Compared to needs, wants are a boundless quagmire. Wants require choices. As teens we anguish over career decisions; as young adults we choose beauty over substance; as parents we project our desires onto pure minds. Later, unless life turns out, uh, perfect, we second-guess our choices. Throughout life we grope for self-actualization, whatever that means. We know we should at least attempt to achieve it because our favorite friends, authors, personalities say so.
Our needs are air, water, food, shelter, clothing, socialization. Nudists nix clothing. Skeptics question socialization as essential. Yet, in a time when attaining the first five is generally certain, social isolation has become a common problem. We are alone in our crowds.
Our time is unique. Genetically equipped as hunters, gatherers, farmers, we barter our servitude for styrofoam food, transport ourselves in computer-controlled sport-utility fuel hogs and program VCRs lest we miss a favorite television program as we race through our day. Occasionally we converse with each other.
Robert Wright wrote in Time of "the mismatch between our genetic makeup and the modern world." A new breed of scientists, "evolutionary psychologists," posit that our ancestral environment is incongruous with our modern environment. We are programmed by survival for social cooperation yet live lives devoid of meaningful social intercourse. In Wright’s article, social isolation, along with capitalism, technology and information overload is cited as the cause of high levels of insecurity, depression, clinical anxiety disorder, suicide.
No doubt this new science looks to cities for data. In fact, lack of community has been repeatedly identified through polls as a primary source of urban discontent. Social service and support was essential for tribal survival and that genetic programming remains vital, demands attention.
Blink evolution? In fact we have evolved neither too fast nor too far, but we have forgotten too much. We put our social needs on a waiting list while we follow the direction of strangers. Erich Fromm wrote in Escape From Freedom: "Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want."
We have turned our backs on the natural landscape. Americans crowd parks and other natural environments as an antidote to the stress and sterility of the city landscape—a way to restore psychological balance by returning to the ancestral home. And the absence of conversation beside a babbling brook is more natural than in city din. The current migration from cities to rural communities partly reflects the primal urge to regain the ancestral environment. Soon yet another branch of science will no doubt suggest that aspects of rural life are basic to human happiness. And the naked ape will marvel at the insight.
As a rural Wisconsin teen I was taken by Louis Bromfield’s Pleasant Valley and Malabar Farm. In 1939, with Hitler’s invasion imminent, Bromfield left France and returned to Ohio, to the valley of his youth. There he created Malabar Farm, which became the most famous experimental farm in America.
Earlier he had written The Farm, a fictionalized family biography which proved to be a forecasting of Malabar. His writings from Malabar were strong with love of the land and a desire to create a personal Utopia.
Bromfield’s books seeded my dream of one day owning a self-sufficient home place among trees and hills and fields, with a stream running through it all. My dream included a community of good people who gave and received service. After twenty-five years making choices about military service, college, marriage, children, jobs, business and divorce, the dream matured, became insistent, became reality. Life has never been better.
I feel that if one follows what I call one’s bliss—the thing that really gets you deep in the gut and that you feel is your
life—doors will open up. They do!
Are you consciously living or seeking your ideal life? Do you rise when you naturally awake, eat as you choose, work and play your passions? Do you feel important? Do you feel that you are in charge of your life? Do you enjoy self-knowledge and self-expression? Do you fulfill your social need?
Treat yourself to a fantasy. No restrictions. No rules. No one is peeking. Make a huge effort to ignore the Madison Avenue menu. Imagine that you are living in your ideal place, with your ideal family situation, engaged in satisfying work and play, pursuing all your passions.
What are you doing? What’s the weather like? What’s the scenery? Are there lots of trees? Big or small? Mountains? A stream, river, pond, lake? Make notes. Do you see a garden? How many friends do you have? What do you do with them?
Our quest here is no less than the ideal life. An essential part of that life is living in one’s ideal place. One’s place affects all parts of life and we must know what we want of life before we can choose that special place. It’s worth the effort. Keep working on that fantasy.
