Back to the Land in Maine

The Strohauers have proved (once again) that it's really possible to make the transition from urban to rural life.

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    These are a few examples of the wooden playthings that Jim produces in his home workshop to fill the rapidly expanding demand for his creations.
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    The author proudly shows off the new stone-and-glass, sun-heated greenhouse that he and his family built after viewing the Nearings' structure firsthand in 1981.
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    Chub and Patch, the pony team, perform one of their many tasks around the homestead.
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    The Strohauers' first major construction effort was this 30' X 30' pole barn built in 1977 to house their workhorses.

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We often ask ourselves why we didn't make our 3,800-mile move from smog-shrouded Denver and the stress of city living to the pure air of the Maine woods and simplicity of rural life 20 years sooner. The answer is probably that we hadn't yet read that borrowed copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS ... the one that made us realize how unhappy we were with our urban lifestyle and gave us the inspiration to do something about it.

Back to the Land

When we finally did decide to make the move back to the land in July of 1976, we sold everything we owned except our camper, four-wheel-drive truck, and household goods. Fortunately, we had enough capital to get us started on our adventure ... plus professions that enabled us to earn some part-time income while devoting most of our time and energy to establishing our homestead. (My wife, Claudia—a registered nurse—works three nights a week at a local hospital, and I teach music as time allows and barter opportunities arise.)

One thing for sure: Our newly purchased 20-acre domain—four miles from the nearest store and 20 miles from "town"—was going to need some establishing. About all it boasted was a hunting camp (with no running water or electrical fixtures) and a stand of mixed trees (hardwood for fuel; pine, spruce, and fir for building; cedar for fence posts; and maple for syrup).

Settling in

Even though I had been raised on a farm, I left it as soon as I came of age and, furthermore, had forgotten everything I ever knew about country life. What's more, Claudia had always been accustomed to modern conveniences. So, it was with considerable trepidation that we set about cleaning out the old dug-out well and installing a hand pump (about which I knew nothing), rewiring the cabin (about which I knew even less), laying in firewood, and making our domicile "winterworthy."

It seemed that we spent that first winter just trying to keep warm—we split a lot of firewood—and figuring out how to "do more with less." In one effort to cut down on expenses, I made a few wooden toys for Christmas presents for our children, Mike and Michelle, who were then 12 and 9 years old.

Also, we struck our first barter when the fellow who helped me bring in the firewood offered us a barrel stove fabricated out of an old water heater in exchange for fuel for his woodburner. Since fireplace heat had turned out to be definitely unsatisfactory, this was a welcome addition to our home. That stove is still our main source of warmth.



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