Heads-up for aspiring rural dwellers

(The following is my response to a fellow participant in this thread — Foundation for Intentional Community, posing the question “So why don’t you live in an ecovillage yet?” It’s really turning into an excellent thread.)

You are highlighting a really important issue. And I suspect the motive of local officials is really not health-related at all, as large families have lived on farms, using septic systems, since time immemorial. Not only the family itself, but typically at least a few workers/helpers have often traditionally resided right there on the farms.

Rather, I suspect it is related to keeping tabs and control on citizens.

PS. Added to my response above – So the question becomes, for people who choose a rural life and are trying to build community on their land: What are some ways we might cultivate more trust with local officials so that people are allowed to live in community in rural areas?

Some of it could be an old-school rural distrust of so-called “hippies” and-or “communes”, a legacy of some stuff that happened in the 1960s (and more recently the Waco tragedy and such) that we do really need to unpack.

This is a widespread phenomenon and I have heard many similar stories to what you recount.

It’s something we really need to troubleshoot. Because a lot of people get a rude awakening when they move out to rural areas expecting to have the freedom to live in a manner that is perfectly wholesome. People rightfully expect to be allowed to build living structures, and live with other people, etc.

The bureaucratic rules in the guise of health and protection are actually impeding people’s efforts to live sustainably; create sustainable community.

PS. Regarding my response above, some additional thoughts:

• So the question becomes, for people who choose a rural life and are trying to build community on their land: What are some ways we might cultivate more trust with local officials so that people are allowed to live in community in rural areas?

• One thought that came to me, in regard to people ending up having trouble with local authorities, is that a lot of the people in our circles who are doing the “back to the land” thing practice a very isolationist policy as far as not really wanting or trying to get to know their neighbors. The people who is land borders theirs. I doubt most of the new BTL folks are joining the agricultural co-op, attending community functions, being regulars whose faces are known at the town gathering spot where local news and information gets exchanged (sometimes these days, it’s just a gas station, but it’s still very real, it’s the spot!), etc. I could be wrong, but the vibe I get is that a lot of rural homesteaders are trying to “escape” from the burden of dealing with other humans, and are not really trying to connect with their neighbors. In fact, they may have an elitist attitude about their neighbors, based on perceptions about politics and such. Now those perceptions may be real. But if you’re going to move out in the country where actual real farmers have been living for many many generations, why would you expect to just live in some kind of cottagecore la-la land and not have to deal with anyone else? And then when the neighbors start wondering who that mysterious new hippie neighbor is, suspicion tends to form. And before long we have the local health authorities doing their thing. Note, I’m not saying that some traditional farmers might not want to hear about Permaculture inspired food growing and land husbandry techniques. (Some are actually adding such techniques to their traditional farming toolkit.) But in order for them to even have any interest in that, one would need to build some kind of relationship of basic trust first. I personally know a permaculture farm that has done just that. They are very much woven into their surrounding rural community, and forming mutually beneficial connections with the nearby town as well.

• I do believe that over time, both cities and rural areas are likely to converge towards more of a village scale, village mode. (And actually, large cities are really not giant towns; they are actually conglomerations of villages if you really look at it. I noticed that first when I was living in Tokyo back in the 90s and it was a really cool realization to have. You can see it in New York City as well.)

• I also think seasonal migration is going to be more of a thing as the years go by. (It’s been a thing for a long time in festival culture etc. For example Kerrville Folk Music Festival volunteers often go straight from Kerrville to Bonnaroo etc.) Cycling between two or three places during the year is one way to build some stability, without having to be glued to one place. In addition to being viable for us elders, it can also be a way for the younger people to gain experience and have the joy of exploring, as well as being able to meet a wider pool of other young people.

• This is really a great discussion, and it’s the kind of sharing that is going to help us all co- build sustainable living environments.