catapult magazine

catapult magazine


Godliness and self-sufficience


May 09 2003
09:53 am

We are not really into ?self-sufficiency,? or anything very close to it. But since I retired from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994, from some time in May to some time in October each year, Sally and I have lived at “Camp” – a one room building (with loft) on ninety-two acres of woods at the very end of a dirt track in New Hampshire’s “North Country”. The track is not quite 4-wheel drive mandatory, but good clearance under a vehicle is a must, and 4-wheel drive can be handy. Our heat comes from a 1940s-vintage wood stove from Portland, Maine. Our water is from a spring in the woods, brought to the house in buckets – icy cold and fresh whenever we want it. Most of the time, our evening light is supplied by kerosene lamps. We have an outhouse. Until 1999, the nearest telephone was about three miles away, which is also the distance to the closest year-round residence, and also the nearest paved road. [We now have a cell phone that works whenever we need it, but we don?t keep it ?on.?] At night, it is very dark and very quiet. In the day, it is very quiet.

As I said, we aren?t self-sufficient. We get most of our food in the market in Berlin, New Hampshire, about 20 miles away. We have a propane-powered refrigerator. We have portable radios, and even a small TV that we crank up on occasion. A few years ago, we purchased a generator that we use a little, mostly to power a fluorescent strip light on October evenings when the nights are just a little too long for kerosene radiance, alone. [We also use it with the TV, mostly to watch golf tournaments.] Three-quarters of a mile through the woods, we even have a neighbor, another part-time “camper” like ourselves. All things considered, we are almost civilized.

This ?Living Light? has been great for us. Making do is just hard enough that we get refreshingly tired each day, and sleep well each night. We seldom see people (except when we go to town), but the birds, moose and bears are always around. The woods and field change daily. [I seldom keep a journal here in town in Oregon in the winter, but I never seem at a loss to record something interesting at ?Camp.?] I usually lose 20 pounds of winter fat in the first month, not by dieting or doing planned exercises, but just by ?living.? I repeat: it?s great.

Although the Gresham-Portland area is not ?big city,? in the Chicago or L.A. sense, after six months on Dummer Hill, I?m always amazed at the noise level and general frantic background feeling when we come back here in the fall. We love Oregon, and we work hard all winter on our writing and publishing pursuits. It?s just much better living in our two different worlds.It certainly helps me keep life in perspective, with lots more time to meditate on how little we really need to comfortably get by. It also helps me stay at least a little bit humble to remember each year that, for most of the world, living is Hard Work.

North Country Journal: