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Thoreau on "Economy"

Inside Thoreau's cabinAs I read through the first chapter of Walden ("Economy"), I alternated between noting down quotes that spoke to my own experience...and rolling my eyes at Thoreau's folly.  I'm going to keep the eye-rolling in this post to a minimum because I'd really rather hear what you each thought of the book than hear myself opine at length.  To get the ball rolling, I'll sum up some of the more quotable moments.

Thoreau's two year adventure was an experiment in "voluntary poverty" --- he wanted to know how little time he could spend working and still keep body and soul together.  Or, in his own words: "Instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them."

Not counting the building of his house, Thoreau's income and expenditures for an eight month period are summed up in the chart below (with the last column containing my own math to help you envision what he spent in today's dollars).


Thoreau's actual income or expense
Adjusted to 2010 dollars
Expenses:


Farming -14.725 -342.062
Food -8.74 -203.030
Clothing -8.4075 -195.306
Oil -2 -46.46
Total -33.8725 -786.858
Income:


Farming 23.34 542.188
Day labor 13.34 309.888
Total 36.78 854.399
Net profit:
2.9075
67.5412


In addition to the figures above, Thoreau spent $28.125 building a 150 square foot house, which comes to $4.34 per square foot in today's dollars.  (For the sake of comparison, Mark and I built the East Wing for $6.65 per square foot.)

Thoreau believed that we only truly need four things: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel.  He went even further to remind us that we only require the simplest version of each ---  "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes," he warned, then went on to note that "in modern civilized society not more than half the families own a shelter", in large part because modern houses are fancy and expensive.  He rejected the gift of a door mat because "it is best to avoid the beginnings of evil".  And, in the end, Thoreau concluded that it is our obsession with material possessions that requires us to spend "the best part of [our] life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part."

Thoreau's cabinBut at the same time, Thoreau came from a wealthy, educated class, and showed a disdain for certain levels of poverty.  "None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin," Thoreau wrote.  "That is shiftlessness."  He also bought a "shanty" and tore it apart to haul the building supplies to Walden Pond and turn into his own cabin rather than moving into what would have been an even simpler (and cheaper) structure.  I'd go so far as to hypothesize that if Thoreau lived in this modern age, he'd repeat the accusation we've heard multiple times --- that living in a trailer turns us into poor white trash.

So, what do you think?  Does Thoreau's experiment still ring true?  Do you consider a certain level of genteel poverty ethically sound, but another level "shiftlessness"?  Or did something else entirely catch your eye in Walden's first chapter?

As you comment, I hope you'll also take a minute to let me know whether you're still on board for reading the next 50 pages for May 7 --- that would be chapters 2 through 6.  I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought of this classic text!

Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with POOP.


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Not sure if you are siding with Emerson and the elders when you say Folly! (When I think of Folly I think of Seward's Folly, the Purchase of Alaska!) I think that Thoreau needed a refuge of his own, esp. after doing the expected thing with his going to Harvard, then trying to teach, with his brother, and filling in at the Emersons, both in Concord and on Staten Island. He was a "protege" but maybe because of that, he needed to assert his own independence. I sort of think the data, the economy section, is a smoke-screen (like the mists that burn off, over the pond?)-- The fact that he got boards in a questionable way, he admits to. He might have done that to speed up the venture. I think he prob. paid for that "shanty" (a New England--but also Southern?-- term for a "cabin" that has only board walls, so isn't really weather-tight)--paid for it himself from his work making pencils...By the time he wrote Walden (written not at the pond, but later, from his Journal), he had already written A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers, which is what he actually pulled together while at Walden, and which records his trip with his brother, who had died 3 yrs before his venture at Walden. (Publ. in 1849) He then published his essay on "Civil Disobedience", delivered his speech on "Slavery in Massachsusetts" (1854) and finally published Walden that year. I wonder how much he rewrote the published Walden, from his Journals? A very honest sentence from "Economy":"I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his sympathy with his fellows in distress, but, though he be the holiest son of God, is his private ail. Let this be righted, let the spring come to him, the morning rise over his couch, and he will forsake his generous companions without apology....Take some time, and set about some free labor." He had a "private ail" but he also felt, I think, that he would be a "better reformer" if he could take some time in Nature.

