Sunday, August 27, 2023

Panic-searching off-grid living

In the late 1960s and early 70s – when I was far too young to be aware of societal trends – the hippies went back to the land. I was vaguely aware of the movement, and since my interests (even as a child) have always dovetailed rural, I saw nothing unusual in people wanting to grow their own food and live according to the seasons.

I looked up "Back-to-the-land movement" on Wikipedia and noted some interesting passages:

A back-to-the-land movement is any of various agrarian movements across different historical periods. The common thread is a call for people to take up smallholding and to grow food from the land with an emphasis on a greater degree of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and local community than found in a prevailing industrial or postindustrial way of life. There have been a variety of motives behind such movements, such as social reform, land reform, and civilian war efforts. Groups involved have included political reformers, counterculture hippies, and religious separatists. ... But what made the later phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s especially significant was that the rural-relocation trend was sizable enough that it was identified in the American demographic statistics.

[I]n the decades after World War II, "The world was forced to confront the dark shadow of science and industry... There was a clarion call for a return to a life of human scale." ... Many people were attracted to getting more in touch with the basics just mentioned, but the movement could also have been fueled by the negatives of modern life: rampant consumerism, the failings of government and society, including the Vietnam War, and a perceived general urban deterioration, including a growing public concern about air and water pollution.
Now keep this in mind for a few minutes as I draw your attention to an article I saw this past week: "Americans Panic-Search 'Live Off Grid' As Housing Crisis Worsens And Democrat Cities Implode."

It seems what's old is new again. While we may now remember the back-to-the-land movement of the 60s and 70s with the softening of nostalgia, it was based in the harsh and desperate reality of the time, including war, corruption, environmental concerns, and skyrocketing inflation (something I do remember as a child since it impacted my parents so badly).

"What's piqued our interest," begins the article, "is the sudden panic by some Americans searching 'live off grid' on the internet, hitting the highest level in five years. The driving force behind finding a rural piece of land for dirt cheap, buying or building a tiny home, installing solar panels, and sourcing your own food and water might have to do with the worst inflation storm in a generation while cities implode under the weight of soaring violent crime."

The article cites urban violence, the affordable housing crisis, and the availability of rural internet as some of the fuel behind this latest back-to-the-land movement. Tiny-home kits, solar panels, and RV living are all aspects of the undertaking.

I have no illusions that "panic-searching" for off-grid living options is born of anything less than desperation, much as the last one was.

Where it will lead is anyone's guess......


  1. My college educated parents did this back in 1939. They farmed for a tiny income, and we lived primarily on home grown vegetables, eggs, chicken, and occasional beef and pork. We heated with wood, cooked on a kerosene stove, had a water purification system but no bathroom for around 15 years. Then bathroom including shower but no hot water heater. I can still shower and shampoo faster than almost anyone. Despite this we always had electricity and kept a lot of books from their previous life. My sister and I got college educations and have avoided any and all back to the land movements. Been there and lived through it.

  2. The Arts and Crafts Movement was basically begun by William Morris as a back-to-the-land movement from the 1870s on, as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Before that, around 1640 or so, also in England, were the Levellers and the Diggers, also back-to-the-land movements.

  3. I remember the "back to the land" movement of the 70's as hippies wanting to get away from government regulation so they could grow their own weed and live an "open-marriage" immoral lifestyle. There were some back to the land folks who did it as homesteaders, but mostly it seemed to be the hippie communes, which failed for lack of self-discipline. More people wanted to laze around smoking dope than wanted to work. And back to the land is hard work and lots of it.
    My sister got married in 1970 and so did most of her friends (early 70's); by the end of the decade inflation was horrific, but nobody went back-to-the-land, most just became two income families to make ends meet.

  4. I agree with Rozy Lass - although I was tiny at the time, but my Dad was law enforcement so I knew what was going on around us. The only 'back to the land' people in our area of the country were doing so in communes for the 'free love' and drugs. Lots of drugs. No homesteading lifestyle.

  5. You might want to research the source of the news article to the link you posted, Zero Hedge. It has low credibility and is listed as Bulgarian. Possibly a Russian trojan horse?

    1. In addition, the author of the article is actually a collective pseudonym for all the blog writers there.

    2. Oh no Russians.....what does being owned/written by Bulgarians have to do with Russia?

      You do understand Bulgaria is it's own country and a member of NATO right? While you can say whatever you want about NATO the people of Bulgaria count on the promises made by NATO to defend them if attacked

  6. Lack of infrastructure is the big problem with back to the land. Not just the convenience of stores, restaurants, and so forth.
    Trying to meet all your own needs looking after the land just doesn't work well as an individual. It requires community. That's the reason Mennonites and Amish succeed at it. We may want to be self sufficient, but I'll bet a nickel there are very few preppers who have cut the cord from shopping for supplies or having them delivered. And even if they succeed in stocking up for the entire rest of their lives, will it be sufficient for the rest of their children's lives? I think not.
    One thing we all need from time to time is healthcare. Our quality of life went exponential with advances in Healthcare, which is why it got targeted for takeover. It is now considered to be a human right. Tell that to Mephibosheth, King Saul's son. He needed someone to fix a broken leg. Anyone living on a farm or in some war could find themselves handicapped for life like he was, by some simple accident without healthcare, unable to care for themselves.
    And children nowadays probably wouldn't take kindly to being worked to the bone day in and day out so their family of origin could break even on sustenance needs. But they would have to.
    Somehow the Amish and Mennonites cram enough schooling into their children in 8 years for them to be able to work as adults in their communities. I'm betting another nickel that being able to cut out disciplinary problems helps their educational process out a lot.
    Maybe instead of being preppers, we should join a Mennonite church. No TV, no radio, but community you can count on.

    1. I think I can have community I can count on without subjecting my children to just 8 years of schooling. "My kid got A+ in Canning 103 this semester!"

  7. One thing almost everybody is going to run into quickly this time around are building regulations - in the last 20 years codes and permits have gone from covering 10% of the country to more than half.
    Many locations formerly thought of as remote and individualistic now have heavy handed wide reaching regulations. (Idaho and Montana are, unfortunately, great examples of the changes).

    1. I live in a rainy part of the country. I decided to put a small roof over a patio area behind my house. It was about 10'X12'. Just about the time I completed it I had a notice to cease and desist from the local city government. Went to City Hall and asked for a permit. A nice gentleman explained that it was a simple process for such a simple project and for $14 he would issue me a permit and that would end the problem. As he was doing this another gentleman came into the office and chided the first man and said that I should be punished and that the price for the permit by law could be double AND I could be forced to tear it all down before a permit would be issued. He was really angry that I wasn't punished for not begging for official approval. I do understand that reasonable building regulations protect all of us and I support them but I don't support putting "little Eichmans" in charge of issuing them.

  8. I absolutely LOVED John Denver's music when I was younger. I still do. I can belt out every word to most of his songs, even the more obscure ones. However I never knew he made a movie called "Foxfire." I'll have to look it up.

    - Patrice