Learning Rural Skills

In the late 1970s, a bunch of Georgia folk banded together and helped each other learn to perform the kind of rural skills needed in homesteading.

| July/August 1980

Darned if there's not a lot that "back to the landers" have to learn about country living. What with discovering how to buy land, make butter, sex new chicks, put up food, string green beans, worm livestock, install a woodstove, handle a lambing, repair a chain saw, build a cold frame, keep a dairy goat, wire an electric fence, inspect a beehive, set up a home business, et cetera, et cetera ... it's no wonder that many urbanites—folks who do yearn to move to the country—feel intimidated by the demands of life on a rural homestead. Some such good people even fear their dream of country living may, because of the seemingly overwhelming number of rural skills to acquire, have to remain just a dream!

Enter Catherine Harkins

It so happens, though, that one particular "country-eyed cityite"—an Atlanta, Georgia businesswoman named Catherine Harkins—came up with the following three unusual ideas to help herself and others get back to the land: [1] that urban folks would have a better chance of making a successful transition to rural living if they could pool their enthusiasms, fears, skills, and plans, [2] that somebody ought to organize such a help-each-other group, [3] that Catherine Harkins could be that "somebody."

Having made up her mind, the Atlantan located a sponsor group (Human Development Associates, Inc.) ... worked out most of the preliminary funding, dues, and planning details ... placed an ad in MOTHER EARTH NEWS' "Positions & Situations" column (for Georgia folks who'd want to join a rural-oriented group offering "inspiration, contacts, discount buying, and practical information") ... and—on December 4, 1978—ran the first meeting of a new organization called Country Bound.

Today, just a year and a half later, the group's initial assemblage of 40 strangers has expanded into a growing network of almost 200 friends. And Country Bound has already made a difference in several folks' lives. Almost all its members will, when questioned, freely express their gratitude for the chance to find—and learn with—a group of people who share their ideas and goals. In addition, several satisfied citizens actually have moved to the country since joining the organization ... and confess that they "would have gone on for years only thinking about leaving the city if not for Country Bound."

Talking and Tackling

Country Bound's strong start is partly due to the fact that the organization offers people a chance to learn and to do! True, the in-town evening meetings, by necessity, focus on lectures and discussions (with titles such as "Earth-Sheltered Housing," "The Secret of Organic Gardening," and "How Not to Make a Fool of Yourself With Country Folks").

However, the one- and two-day workshops offer the chance to practice—as well as talk about—rural skills. On such occasions, members will drive out to a country homestead, listen to an instructional chat from their rural host, and then roll up their shirt sleeves and actually milk a dairy goat, work a beehive, build a horse fence, or—in the spirit of the old-time barn raising—help their host construct a small auto bridge or outbuilding.

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