Last, I'm not sure what he would have said about today's world, at all--but I think that the idea of trying to live simply in the country for longer than two years, of trying to homestead, in a trailer, is certainly taking some time. Free labor is easier to do in the country,but can also be done in town and city. I hope you don't use the painful term "white trash" too freely! more on that later...

Comment by mom Mon Apr 30 10:07:04 2012

"food, shelter, clothing, and fuel" ...let's look at 'shelter' and I'll expand that to 'land' which is necessary for the 'shelter'. If you truly want to go "off grid", you'll have to pay attention to the state (here in the US) or the country that you live in. In most places now, you'll have to pay tax on your land and/or house and in many places, on any major piece of equipment or barns/out buildings that you 'own'. In fact, in most places now you only 'own' the right to pay taxes on property that 'belongs' to the government. My point is this, no matter how you think that the economy works/doesn't work/should work. In most places now, you are forced to participate in that Economy. There are few (and shrinking) places where you can truly "Homestead". ...expectations may need to be adjusted. (mine have)

--Mike

schomestead.com

Comment by Michael Mon Apr 30 11:32:28 2012

A person "needs" nothing but food, shelter, clothing, and fuel...to survive? Sure. To be happy? Not so sure. Thoreau seemed to enjoy living alone, but humans are inherently social animals. From my perspective, our lives and happiness revolve around the relationship we have with others, given those basic needs are met.

As far as an acceptable level of poverty - I'm not so sure this can be well defined. If you are truly content sitting on a pumpkin, then more power to you. You probably have to draw the line between pride in work you've done with your own hands, to improve your own living situation and worrying about appearances. If your surroundings make you and you alone happy without any extra effort, then I believe you've targeted your "acceptable level of poverty".

Comment by Jessie : Improved Mon Apr 30 12:02:21 2012
I think one of the biggest differences between Walden's time and Today is that the vast bulk of the population either lacks the skills or the energy to do this type of homesteading work. Sure you can build a cabin from trees cut down on your land. Stack rocks for a foundation, peel logs with a drawknife etc. It take both time and energy. Todays population in general is too lazy to get off there butts to change the channel on the TV...let alone, build their own home, grow their own food etc. It is a Walmart and McDonald's Culture out there...everybody wants cheap and fast.
Comment by Kevin Stevens Mon Apr 30 13:04:02 2012

Well, i have to start by saying that I agree with probably 90% of what he has to say. At a deep root level i feel like the principles he writes on are pretty much transferrable from era to era and culture to culture. I believe that the core of his statement about a "certain level of poverty" is true. To practice this ("certain level of poverty") would be healthy. I would compare it to a diet. Not every one is built the same, different height, weight metabolisms, etc. therefore their food consumption is going to be different then the next person. But everyone should practice eating only an appropriate amount, which is typically far less then what the american pumps in their trap today. In comparison, peoples standard for acquisition of material things are going to be different so I don't think we can, in our day, expect a flat line standard of material possessions for all humans. Regardless, I feel that he has laid a base line frame work for what a human "needs" to survive. We then have a cognitive choice of how far down we want to chase this life style. All that said, I think that it is very healthy for individuals to be aware of things so that they are able to make an informed decision of what life they desire to live. Our society today seems to have a mold that people's life styles are simply stamped out of, due to greed, pride and pop culture, with no understanding of what true "need" is, and I believe we are all the more unhealthy for it. In my comments I am operating from a worldview that believes the virtue of "hard work" is paramount to a healthy life. I do think that some people may "choose" Thoreau's path simply because they are lazy, and to those people I have nothing to say. I have much more to say on this chapter, but I must go now. I will drop in later this evening and add more. Look forward to seeing others response. And as far as May 7th goes, that would be a little tough for me. An extra week would help. But I'm up for what ever y'all decide. Have a nice day.

Comment by Justus Mon Apr 30 14:37:51 2012
I think he would totally have approved of your shelter choice. The shanty was built on rental property and he did not want to pay rent. I think he built his house because it was his cheapest option. I took his reference to "sitting on a pumpkin" as someone who lives much as a wild animal and just takes what is available without forethought or planning. While he says earlier that he'd rather sit on a pumpkin than sit on velvet while crowded or unsafe, later he notes that better seating can be easily had cheaply with minimal forethought and work. I was not aware that some find the term "poor white trash" offensive. I've never heard someone called poor white trash, instead it is people jokingly proclaiming themselves poor white trash. I guess if it offends I'll avoid it though, quite honestly, I'm not sure there are any identifying labels left that don't offend someone.
Comment by Lisa Mon Apr 30 15:07:10 2012

He takes a lot of time to get to any of his points. It is sometimes hard to figure out what the point is amidst the rambling!

