Where's the Modern Hermit headed?
July 26, 2010 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a place in the middle of nowhere with a big black horse and a cherry tree...

My dream is to find a place, somewhere, remote, very rural, where I can raise a few crops for food, maybe keep a horse and goat and chickens, and live as self-sufficiently as possible... I'm living in a van at the moment so tough dwelling isn't an issue. I'm not stuck on staying in America, either. Also don't care about community, schools, etc; I want to be a hermit. I just want cheap land that I can buy outright and make a bare living, either buying bulk from town every few months, or even living off food stamps. A place with river or fresh water access would be ideal. I found this thread: Homesteader Help but it's a little old and I was wondering if anyone had any new sites to try, or advice to offer.
posted by The otter lady to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My advice is going to be very specific: dead center of the state of Kentucky. Lived there growing up (still am in KY, just not in the direct area), and look in about a 50 - 100 mile area of Danville KY. Plenty of great farmland, access to all basic needs within 25 miles, and anything else you could ever want within 100 miles.
posted by deezil at 8:08 PM on July 26, 2010

Best answer: i have nothing to sell so this isn't self-promotional :-) you can check out my blog, http://MockingbirdAcres.blogspot.com to see what we've done with an abandoned forest in rural TN. I've had chickens (best eggs ever) grew my own food, ground my own wheat for bread, and even built my own house. you can dig a well, but if it goes bad, you're kinda screwed. land was super cheap, too. You could EASILY be a hermit out here. (fedex and UPS are wonderful enablers) We saved up and have no mortagage, and a dirt-cheap annual realestate tax.
land: http://landandfarm.com
photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mockingbirdacres/
posted by ChefJoAnna at 8:09 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't do this. What you are after exists nowhere but in the fantasies of urban dwellers.

That is, you can't do it alone. You can't grow enough food single-handedly, or take care of all the labor involved with raising animals, all by your lonesome. Animals are expensive to take care of, and farming (especially raising food) it a ton of back-breaking labor every single day. Goats have to be milked at least twice daily. Crops fail. Animals get sick. Roofs leak. Fields need to be mowed.

There is a reason why the smallest successful unit of human survival is the tribe. There is a reason why rural farmers have so many children. Cooperation (either in the family unit or in a loyal community) is the only way in the harsh landscape of remote countryside.

Ironically enough, cities offer the individual human the greatest opportunity for relative isolation and solitude. Now, on the other hand, there are plenty of opportunities around the US and abroad for you to farm and live simply in a community. Maybe some of the folks at Dancing Rabbit could help you further?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2010 [14 favorites]

omg my spelling above was atrocious, sorry.

I wanted to ask, what aspects make hermit lifestyle attractive? That would have a big influence on where you choose to do a homestead.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 8:23 PM on July 26, 2010

Amen to everything overeducated_alligator said, especially about not going it alone. Community is absolutely essential to successful homesteading. (Which is not to say you have to see people all the time - but having someone a mile or so up the road is a big help sometimes).

There's a very healthy homesteading community in mid-coastal Maine (due, no doubt, to the presence of the Nearings in the area). You could head up there in early September and check out the Common Ground Country Fair if you want to meet some of them.
posted by bubukaba at 8:31 PM on July 26, 2010

Response by poster: I should say I will try to provide for myself as best I can with what I can provide, via things I can produce, including things for sale. Whether it be spare eggs, artwork, or labor, I'm open to that, but I am not willing to be a robot for "the Man" any longer.
posted by The otter lady at 10:50 PM on July 26, 2010

sounds north coast NSW australia to me
posted by compound eye at 11:57 PM on July 26, 2010

Being a hunter gatherer is going to be a lot more practical solo. Trick is to find a place with enough resources and few enough other people. An annual migratory resource like salmon or mackerel, herring, matinee mammals, zebra, waterfowl etc is probably key if you want to stat in one place from year to year.
posted by fshgrl at 12:01 AM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: I live in rural northeastern Kansas (pardon the redundancy). My wife went to Boston to study poetry at Harvard all month. No one -- not even any of my numerous in-laws -- has come to our little farmhouse since she left. This is a place where you can be left alone with minimal effort. Lots of empty land for farming and building a house on.

Actually, that pretty well describes lots of the Midwest. Throw a dart at a map; you should come out fine.
posted by bryon at 12:43 AM on July 27, 2010

First, I think you are being a bit unrealistic, but that's ok -- it will be fun to try and if it doesn't work you can just try something else.

Second, I think the advice to go to the midwest (assuming you are staying in the US) is good. The winters are brutal but you can be very hermetic, land can be found cheap (though not usually near cities or in places with fantastically productive land), and there is a dense network of roads and other services so that even though you can live alone, you aren't isolated the way you are in, say, the Alaskan bush.
posted by Forktine at 6:28 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by General Tonic at 7:02 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Montana- in the mountains. The mountain man/woman-hermit thing is still very much alive there. You see them every-so-often coming down from the mountains with shaggy beards and backpacks on their back, coming into the small surrounding mountain towns for supplies.

