than you could imagine,” says Ruby Blume of the Institute of Urban Homesteading. “I think we need to be prepared.”