Back-to-the-Landers


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“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.” ~ Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land

Adioska brought her new baby boy home yesterday. She delivered her baby by C-section in Rivas.  They now have four boys…all under the age of six! “Ron, we have to help this family,” I pleaded. “They are living in a shack with no running water, a dirt floor, one bedroom, and an outhouse.” “Debbie, have you forgotten what our lives were like when we brought Cory home from the hospital?” Ron asked. “Oh, that’s right!” I laughed.

In the early 80’s, we were part of the back-to-the-land movement. It was a lifestyle choice for us. We lived in a 1952 school bus in Wade Hollow, on 40 acres in the middle of the Ozark Mountains. Ron built a sleeping loft over the bus engine, a friend of ours made a white oak basket for Cory’s bed, and we nestled cozily together above the homemade barrel stove for warmth during the long, cold winter.

When we needed water, I strapped Cory to my back, grabbed two five gallon buckets, and walked a quarter of a mile to our spring. Our outhouse was behind the bus. During a major snowstorm, the electricity went out for three days. Unaware of the outage, we went about our normal days generating our electricity with a little portable generator.  Life was simple and fulfilling. Cory thrived in this environment until he was school-aged. Then, because we felt Cory needed more stimulation…and civilization…and because I craved pizza delivery…we moved and became back-from-the-landers.

Our lives in the Ozark Mountains prepared us for our move to Ometepe Island. There are striking similarities. In the Ozarks, we lived comfortably with much less. We raised a huge garden in the summer, built a timber-framed house nestled in the hillside with huge window panes facing south to catch the solar rays. We bought a composting toilet, but it never worked well, so we built another outhouse close to our timber-framed house. Our well water contained a lot of iron, so we still had to take our clothes to the laundromat in town 12 miles away on a long, dirt road.

Adioska’s new baby boy will be raised in an environment very similar to Cory’s Wade Hollow life. He will be loved, play outdoors free from electronic distractions, eat the food that grows on the island, and lead a simple, fulfilling life. Yet, I still had to help this family because Adioska looked pretty worn-out the day she returned from the hospital.

I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup and a pineapple upside down cake for the HUGE extended family who gathered around the newborn. Ron decided to entertain the kids all day so that Adioska and her husband, Jose, could rest in peace. Lourdes helped me make the cake, while the younger boys helped Ron shell soy beans and cashews. Then, we all chased chickens and butterflies until it was time to go swimming. Whew! I have definitely forgotten what it is like to entertain young kids all day.

Wendell Berry is right! ” When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.” I heard a revival of the back-to-the-land movement is taking place. It makes perfect sense to me. There’s no better place to revive the movement than on a tropical island, in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America. Life is good!