I don't know the specifics about trade options, but I'm sure there are opportunities for people in that situation to trade berries, fish, etc. for other supplies.

Of course, there's always Alaska (even more remote than than Montana mountains), but I've seen this existance in Montana and at least you wouldn't have to go quite so far!
posted by Eicats at 7:09 AM on July 27, 2010

than the (oops)
posted by Eicats at 7:10 AM on July 27, 2010

Something to consider (esp. in very rural areas) is how connected you are to city services. Is the house set up to city water, electricity, etc or are you going to have to pay for all that or create your own? Also, how far will your house be from a paved road? How far will it be from a plowed road? Something to consider when you are literally stuck inside for weeks during the winter. How will you get your produce/eggs/wheat etc to market? Also something to consider. Rural America doesn't do the farmer's market quite so much as the city, although you sometimes see the farmer selling extra produce out of the back of his/her truck sometimes.

Also, some of my friends that live on a farm in not that rural Kansas were having problems getting reliable internet in their area even just three years ago. I think they just recently paid to get it set up. I'm going to confess that the problem may be solved now that you can buy a wireless connection at Cricket of all places, but there are still parts of rural America where any wireless signal is spotty.

Good luck with your endeavor! We live near St. Louis and are hoping to buy a farm next year.

Oh yeah, I should add that if you want to be a hermit anyplace could be well and good, but rural America is not always that friendly. I've lived in big cities and very small towns (less than 2,000) people and I've found that with some small towns that if your grandfather didn't live there and farm there and die there then were likely to be "the outsider" for most of your life. This was the case in one place we lived in and it made it impossible for my mom to get a part-time job. Those attitudes combined with the lack of diversity and extreme Republican attitudes makes me cringe to think about moving to that particular area again.
posted by aetg at 7:14 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you are not against becoming part of a community as overeducated_alligator suggests, check out Intentional Communities. If you want a taste of the sort of lifestyles possible before commiting fully, WWOOFing might be a good plan. That would enable you to try out a variety of different locations and gain knowledge from folks already doing what you are planning.
posted by jzed at 8:17 AM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: Nelson County, VA features a beautiful mountainous backdrop, horse/cow country lowlands everywhere that isn't vertical, and is convenient to Charlottesville, VA, a marvelous cultural spot for hippies/alternative lifestyle types. Got to recommend the area as great for being way-the-heck in the middle of nowhere, and yet not so far from civilization that you can't refresh with music/dance & art as needed. Hot summers, cold winters, and some of the most beautiful springs you'll find in the country. Also, if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find seven large alternative lifestyle communities in the immediate area of Charlottesville, if that's of interest.
posted by Ys at 10:25 AM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: You should look at Mother Earth News. Also, aren't any of these links, especially homestead.org, useful? Not to mention where this has been discussed previously.

I don't see why you can't do something like this. Dick Proeneke did it in much harsher conditions in Alaska. Mind you he had an awesome set of skills and was a hunter/trapper rather than a farmer. It sounds like you can just park your van on the land, so you wouldn't need to worry, at least at first, about building shelter, depending on how severe the winter is where you set up.

I think one person could handle chickens for eggs, rabbits for meat and, if you feel the need, a goat for milk. I don't know anything about horses, but perhaps you have a better idea of what keeping one entails. Grow corn, beans and squash in a milpa and you'll have plenty of protein even without the animals. If you have electricity and a freezer, you'll be able to stock up on a lot of food without expending the time and energy on canning, smoking, drying or pickling. Although, of course, those would probably be fun, possibly profitable, activities.

The bottom line is that you should work on building up a nest egg, well beyond the price of the land. You'll want to invest in all sorts of improvements to attain self-sufficiency and you'll need a nice cushion for contingencies. You should also be aware that land in that perfect spot - not too far away from town - might eventually be swallowed up by development. This might mean the end to your solitude, but also may provide income (selling off parcels of your land) and, eventually, the medical care that you'll need when you get older. There was a comment around here in another self-sufficiency farming thread about a mefite's grandparents who had lived by themselves on a farm pretty much self-sufficiently until they got older and were forced to leave the land to be closer to medical care, retirement homes and other caretaker services.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 12:57 PM on July 27, 2010

Survival Realty is always intriguing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Some good new things to look into. Also; the community thing is probably not for me; when I say I want to be a hermit, I really mean, I do not want to be around people if I can avoid it. Hunter/gatherer sounds interesting too; the only concern would be finding resources that weren't already owned by someone else. Seems like everywhere I try to park the van there's someone wanting to shoo me off their land so I thought maybe getting my own little scrap of dirt would be the way to go.
posted by The otter lady at 6:41 PM on July 27, 2010

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