While I can can see some of his points, I will not necessarily agree. I kind of like e.g. modern science and what it has given us. Thoreau died at 44 from tuberculosis, and his older brother died even younger of tetanus because he cut himself while shaving.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Apr 30 15:47:14 2012

Everybody --- I'm not going to make my usual person-by-person reply because I don't want it to look like I'm leading the discussion. I'm far from an English major.... But I do want to pull out some interesting points you made so that future commenters won't miss them!

Mike and Lisa brought up the point of economics of the land itself, which Thoreau goes into in more depth in the second chapter. Perhaps Mike's point of property taxes is why Thoreau preferred to squat and expressly recommended against buying land. (I'd missed the fact that the shanty was on rented land --- that takes the wind out of my argument at the end of my post. :-) )

Mom and Jessie brought up the point of doing what makes you happy. That is an excellent way to determine the difference between voluntary simplicity and poverty!

"In my comments I am operating from a worldview that believes the virtue of "hard work" is paramount to a healthy life. I do think that some people may "choose" Thoreau's path simply because they are lazy, and to those people I have nothing to say," wrote Justus. I think this is something we should all discuss in more detail --- I'm not sure I agree that hard work is inherently good (and not just in the "work smart, not hard" meaning). I feel like when Mark mitigated my work ethic to a more manageable level (taking weekends off, quitting work at roughly 4 pm every day), I ended up with more brain power to spend on creative pursuits, like sharing our experiences through writing. What do others think of the ethical imperative to work hard?

"I was not aware that some find the term "poor white trash" offensive," wrote Lisa. I'm pretty sure the term is a southern thing, and is inherently racist. Basically, what you're saying by it is, "These white people are acting in a way that we would expect from lazy/amoral/whatever black people."

"He sure isn't economic with words," wrote Roland. Yep, this was my primary complaint with the book too....

Also, Justus asked for a bit more time on the next chapters. Are others still willing to keep reading? Rather than giving us more time, how about I narrow the page count for next time? I've heard that the chapters after 2 are meant to be read as couplets, so we could either read just chapter 2 (12 pages) for Monday, or chapters 2-4 for Monday (31 pages). Thoughts?

Comment by anna Mon Apr 30 16:43:36 2012

One thing that caught my eye in the first chapter was Thoreau's stated pleasure in breaking ground.

I just started digging a house by hand (I'm wanting an underground house for the sake of being cooler in the summer without needing to pay for A/C), and though it's slow going, and a lot of work, it's curiously enjoyable.

And this goes well with his other comment on the appropriateness of someone building their own house akin to a bird it's own nest -- Though it's work, it is work of a very meaningful, and economical sort. Quite unlike the sort of work one must do at someone else's bidding in order that one may have the conveniences to escape doing the work for which one needs the money to buy the thing to do the work that one wishes to escape in the first place. Yes, that was as much a headache to write as it is to read, and probably not logically sound, but I think it gets the inefficiency across.

As Thoreau makes note with taking railroad vs walking, it's more economical to just walk for a day than to work for most of a day to be able to pay and arrive even later. Also the one on foot has the pleasure of encounters along the trip, while the rider is stuck in his railcar.

Perhaps a closer reading would be good on my part (But I hope not! as much as I enjoy many of Thoreau's ideas, his writing is impossible at times.) , but I didn't catch the emphasis on the lower class of the shanty making it unsuitable. I figured it was something more akin to the above note of making one's own dwelling, rather than trading for one already made and designed by someone else, which may or may not necessarily suit. After all, by making one's own dwelling, one can also more adequately plan for one's own needs and resources, which he seemed to be exemplifying in his rambling on architecture. He seems to me to be stressing that architecture be beautiful for it's intended function by it's user rather than being celebrated because it looks a very particular way. If a trailer suits your needs, then by all means! On the other hand, if it does not, take it apart so as to use the parts to make what does suit you all the easier. Certainly, your trailer must be leaps and bounds more comfortable and convenient a living space than this shanty must've been. He did mention this shanty had a dank and clammy floor. There was also the matter of "unjust claims on the score of ground rent" -- I wouldn't want to pay rent to live in a soggy-bottomed house, either!