Are you seeking a permanent, temporary or second home?
This is a fundamental question. If you are seeking a permanent home you have the luxury to ignore investment considerations. But do be concerned about growth direction, as nothing can so annihilate peace and quiet as nearby development.
If you need a temporary home you will do well to buy where values are rising, so that you can make maximum profit when you sell. The optimum investment location is where rapid growth is imminent. Read Jack Lessinger’s book, Regions Of Opportunity: A Bold New Strategy For Real Estate Investment With Forecasts To The Year 2010. If you must be able to sell quickly when the time comes, buy something that is in high demand—not too big, not too small and within a short distance of school, shopping, highway. Try for assumable financing and high loan-to-sale price ratio—invest as little cash as possible. Sellers are more likely to make an assumable loan than institutional lenders.
A second home used for long weekends and vacations often eventually becomes more desirable than the primary residence. It would be wise to treat the search for a second home as if it were for a permanent home, as it may turn out to be. If you want a second home that may become a permanent home, then do not compromise—look for your ideal place. Spending enjoyable holidays and vacations at a second home is seductive—you may soon find that life is better there than "back home." Welcome to the country.
Wants and needs
What are your true needs and wants, your hot buttons—what turns you on? Do you want to garden, landscape, conduct a business, farm commercially? Find a traditional school for your children? Have your fishing boat tied up to a dock in front of the house? Ski out the back door? Hunt and trap? Park your plane on your own landing strip near your house? Answers to these questions will begin to shape your requirements. Write them down.
How much land do you want?
This decision not only has a dollar value—in many ways it affects quality of life. One of the reasons most of us move to the country is to experience openness and quiet not possible with close neighbors. Larger parcels create more privacy—our activities remain only ours unless we choose to share them. Later, if children or grandchildren are drawn to join us living on the land, a larger acreage will allow each a measure of privacy.
Securing a high level of privacy derives from two qualities: location and size of acreage. Other than climate, location is the only factor that cannot be changed about a piece of land. Area population change is inevitable but we can go a long way toward ensuring stable tranquility by choosing a home place with attention to certain factors.
Desirability of place is a double-edged sword; if we find an area highly desirable, others will find it so also. The result can be a phenomenon, or dis-ease, sometimes indelicately called "Californication." There are two solutions: choose a place that has a feature others find objectionable (economically depressed, poor accessibility, remoteness, occasional flooding); or get there first and buy enough land to buffer the inevitable invasion. Note: when the invasion comes, taxes will rise.
Beyond privacy, there are other considerations for owning more land than needed for personal use. My wife and I presently own 130 acres but use only about five on a regular basis other than for cutting firewood and taking walks. We feel good about the remaining land being protected in its natural state, the trees helping to ameliorate global warming, all vegetation protecting the watershed and providing a home to a multitude of flora and fauna, the natural world essentially untouched. And there is deep pleasure gained from walking on and observing one’s own land, knowing that it is safeguarded and will not be damaged during our lifetime. Or just sitting on a rock and absorbing. It is a better church than any building.
The how-much-land decision must be a very personal choice for each of us, but the following is offered as a guide:
• Space for house and other buildings: garage, workshop, barn, other outbuildings
• Space for activities for yourself and your animals: crops, pastures, gardens, orchard, woodlot, pond, landscaping, leisure activities
• Extra acres to ensure the desired degree of privacy and quiet
• Land for natural, undisturbed space
Jed Clampett: Pearl, what d’ya think? Think I oughta move?
Cousin Pearl: Jed, how can ya even ask? Look around ya.
Yer eight miles from yer nearest neighbor. Yor overrun with
skunks, possums, coyotes, bobcats. Ya use kerosene lamps
fer light and ya cook on a wood stove summer and winter.
Yer drinkin’ homemade moonshine and washin’ with
homemade lye soap. And yor bathroom is fifty feet
from the house and you ask "should I move?"
Jed: I reckon yor right.
A man’d be a dang fool to leave all this!
The Beverly Hillbillies