More Is Not Better

A reader reveals it took him two tries at homesteading before he understood more is not better.

| May/June 1985

MOTHER EARTH NEWS receives thousands of letters every year, many of which we publish in our designated letters section. The one that follows struck such a sympathetic chord with our editors that we decided to give it a special treatment.

I sit here in front of our fireplace with my kerosene lamp, knowing I need to write to you.

It's very seldom we ever get to read MOTHER EARTH NEWS anymore, but every once in a while I do get to the library and see the latest copy.

I guess I'm writing because you are the reason — or were, at least, at the beginning — for my journey to this fireplace and lamp. I'm not writing because of any new inventions or any brilliant ideas. I just want all your regular readers to know what we've found by going "back to the land."

Nine years ago, we got a subscription to your magazine as a Christmas gift. Within the following year, we bought our farm, and I jumped into homesteading without being ready. Oh, I was ready enough to work — I built an earth-sheltered greenhouse, a log cabin, and a green-wood home, started a rammed-earth house, pumped water with a bicycle and an old piston pump, learned to recycle almost everything and to barter. But in spite of all that I had the wrong mindset. I didn't understand that More Is Not Better. Thanks my over-driven ways I also got divorced and almost lost my two children. I did lose my farm, was forced back into the rat race, and was generally miserable. Finally, I made it here to a cabin in Virginia on 128 acres with nine-year-old Jere and six-year-old Sharma, and I'm at long last content — not because of what we have, but because I'm at peace inside.

We don't own the land yet, but with luck we will. When we came here, I went to work at a one-man sawmill. It's hard work, and I make very little money (in the winter, none). I could have gone to town and gotten a job, but the main reason we came here was to be a family.

I remember the last time that I went into that workaday world. I toiled and I saved. I saved for the tools that would make my homesteading, back-to-the-land, simple lifestyle possible. And the more I worked and the more I saved, the more things I felt that I needed to make it all possible. Then one day I realized that there was never any end to "more." And if the day ever came when I had all the "things," then I would need the money to keep the "things" up. At that point, I walked away with no car, $20 in my pocket, and a big smile on my face and in my heart, because I knew that I had none of those "things" to worry about.

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