We live in a small house at the very end of a long, Vermont dirt road that some friends refuse to drive for much of the year, fearing that they won't be able to drive back out. Perhaps they're right. Even our housemate parks her car about a mile up the road and walks home most winter days.
Our house sits on 25 acres which we share with our aforementioned housemate, a family of three in the basement, another friend who lives in a yurt just past the garden, five cats, a dog, and eight chickens. We heat our house with wood, bake our own bread, preserve our own jam, and have a composting toilet. Nearby is the small, progressive village of Putney.
Sounds pretty granola, doesn't it? In reality it's not as Mother Earth News as it sounds. We're not much into gardening. We don't homestead. We subsist on occasional child-care and teaching work and one full-time job (Thag is a middle school science teacher.) To pay the mortgage, we've rented every extra room in our house (and a patch of land). As any teacher will already know, Thag's job is more or less all-consuming: late nights, early mornings, and most weekends. Because of this, Thag's life is often confined to the indoors, a situation that he swore he would never get himself into. Thag (Ben) works this insane job in order to allow Ooga (Laura) to stay home with baby Yub Yub (Eva) in the time-honored caveman tradition of raising our own child instead of paying someone else to do it. In part, the foraging family project is our way of throwing ourselves a lifeline, an attempt to keep ourselves connected to the outdoor world (the real world) while we are caught in a situation that keeps us working for the pyramid-builders of civilization.
Both Thag and Ooga grew up in suburban Connecticut in a land of cul-de-sac neighborhoods and McMansions. There, dandelions that grow up through the sidewalk are doused in Roundup rather than cherished as dinner. Munching on something picked from the roadside would raise concerned looks from passers-by. Think 'Desperate Housewives' without so much glamour, murder, or adultery.
We're not sure how Thag developed his lifelong desire to live like a caveman. There certainly wasn't anyone around to teach his the wilderness skills that he wanted to learn. Perhaps it had started with teenage rebellion. Perhaps it was the influence of his uncle, a childhood mentor who shared his love of the outdoors. Perhaps it was the lyrical writings of John Muir or the adventure stories of Tom Brown, the tracker. For whatever reason, Thag dreamt of leaving the land of manicured lawns for someplace more wild.
Ooga, on the other hand, dreamt of babies. Lots of babies. Ooga and Thag probably shouldn't have fallen in love considering their divergent interests. If they hadn't, Ooga would probably already be on kid number three with a handsome doctor. Who knows what Thag would be doing. But, against all better judgement, fall in love they did. And there they are still stuck. Joining them in this plight for the past 15 months is an aspiring cave-child. She will surely have dreams of her own. (Will she be . . .gasp . . . Republican? We've vowed to love her anyway!)
For what it's worth, this is the foraging family. Proudly nerdy. Admittedly ideosynchratic. Three human beings trying hard to love each other well, stay focused on our dreams despite the mortgage, and leave this place a little bit better than we found it.