The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Journeying Earthward

Journeying EarthwardNote from Anna: One of our readers kindly sent along a copy of his parents' homesteading memoir several months ago, and I promptly passed the book on to my mother, who enjoys memoirs a lot more than I do. She, in turn, emailed me a review, which I'm including in slightly edited form below.

In reading Journeying Earthward by Edith and John Rylander, I was sort of transported to their Minnesota countryside more than to their way of life. But partly because the way of life was more known to me, while the place is so new. As I read amazing facts (about the long winters, for example, and all the returning birds in spring), I kept, in my soul, looking upward, as if up along the trunks of the remaining 2% of white pines, and actually breathing in the wonderful piney smell.

Their life story as both English teachers and writers, is partly comparable to the Nearings, but so unique because of their own personal experiences in their youths. John helped his grandfather bring in the hay when he was five or six, driving the horse-drawn haywagon. Then he worked, at about age 15 or so, in lumberjacking logjams on the Upper Mississippi. Edith's was the cannery experience for five summers in Sunnyvale, California, where she learned from her co-workers that education was the answer because "they can't take away what is in your mind." She also learned to distrust and resist the regimentation of mindless, menial work in a factory setting. Working that way, she "sold her life," and it was this that made her want to try the "Walden interlude" in Minnesota.

The Rylanders in front of their underground houseThe authors must be at least 85 and 80 yrs old by now, people who have earned a role in their choice of location because they have carved out a unique place in it. Back when they were experiencing the adventures that gave rise to the book, the Rylanders had a purpose: starting a small farm from scratch, with chickens, rabbits, and later sheep and pigs. Pumping their water!

Edith and John chose the site for their earth-sheltered house on the winter solstice. But they had lived in that area for many years, and knew the whole pattern of weather, with the terrible five to six months of hard winter. The fact that their underground house only needed about 2 1/2 cords of wood the whole winter, compared to about 30 cords of wood for their first, uninsulated house, is amazing. But, so too, is the awareness that of all the white pine forest, the Big Woods of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there is barely 2% left.

Note from Anna: The title doesn't appear to be available as an ebook, but used paperback copies can be had for $4, including shipping, at the moment. If you'd like to immerse yourself into an authentic back-to-the-land adventure, Journeying Earthward is a great read for a long, cold winter night. Alternatively, you can enjoy a photo tour of the Rylanders' underground house on this site, from which I stole the photo in this post.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I just ordered it. I usually read one of these types of books every winter just to keep me positive!!!! and of course love, love, love your blog!!!!!!!!! and loving the Goats. I am a soap maker so I'm always looking for Goats Milk here in New Jersey.

Comment by Donna Stroud Fri Jan 16 10:59:25 2015

Fascinating - inspiring review Adrienne! Jayne

Comment by Jayne Fri Jan 16 13:16:46 2015

Thank you for the kind review. I have a box of JOURNEYING EARTHWARD some where in the attic- self published book- perhaps Anna can give me advice on getting it in E book form?

Yep, mom's 79 and dad is 85 now. They still live there and dad still cuts most of his own firewood, though he has gone wimpy and gets a neighbor to split it with a log splitter. I was the log splitter growing up, lol! The garden is smaller than it used to be, they still do canning and freezing of the produce from it. Dad shot a button buck down in the woods this hunting season, field dressed it, dragged it uphill to the house then called and said to me "I just get winded going up that hill son.."

There are some inaccuracies in the other people's story though the pictures are great- they burned 10 cords a year, not the 30 they stated in the old house. That's the house they built in 1973-74 and the one I grew up in. The cordwood bermed place was built in 1987 and aside from the excavating, plumbing and wiring, most of the work was done by them with some hired labor to set beams etc.

I will be making a visit to God's Country from my exile in Savannah, GA soon and will get some nice winter pics of the place.

Thanks again for the review Anna's mom!

Comment by Anonymous Sat Jan 17 10:02:40 2015

Anonymous (who I think is actually Eric, right? My memory of names is terrible!) --- Thanks for sharing the book, and I apologize for taking so long to get the review up! If you want to make a guest post with some photos of your parents' house, I'd love to share it with our readers. I know they'll be interested in more specifics of the underground house.

As for publishing in ebook form --- it's remarkably easy, but you'll have to get the book onto the computer, of course. Email me if you want more details.

Comment by anna Sat Jan 17 10:15:34 2015

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