I also enjoyed his commentary on learning by living. It would make much more sense for young people to be brought up learning to live rather than being taught arbitrary things that lead to a piece of paper for the sake of impressing someone else who then gives you the 'privilege' of working for them instead of living. This isn't to say that the things learned in gaining that paper aren't useful, just that they should suit the needs of the learner, much as the house should suit it's dweller. There's as much unnecessarily expensive fluff added to school as to pre-made houses. I mean expensive both in the monetary cost of education, and expensive in time needed for that education versus the use for it.

And tying much of this together, is his statement that he would not have others live exactly as himself, but for each to find the way that suits them, rather than living as others would have them live. Though we all have simple needs of food, clothing, and shelter, none of us find them necessary in exactly the same ways as others do. There seems an echo of this in his ramblings about charity, too -- that someone else's idea of doing one good, is not necessarily a good thing!

A lot of the shirts I own have many holes from my cat sitting in my lap and pawing at them. Someone might give me a nice shirt so that I have 'something good to wear'. But as I sit with my cat very often, I might not want to wear it for fear of getting holes in it, so that it then becomes both a burden and a worry for me, and a loss for it's giver. Or I could get holes in it and go on as before, leaving my supposed benefactor thinking he did not go far enough.

I admittedly skimmed through the last section rather than read it closely. The writing was getting kind of cumbersome.

This is fun so far, and I look forward to reading more of this book, and everyone's comments!

Comment by Sam Mon Apr 30 18:44:29 2012

The tallied expenses don't match the total; you left out the house.

Also, I wonder how realistic it is to translate the value of money from that time to now by just multiplying it with a factor (although I must admit it has the virtue of simplicity). Surely the relative cost of things will be different now than in his time?

I'm also not sure that what Thoreau did could be described as real poverty, even by the standards of those times. He seems to have had a roof over his head, enough food and clothes.

Looking at the picture of the replica of his house, I wonder how authentic it is? Some of the wood of the chairs is clearly shaped on a lathe. Now a wood lathe can be pretty simple and could well be self-made, but not the chisels you'd need for working the wood.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Apr 30 20:53:21 2012

Well, first, I must admit that I didn't make it all the way through the first reading selection (and given that, my vote is for only reading Chapter 2 for next Monday - that will give me a little time to catch up, heh). What I did read required an awful lot of backtracking and re-reading to try to understand what Thoreau was saying; the man was awfully good at hiding his meaning beneath a thick coating of words! Which is not to say that I did not enjoy the words themselves: some of his writing is beautifully poetic, and gave my imagination much to work with. But I don't think that sparking my creativity was really his purpose in writing the book!

One of the things which I found most confusing was his attitude towards "the poor" - in some places he sympathized with them and in others looked down on them. Certainly, he wasn't impressed with their stereotypical tendency to put themselves in debt while trying to raise their standard of living; that particular sentiment still rings true today, with so many people borrowing too much so that they can live in McMansions with far too much space which they then fill with more electronics than their families of twos and fours could ever use at one time. I rather think that even while feeling badly for them, he still placed himself above them as one more "enlightened,' and that sense of superiority comes across whether he intended it to do so or not.

In regards to your comment about the "ethical imperative to 'work hard,'" Anna, I also agree that it is not necessarily a "good" thing. Like most things in life, so much of the meaning behind "working hard" is going to be different for each person. I love to work outside in my garden and yard, digging, building, planting and cleaning up. Certainly, as far as physical effort goes, I am "working hard," but on a pleasant spring day, I can't really say that I feel like I'm working hard; I'm having too much fun! Is physical effort the only criteria for whether or not someone is "working hard?" I also enjoy doing local historical research; it is time-consuming and requires the patience and clue-finding abilities of a good sleuth. For those who prefer physical labor and have a difficult time sitting still, might they consider that to be "hard work?" (Once again, I find it fun, so I don't!) Actually, what I consider the hardest work is anything that involves calling someone on the phone, because I absolutely hate using the phone. I will go to any amount of effort to avoid using the phone if at all possible. Still, I doubt very much, on those occasions when I knuckle under and just use the phone because something has to be done and that's the only way to do it, that anyone is going to congratulate me for having done such good work, heh! I'm presuming that Justus, in his comment about the "virtue of 'hard work'" meant only physical labor: the idea that working with one's hands and body to accomplish something large is somehow inherently better than accomplishing it in some other fashion (i.e., building a log cabin with one's own hands rather than calling in the contractors to do it for one). And that I can sort of agree with . . . and sort of not: certainly the sense of accomplishment one gains in completing something like that oneself is a wonderful thing, but we aren't all cut out to be house builders (and that's not necessarily because we're lazy). If I can write books that change the world in a good way, but I can't build a house without help, does that mean that my accomplishments are worth nothing? I don't think so.

