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Are the "twenty-somethings" discovering homesteading?

Thousands of recent college graduates have had a rude awakening. Maybe they need another kind of awakening ... and another kind of education. Here"s one who's making a start

Not long ago the Wall Street journal ran an article on what they called "twenty-somethings." The gist of it was that there are many people in that age group who can't find decent jobs, even with college degrees. Many are working for minimum wage, often part-time, and they're so discouraged one said, "It's a wonder we don't all commit mass suicide."

She also compared the current situation to the Great Depression. Of course many older people scoffed at that. As one observed, "To kids, when you can't have $150 running shoes, it's a depression. A depression is when you have no shoes."

It struck me that at least some of these people appear to be living somewhat like the beatniks of the '50s and the later hippies. The big difference is that the beats lived that way intentionally, even defiantly, and they took pride in it, while today's twenty-somethings are reluctant, bitter, and confused by their situation. Beats ostensibly were in rebellion against materialism and business as usual, and they wore their poverty like a badge of honor, while the twenty-somethings would like nothing better than to earn money hand over fist and spend it even faster.

While these young people are living on very little, they have no less than millions of others. The big difference is that they're accustomed to more, they expected more, and they feel they deserve more.

Great expectations

These two ideas meet when we realize that these young people grew up in affluent middle class homes. No doubt their parents, like all parents, wanted and expected their children to do even more, to have even more, than they themselves. And no doubt the children accepted that.

They didn't set out to rebel against the establishment. They had no desire to reject materialism. They had no intentions of living simply. Their only goal was to carry on in the footsteps of their parents... perhaps with even fancier cars and homes and more money.

The irony is that some of the people in this age group are following their "plan," with outlandish salaries and lifestyles that can only make most older people sadly shake their heads and wonder what the world has come to. This dichotomy makes the have-nots even more bitter and confused.

Enter homesteading

Enter homesteading - and the fact that not all people are alike, even within a specific group.

We received a letter from a young lady who might possibly hold a clue to the future. While in her twenties, a recent college graduate, and underemployed, she has a slightly different attitude... and an idea. Christine Parise writes:

A "bewildering" magazine

"I wrote to you after reading Attar, received a prompt reply and a copy of one of the most intriguing and bewildering magazines I've ever read. Wow, I thought, there are other people who think just like me and are doing something about it.

I've spent the last five years living downtown in lovely San Jose, California. Lately I've been noticing constant headaches, general tiredness, and irritation. I began wondering if I was sick, maybe with some strange chronic disease.

When I came to the conclusion that it was the city, my friends told me I was being silly. But it seems obvious to me that my environment is running me down. The pollution in the air, the noise, the constant feel of concrete under my feet and the accumulated stress of too many people living way too close. It's "The Sickness," as a friend who escaped to Hawaii calls it.

I started talking about modified commune living and leaving the city. The world is crazy, grab your family and friends, and retreat. It's just an idea. I have no idea how to do this, and besides, my friends are not convinced.

Taking the first step

My boyfriend on the other hand agrees with me. We are taking our first step. We've rented a small studio in Boulder Creek, California. We are nervous and excited. We both love the culture and surrealism of city night life. Live music is a must for both of us, so we'll probably always live within driving distance of a city, but maybe our values will change. Maybe we'll miss it, but we'll find out.

Marc and I are 23 years old. We are only children. We both just got our BA's, mine in photography and his in communications.

Marc has just discovered a love of working with his hands. He refinishes antique wooden boats. I work two jobs to pay the bills, one as a receptionist, the other as a property manager's assistant.

I spend my days talking about when I'm going to be able to do all that's in my head. I want to learn organic gardening. I want to learn to build with my own two hands. We have endless curiosity and energy. We don't consider ourselves slackers; it's just hard to apply yourself to things that lack meaning.

I think that's a luxury our generation doesn't realize it has. We look for meaning in a job, unlike previous generations who worked just because that's what you did (the last maybe excluded).

Baffling information

The articles in Countryside about specific information baffle me. I know not the first thing about baking, or gardening. But I can't ignore the deep affinity I feel for the values, words, and emotions of the writers. I feel an overwhelming longing for simplicity and working where it means food and comfort, not some piece of paper called a paycheck that I might just as well never see.

Marc and I feel the lack of an elder, a mentor, someone to instruct us and give us the benefit of their accumulated knowledge. We have been through five years of college with no practical living skills to show for it. I know so many people my age who are dissatisfied with their alternatives. We don't know where to go, really. They call our generation slackers.

I would love to hear from you in the homestead community. What I most want to hear about is your own first realization that you didn't want to live the way everyone else was, and then, what did you do about it? How did you go from longing for simplicity to living it?

An idea:

I was struck by an idea when reading the article called "When it's time to start winding down..." (7S/6:47). It talked about aging, cycles, and homesteading. Normally there would be an extended family on a farm. As the elders pass on knowledge, the younger family members apply their energy and labor. The homestead keeps going and the traditions get passed down.

Well, what do you do if for whatever reasons there are no children to pass your wisdom to or to help with the increasingly difficult physical labor?

I say you create your own extended family. Find people who long to live simply, who want to find an alternative to society and just need some direction. Find people whose values echo your own. People you feel an affinity for, and who could be surrogate family.

Do you need help with your homestead? Do you want someone to teach and instruct in your ways of living? It's a rich tradition to be passed down. It's a real and solid life. Don't let your knowledge die.

We don't know where to start, but we would be willing to pick up and move, dropping everything here in exchange for a pre-arranged length of time in apprenticeship with the right people. In exchange for your knowledge we would give you our creativity, energy, and curiosity, to support your land and build an extended family.

I know this won't be easy: nothing will just drop out of the sky for us. But it's worth wishing for, isn't it? I know at least a dozen people, male and female, from 18 to 27, will who would be interested in doing the same thing. We could start a pool of applicants.

Is there anyone interested in this kind of work exchange? If so, please write to us at 130-A Riverside Dr., Boulder Creek CA 95006

Will there be a new generation of flower children, who go "back to basics" only until they learn that living off the land isn't as easy, carefree, and romantic as it sounds? Or will today's young people - some of them - perhaps motivated by a sputtering economy and an embattled environment, discover the true joys of simple living and homesteading some of us have known for so long?

It will be interesting to watch.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Belanger, Jd; Parise, Christine
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Now what?
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