For I, methinks, till I grow old,
As fair before me shall behold,
As I do now, the Cabin small,
The Lake, the Bay, the Waterfall;
And Thee, the Spirit of them all!
William Wordsworth, "To a Highland Girl"
Have you ever thought about just throwing in the towel
to modern society with all its stresses and frustrations? Have you
wondered, perhaps while sitting in a traffic jam, or contemplating the
inequity of the pay scale at your job, if you couldn’t get by better
by just telling them all where to get off and taking complete control
of your life?
I’d like to tell you about someone who did just that,
and, incidentally, about how easy she makes it all look.
Gia was working for the City Hall of Cincinnati,
Ohio as a clerk and typist. She made enough money to almost stay up
with the bills and she had a little free time on the weekends to
engage in the things that she really cared about, but overall, she
thought she was just treading water: getting up every morning to
perform pretty much the same tasks as the day before and duplicate for
the thousandth time the day she’d duplicated yesterday.
She was making a living, but she wasn’t living all that
much, and the only career advancement going on around her were the
careers of the politicians she was working for.
“I hated my life”, she says simply.
Once, on a whim, she’d started a contract to buy five
acres of land out in the Missouri woods, which she had paid off over
ten years, but she’d never really had a plan of what she wanted to do
Still, she and her son, Anthony, always made a joke
about someday running off to the Ozarks even though her whole life’s
experience and that of everyone in her family had been decidedly urban—that is, there wasn't a farmer or a forester in the bunch.
Then one particularly bad day, it just all got to be
more than she wanted to tolerate any longer.
“I just realized how pointless it all seemed. I hated
my job, my dog had just died, I lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy part of
town, and I wasn’t getting any of the things I’d been working all my
life to get”.
That’s when she started thinking about that five acres
in the Ozark woods. She realized that even though she wasn’t in what would
generally be considered a position to retire, she did have a few
assets that she could put together that might make an escape possible.
First, obviously, she had the land. It was paid-for
and, like small rural plots most places, the taxes were minimal,
especially since they were based on the price she’d paid years before.
She also had a reliable vehicle to drive that wasn’t
too expensive to operate, and since the property was only four miles
from town, driving in to town once or twice a week wouldn’t amount to a lot of
money in any case.
Then, after a bit of investigation, she discovered
that, if she quit her job, she had a small bit of disability income
coming from all those years of paying Social Security taxes. It
wasn’t much, but she’d earned it and she figured she didn’t need very
much if she didn’t have the expenses associated with employment: commuting to work, rent, utilities,
dressy clothes, make-up, nylons, gifts for co-workers and all the other things that living and working in the city
were costing her.
But you can’t just move out into the woods, can you?
Well, as it turned out, maybe she could.
She already had a small retirement account. This she
supplemented by opening up her apartment to the neighbors who were
invited in to buy anything they wanted and within a few days she'd put together
a few thousand dollars and was off to the Ozarks.
She set up temporary residence in a budget motel and
hired a bulldozer to clear a spot on her property. Then the bulk
of the cash went into a 12 x 20 portable building which was delivered
to the property one rainy afternoon and, just like that, she had a
cabin in the woods.
So there she was, a bit muddy and cold, but with no
more than that, she’d already escaped the city and the job she hated.
She had a roof over her head and the rest of her life in front of her.
Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that
Gia is no androgynous, hyper-butch macho-woman. She's
"strictly a female female" as the song goes. She's also quite
competent and inventive.
Over the next few days and weeks, she installed three
15-watt solar panels on one end of the building which provided her with
electricity to run a few LED lights and a fan for the warmer
weather. This cost about $300 including the lights and fan. Gia says that she runs the fan constantly in the warmer months.
She bought several rolls of fiberglass insulation, and
stapled it inside the wall studs, then covered that with 4x8 sheets
of paneling which she also stapled in place. She stapled
a plastic film over the fiberglass above her sleeping loft and
ceiling and stapled a "pretty" cloth over that. This
all cost around $800 and she put down a self-adhesive floor and, to
brighten the place up a bit,
painted the exterior of the cabin for another $250.
So as to eliminate the need for plumbing, she bought
4 seven-gallon plastic water containers and devised a composting
toilet system. Finally, she brought in a
small, ventless propane heater for $200 which was more than
sufficient to heat her tiny Tara and
she was ready to forever abandon "Cincinnati, civilization, pavement and my
All told, she thinks she has about $5,500 in the
cabin, and she invested another $2,500 in a reliable
four-wheel-drive Chevy S-10 Blazer to be certain that she could get
out in any emergency.
As things stand now, Gia is living comfortably,
although she's still making improvements to her situation. The cabin features a sleeping loft, which she says
stays warm and cozy all through the coldest nights, even as the
lower floor cools down. She divides her cooking between three methods: a
charcoal grill, a single propane burner and a small camp-stove