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to get as longwinded (and possibly as obscure) as Mr. Thoreau, so I think I'll close my comments. I am very much enjoying the reading, though, and looking forward to what everyone has to say next week! :)

@Sam - I have plenty of shirts and pants "decorated" by cats too, so I really loved the example you gave!

@Roland - I don't think that Thoreau was trying to make everything - such as his furniture - himself (unless that part is later in the chapter), but since he had no problem borrowing an axe to use in felling trees for his cabin, I'm sure that he would not have worried about borrowing the tools necessary for furniture making.

Comment by Ikwig Mon Apr 30 22:53:50 2012

Roland --- Thanks for noticing the problem with my table! I've fixed it now. I thought I'd done my usual summing of the totals using the sum function on the spreadsheet, so I figured when I deleted the house, it would go away, but it looks like I just copied his sums. Glad you're more on top of it than I am, since I like his experiment a lot more when he comes out in the black, not the red. :-)

I think you also have a good point that we can't just multiply for inflation. Actually, I redid Thoreau's exercise about how much it would cost to get from point A to point B in a mechanized way and clearly transportation is much cheaper (and faster) now than it was then. If you were travelling 100 miles, using the US mileage rates of 50 cents a mile in a car (which is supposed to cover gas, wear and tear, insurance, etc), you'd have to work for 5 hours at $10/hr to pay for the trip, then drive for 1.7 hours (at 60 mph highway speeds), for a total of 6.7 hours for the tip. On the other hand, if you walked three miles per hour, you'd spend 33 hours getting there. Clearly, just multiplying for inflation doesn't bring Walden to the modern age, but I wanted some way to put his numbers in perspective, and my multiplier was the best I could come up with.

Sam --- Thanks for pulling out several more important themes! I was actually a bit on the fence about his commentary on learning by living. While I definitely think there's a place for that, he seemed to be taking such an extreme view that you can't learn from the wisdom of others, that I wondered why he wrote his wisdom in a book for others to learn from? I'm more of a believer in the middle road --- learn what everyone else does, then do whatever you want. :-) Thoreau's take might be part of the Transcendentalist philosophy, though --- I don't know.

Ikwig --- I'm glad you chimed in about the poor. I think you pulled out the parts that bothered me better than I did. (And I wouldn't agree with you more about talking on the phone being the hardest work there is! No one can seem to understand how much I hate it... :-) )

Everyone --- So glad to see that several of you slogged your way through the chapter! I was a bit afraid that my mom and I would be the only ones who actually read it. :-) We'll take Ikwig's advice and just read chapter 2 for next week to give us all a bit of a break.

Comment by anna Tue May 1 08:16:35 2012

Anna -- Thanks for taking the time to reply. I don't think he meant you could not (or should not) learn from others, nor do I think he was arguing for purely personal learning at the expense of a common understanding.

I thought it seemed that he meant one should aim for education to compliment the practical experience of living life -- that becoming educated should not be an excuse to avoid living (or to have others do your living for you), but rather, should be applied to living, so that one lives better and more fully. Or put another way, I think he'd be against the idea that an education is sometimes seen as a means to get out of doing 'blue collar', or 'dirty hands-on' work, the necessary stuff that has do be done.

Hard work: The 'hard work' idea is an interesting one. Some points to consider: When speaking of 'hard work', do we mean hard as in challenging, hard as in requiring much energy, hard as in tedious, hard as in complicated, or the appearance of such to an observer who is unfamiliar this work? Am I leaving out any important variations?

