Launch from the Fields

In my last post, I said we should “flee to the fields,” quoting the eponymous book of essays by the founders of the Catholic Land Movement.

Many understandably took that to mean: isolate ourselves from the “evil’ society, bunker down, hoard guns and food stores, and prepare from the Parousia. But I did not mean to imply that.

The new agrarianism, if I may call it that, will be one that nonetheless engages the larger society. The fields, and by that I mean a homestead with a few acres of land, is the sanctuary, the home base, the castle, from which we send out sorties to do battle.

The advent of social media and the internet allows unprecedented ability to spread ideas around the world from almost any location, even rural ones. I wrote my book from a house that did not even have cell phone coverage, and now it has sold close to 10,000 copies, all in just a year and a half.

But even with these technological marvels, we need to be rooted again in a place. People used to be. They lived in communities. No longer. We live in a neighborhood in the historic district of town, surrounded by houses and people. Yet we never spend time with any of them. We may as well be a thousand miles away. This is no way to live.

A homestead means five acres and independence. Compost piles, milking cow, cream and cheese, sheep and wool, bees and chickens, rainwater catch systems and solar panels. It means a wood stove and home-cooked meals. It means that help is needed on the farm, a place for people to join in the good labor.

Ideally, it means a place we can pass on to our children, where they will want to stay close by or return to. It also means drawing others interested in living this way, to live in close proximity to us.

From there we will write books, give talks, serve those in need, put on programs and conferences, and evangelize our neighbors, our city, and our country. Our apostolates will be strengthened by the fact that they spring from deeply rooted soil. The homestead and close community around it are the bastion from which we can live an authentically human life.

And the bonus side of it is, if our country does go to hell in a handbasket, we have food, shelter, water, and protection, even without gasoline and the power grid.

So flee to the fields, in order to grow deep roots, and then launch from the fields. (Let’s face it, no one sees the tiger hidden in the field until it’s too late!)

4 thoughts on “Launch from the Fields”

  1. Not to sound snarky, but as someone who lives on 10 acres in a house we built ourselves with the large garden, fruit trees, etc (but no animals – the bears are too much of a problem around here) I have a really hard time seeing how you can have time to launch out in the world as you describe and still keep up with all that needs to be done on the homestead. The work of the homestead is really quite overwhelming at times! Yes, sometimes people do come and help, but generally the people who are really interested and can and want to work already own their own property and are bogged down in their own work! Other people might say they are interested, but if they show up it might just be an hour or two of work combined with lots of talking and touring. Not a bad thing at all, but it doesn’t exactly get the work done! I keep thinking about the Nearings and how they structured their day… But they were such a magnet they had no end of interns and long term guests who came to help with all the work.

    And living like this ends up being isolating, because everyone is so busy with the work of their property they don’t get out much, and people spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel because they don’t get together. I’m trying to start a monthly discussion group around here to talk about seasonal homesteading type stuff and so far it is going reasonably well. I just hope I can keep people interested enough that they will be willing to take the time to come and share.

    And your thought of buying lots of land and subdividing sounds good, but around here at least the reality is that people would much rather be the one buying the 100 acres than buying land off of someone else. And from the example of a friend, it seems virtually impossible to find people to buy the land – especially people who are interested in plunking down the money and working hard to get stuff built. Lots of people who want to talk about it though… At this point I think they (my friends) will end up “selling” the plots to their children and building a community that way. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does seem a little limiting.

    I don’t mean to sound sour and bitter – and for the most part I do not regret what we have done. But it seems like there are too many people who want community on their own terms (including us!) and are building, waiting for it to come – and are frustrated, because everyone’s vision is a little different and no one wants to/can give up theirs in order to buy into someone else’s.

    1. Amber, great to hear your experience homesteading.

      It doesn’t surprise me any. In fact, it is what I expect will happen. What I presented in this blog post is the ideal and what could happen. That said, I am willing to do it and if it is only our children who one day settle on our land, that would be awesome. It is possible that not even they will want to though. Either way, it is the life we want to give our children.

      One other factor to consider, however, is that among Catholics this movement is nascent. So almost everyone doing it will be trailblazers and it will take a long time for others to catch the fever. If some Catholics were already in our area selling 5 to 10 acre plots of their land, we would have bought one *instantaneously*. Our current search covers a 50 mile north-to-south length of the region with a 20 mile width. And still we have not found much. A few friends have bought 2 or 3 acres a piece here and there but nothing where you could make a community out of it.

      All things being equal, I’d move to the Beatitudes Family Farms area, Clear Creek Oklahoma, or St. Leo Kansas where the Fords are. But we believe we’ve been called to central Texas, so we are looking to start it here rather than move to one of those places.

      Personally I think the greatest obstacle is money. Land around here is $10,000 per acre. Building a house costs $110 per square foot or so, unless you can do much of it yourself (which we cannot). So 10 acres and a small house is looking at $250K+.

      In any case, I feel your frustration, and we may share in it in about two years. :) But then we can at least commiserate together.

      1. Yes, the finances are a big issue – especially for young devout Catholic couples who quickly find themselves perusing the agrarian dream with several small ones in tow! We’re in CA (we thought long and hard about leaving, but ended up not being able to make the move away from our families – I still sometimes question the decision, especially in election years!) land is even more expensive here and the price of building higher. We built a lot of it ourselves and it cost about $110/sq. ft! (Granted, in CA, land of regulations, there are some things you just can’t do yourself… but I’m thankful we finished before we needed to spend 30K on a sprinkler system in the house!) If we had hired it we would have been looking at least $175/sq. ft or more.

        But if you were interested in CA, we know a great family who has 10+ acre subdivisions just waiting… (if only we’d met this family before we had bought and moved to the area!!) and then there’s a 30 acre lot available right next to our property too. :-)

        I wonder what our kids will end up doing too – my 10 year old wants to open a bakery and sandwich shop in town, within walking distance of our little historic church. She’s not so interested in the work the property entails. Our friends have kids who want to stay on their property, and some who want to leave. We’ll see what happens… there’s still a lot of time!

        1. Been in California all my life.

          It’s a crying shame to see how one political party has ruined the state and driven off the ‘producers’.

          It’s a beautiful state and my family is here, so I guess I am stuck, for now.

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