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A New Guide to Rural Living

OPB | May 30, 2012 9:30 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 27, 2013 3:01 p.m.

In 2002, Kristy Athens and her husband were living in Portland. They grew a garden, they planted fruit trees, and they trained hops to climb up the side of their garage. But they wanted a more rural life. So in 2003, they took the plunge, and bought seven acres in the Columbia River Gorge.

Their learning curve was steep. As Kristy says, they wanted to raise chickens but didn’t think about having to kill them. They had a wood stove, but hadn’t really considered where they’d get their wood.

They lived  in the country for six years before deciding that they were in over their heads: the house and outbuildings needed work they couldn’t do, or pay for; their job prospects were slim; and growing crops had proven difficult. Kristy has distilled their experiences, and hard-won lessons, in a new how-to guide. It’s called Get Your Pitchfork On, and it’s intended for people just like Kristy and her husband: city folk yearning for a country life.

Unlike the back-to-the-landers of the 1970s, my generation wants the organic, natural pleasures of rural life without sacrificing the culture and convenience of urban life. In other words, we may hawk our garden produce at a farmer’s market but we are not about to give up good coffee or The New York Times…. Unlike the 70s crowd, we have no intention of “dropping out.”

Are you a member of a new back-to-the-land movement? What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned? What advice would you give?

If you live in the city now, but dream of rural life, what’s your plan?

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