Ikwig, I'm in agreement with you: It's hard to see some things as work when we enjoy doing them.

For example, my last week: I cut down dozens of trees, repaired tools that I broke, improved tools that annoyed me, began digging a giant hole with a pickaxe, built garden beds and a chicken coop. It probably sounds like I was 'working hard'. But I assure you, I was going about my days with leisure that couch potatoes would envy -- I've seen how hard it is to find something good to watch on TV, after all!

Roland: I might have to take your assertion on the chisels as a challenge :D -- I made a wood lathe awhile back, but haven't got around to getting tools yet. I'm sort of tempted now, to see how basic I can make them without making them useless.

Comment by Sam Wed May 2 22:17:44 2012
So, with my original post I claimed that "hard work" leads to a healthy life style. By no means was I referring to "hard work" as a 60 hour work week, or overtime, every time the opportunity presented itself. Rather, what I was referring to was a life style that approaches the days events with vigor and passion, not to be a sloth or a sluggard. One that understands the pleasure of sitting back at the end of a day and appreciate what has been accomplished, I believe, has a much healthier lifestyle then those that mooch through life. Obviously, at the same time, I will include that I feel it is very important to enjoy what you do as well.
Comment by Justus Fri May 4 15:52:52 2012
Justus --- Glad you stopped back by and clarified. Sounds like what you're talking about is passion --- I wish everyone could have it! I think we all really want it, actually, but it's easy to let things get in the way.
Comment by anna Fri May 4 19:09:05 2012
So, anybody have any thoughts/comments on this excerpt? "While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings."
Comment by Justus Fri May 4 19:56:57 2012

Justus:

Were noblemen and kings ever what they were ideally supposed to be in the first place?

I am a little leery of speaking too strongly of the 'improvement' of people. I've found good in people that I otherwise thought lowly of, and found disappointment in those I admired. I am not so sure what it is that can be improved, in the way that we can pick and choose the way we improve our houses.

But maybe there is something to this thought. Thoreau has been expressing simplicity in things. Perhaps we could look at this as an appeal to accept more people as they are, to not have such lofty standards for people.

I'm not sure I'm happy with this line of thought, but I'll toss it out there nonetheless. I think I'm more forcing this idea in place than I am genuinely interpreting an intended meaning. But that is a sort of reaction to it, all the same.

What do you think?

Comment by Sam Sun May 6 01:17:53 2012
@Justus, Sam: If we are going to have a discussion about "improving" humans, we would first have to agree on what constitutes improvement. And that I would say is easier said than done.
Comment by Roland_Smith Sun May 6 07:57:22 2012

So would we all agree that there are some stark contrast between lifestyle choices that might produce a better functioning society, or better stated, some standards that if more people followed might depict an improvement in humanity? Such as pride/humility, teller of lies/teller of truth, contributor to society/moocher of society, kind/cruel, loving/hateful, etc. Do these sound like qualities that we all could use to measure improvement or regression of humanity? Add or take away if you agree or disagree.

Comment by Justus Sun May 6 09:27:35 2012

@Justus: the way you present them makes the choices sound like false dilemmas. Personally I think reality is more nuanced than that.

E.g. in human affairs, it is sometimes hard or impossible to know the truth, if an objective truth even exists (for one thing, humans are terrible witnesses).

Another example regarding cruel/kind; After warning them, would you allow a child to burn their fingers on a hot stove? It seems cruel to do so, doesn't it? But often experience is the best teacher. So unless there is risk of serious harm or death (like upending a pot of boiling water over themselves) I think it is better to let them learn from their own mistakes.

So the answer to what is good may depend on the situation.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun May 6 10:28:32 2012
For me chapter 1 can be wrapped up in the one sentence about 10 pages in: "My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles" I believe Thoreau was conducting an experiment to determine the absolute minimum required for one to live. He was attempting to strip away all aspects of his society and culture in order to find the value in those things that everyone took for granted. In this light I believe we can still learn much from his experiment if only as one in thought. Modern homesteading is all about living closer to the land in a way that is more respectful of the world around us. In this way we can find what is truly important to each of us and that which we can go without. But ultimely Thoreau opens our eyes to the vast spectrum of economies that can be achieved if we look more closely at all of the activities we pursue in order to live.
Comment by Chris L Sun May 13 20:40:27 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime