MOTHER EARTH NEWS isn’t the only back-to-the-land alternative-type publication around these days. One of her notable sister journals is a friendly little magazine called Countryside that’s written, put together and published by a fellow named Jerry Belanger up in Marshall, Wisconsin. Jerry started Countrysideback in the fall of 1969 for pretty much the same reasons we started MOTHER EARTH NEWS . . . to help spread information on life styles that are more in harmony with the better interests of the planet on which we live.
As Jerry says in the Spring 1970 issue of Countryside, “Whatever the reason, more and more people are becoming part of a new back-to-the-land movement . . . I don’t have all the answers, by any means. But being a homesteader, I am aware of some of the problems. And since I have a journalism degree, some publishing experience, and a printing press, it seems natural to offer my services as a clearing house for information our fathers or grandfathers took for granted, but which has been lost to us through our sheltered, coddled existence.” Nuff said. He means it, and he’s doing it.
Past issues of Countryside have had articles on building a cistern, drying vegetables, soap-making, and raising rabbits. Most of the pieces are written by Belanger himself, from firsthand experience . . . for Jerry, his wife and their children are living in a recycled cheese factory on their homestead where they care for 8 goats, 30 rabbits, 75 chickens, countless bees and pigeons and a pig.
All that in addition to putting out Countryside. And Countryside isn’t the only publication in the vast Belanger Empire . . . No siree, Jerry also publishes Rabbit World, fine little magazine for serious rabbit folks, and Dairy Goat Guide, which also ain’t bad, neither.
That sounds like a lot of irons in the fire, and it is. In Countryside NO 9. Jerry gives a pretty good idea of what life on the Belanger Frontier is like. Boiled down, it’s something like this:
“The most memorable event of Spring, 1971, was butchering our first pig . . . The very same day I wrote the piece on vegetarianism for this issue. That wasn’t the season’s only activity, though. Today, we spent some time with a typewriter salesman. Then the hatchery called to say our chicks were ready so I had to dust off and check out the brooder. That was interrupted by a call from the high school about the commencement programs we’re printing and a few other pressing matters that came up. We ate supper quickly and picked up the chicks, and not until they were safely installed did we get to the milking and other chores.
Early in the season, we bought a 10-year-old bulldozer at a pretty reasonable price. Now, operating a bulldozer is quite a bit different than running a typewriter or a printing press and, while I was getting the hang of it, a track fell off. We had it put back on and tightened by professional bulldozer fixers. Then the other track fell off. While they were fixing this one, they got my bulldozer buried in the swamp, brought out a bigger one to pull me out and promptly sunk that one too. You might say I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with my bulldozer.
The bees arrived the first week of May. Our post office closes at 5:00 p.m., so I wasn’t prepared when the postmaster called at 7:00 p.m. to ask me to come get my bees because some were loose and buzzing around the post office.
We got some oats planted, but pretty late: there isn’t a whole lot of hope there. We’ll put in barley and millet, to get the story on growing small grains on a small scale. Everything else is just about on schedule . . . Work? Sure, but with the garden still weedless, the kid goats weaned, and the orchard in blossom . . . the homesteader’s work is more enjoyable than most people’s play. Maybe that’s the reason more and more folks are looking for the good life, beyond the sidewalks.”
As we said, Jerry Belanger and his family are doing it. An they’re writing about it first hand. It’s worth your while to take a look at Countryside. They’re friends. Kinfolk really. Tell `em MOTHER EARTH NEWS sent you.