I read this and wanted to share with you all because it reminds me (hopefully you as well) that we are not alone here and that yea we all have our bad days like everyone else but with letters written like this helps some of us just keep going forward. So even though we are worlds apart, some of us have the same goals, interest, and problems as everyone else. :D
If you want to know my story, I'll synopsize as best I can.
I lived in Buffalo, Niagara Falls until I was 8, parents moved us to Houston, TX in the mid 60's. I lived there and went to college in Austin with no real clue what I was going to do with myself. Always wanted to do what my grandfather did - have a big orchard in WNY, but he had already sold the place when I was about 6 after my Dad told him he was not interested in taking it over. Dad was a stockbroker and loved it too much to do anything else. My parents were so conservative that I think the writers for Leave it to Beaver spied on them!
I married young, divorced after 5 yrs, remarried and had two great kids and then divorced again after 16 years. At 45 I remarried yet again to a Russian Mail Order Bride from Siberia. I am not making this up! That is a whole story in itself that I may write one day. Across 20 years, I ended up being an insurance adjuster, which I sometimes hated amd usually disliked more than a little. It will turn you off on people really fast when you see how many will lie and cheat and argue to cheese "the big bad insurance company" out of a hundred dollars.
I tried on various levels to get myself a piece of what I perceived as my grandfather's great life as a farmer. Big urban gardens, small farmettes, etc. Always the issue of time, energy, a wife who hated living in the sticks, bad climate... nothing really hit the spot until...
In 1992 I got a transfer to Upstate NY, bought an old house on a half acre in a Finger Lakes village south of Syracuse and felt like I had found "it" at last. I loved taking the kids out in the winter to romp, I had a backyard garden and small orchard and a barn - everything I planted grew huge. I got on the Community Development Committee and had real friends, heck, even my JOB was great at this time. My wife hated it all with a blinding white passion and never let me forget it. When my mom passed away unexpectedly and rather young, the wind fell from my sails and I agreed to go back to Houston where:
Work sucked, the weather sucked, nothing grew, I lived on a small lot across from a park full of useless teens, and oddly enough, my wife was still never happy.
So I said "screw it" and moved out and rotted in an apartment for a couple years as I got back on my feet and then moved back outside the city on a few acres, but near enough to the kids - It was better than being berated all the time, but not a real happy period. My girlfriend had no interest in what I wanted to do, so that was a dead end. My brother's 13 yr old son died without apparent cause during his Olympic Training Camp, and my Dad gave us all his furniture and moved to CA where he was almost immediately diagnosed with bladder cancer/inoperable.
Skipping the Russian Mail Order Bride part, my new wife did not like the TX heat, asked me about my old digs in NY and I got on the internet to show her where I lived. Saw a bank foreclosure on a large old house for very little money. Bought the house with my late Dad's money and spent the summer here. My income at work had fallen below the cost to GO to work (commission sucks) so taking a few months was not an issue. While we were here, she tells me she would rather live here than TX (I must have done something right...) so we bought the farm down the road from us and closed the other house and are back where I was....
In a village where everyone knows me even if I do not know them. I do not have to show my drivers license to get cash at my bank. People like to talk. There are SO many folks here interested and concerned about their little community of 1200-1300. A lot of the stereotypes are alive and well. On the other hand, you still can find 5 scruffy boys dressed in black and dragging skateboards around main street because they "don't have anything to do". You still see 15 yr old girls with a baby. It is not a perfect place. But there are so few people that you just feel like you can FIX things. I can't fix Houston, TX. No one can. Some would argue it doesn't need fixing! But I can make a difference here a little at a time and day by day.
So that is what I found here - a place where I can make a tangible difference. My wife and I bought a farm that has been the dead spot here for 40 years and started whacking away at it a piece at a time. I found a like-minded logger to help us manage the woodlot, we're clearing debris, erecting fences, bring back the livestock, planting gardens and giving our community something more beautiful to look at every day. They stop constantly and thank us for our efforts. I would like to think that our example will lead some kid to think that maybe he would like to work hard and keep a big farm instead of moving away to sit at a desk.
My wife and I get the benefits of being very physically fit, having every day as a blank slate to start in on instead of some other guy's plan for us in exchange for money. We face problems and obstacles all the time, and we like it. You solve the problem and it is gone for good or you find a way around the obstacle...
The sad thing is, we are just reinventing the wheel, as they say. Everyone knew how to milk a goat or take a pasture from sod to garden and then we all went away from it for some reason. Read Walden to get a perspective on 'money'. I have worked my butt off to make money to have a place to live and food to eat and milk to drink and cars to drive. Now I pretty much expend the same energy on my own terms and I still have a home and food and everything I need. It never ceases to amaze me, but it is nothing new to my wife. Money and goods were always in short supply when she lived in Russia, so they all supported themselves from small plots, animals and all. You don't meet many girls these days who can dress a pig or pluck and clean chickens and raise seedlings for transplanting, but our grandmothers sure could!
I did something I never liked every day for 20 years, Howard. I was taught that somewhere. I know you are probably looking more for city meets rural stuff, but this whole thing for me was just a journey from when I was young towards the one thing I always thought I would like to do. All the things that pushed me in another direction - TV, parents, school agendas; "go get a good job and buy lots of what we have for sale" - they really just slowed me down a bit!
Now that you have an idea where I came from (as well as everyone who reads this!) feel free to ask away if you have questions. For everyone else, I just hope it made you smile or perhaps feel like YOUR path has been a bit less messed up! ;-)