Back from the Land: How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s, and Why They Came Back
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Back from the Land: How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s, and Why They Came Back

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  76 ratings  ·  21 reviews
When Eleanor Agnew, her husband, and two young children moved to the Maine woods in 1975, the back-to-the-land movement had already attracted untold numbers of converts who had grown increasingly estranged from mainstream American society. Visionaries by the millions were moving into woods, mountains, orchards, and farmlands in order to disconnect from the supposedly delet...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher
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This isn't a review, just some of the notes I made while reading this book last Fall:
"The thing that strikes me so profoundly about all of these goofy hippies' negative homesteading experiences is that they ultimately couldn't shed their middle class values and that's why they couldn't make it work. They failed to adapt to an alternative lifestyle because they weren't of that persuasion before they moved out to the land. They had straight jobs where they were generally upwardly mobile, marriages...more

Synopsis: A former back-to-the-land hippie shares anecdotes from her life and others' as she tracks the rise and fall of the 60s "Good Life" ideal.

Thoughts: Wow, I really, really wanted to like this book, honest, I did. I really wanted to read it and say, "hey, that's a great, well-organized, hard-hitting take on...on...." On what? The allure of sacramental simplicity throughout American history, and how the 60s generation re-appropriated Walden for a new century? The failure of idealism alone t...more
Jun 04, 2008 Courtney rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who think our government is so annoying they'd rather live in the woods
"For the most part, massive shifts towards simplicity such as the back-to-the-land movements have had a very short life span. People looking for an overnight conversion are bound to be disappointed and will inevitably backslide to the old way."

I had mixed feelings about this book. It was extremely interesting in subject matter, yet slightly dry in writing. The book describes well, through personal stories from many different people, every aspect of the back to the land movement.
At first though...more
Dec 20, 2007 Allison rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people considering going "back to the land"
This book was sort of interesting. At least, the first half was. I got all excited about the ideals that lead these people to go back to the land. But, the end was sort of a wet blanket.

Basically, all you need to know is "It didn't work. We were poor. We didn't like being poor. It was really hard. So we went back." The subtext that really bummed me out was "But, we didn't *really* sell out, because we all work in acedemia now."

The first part of the book was awesome. The second part basically s...more
Fascinating and so predictable at the same time. While you have to admire gumption, so many of the people who went "back to the land" were shockingly naive. I know it was a different time, and certainly these educated, middle class baby boomers had very sheltered upbringings, but WOW! It wouldn't have been a bad idea to apprentice yourself and learn about farming before quitting your job and packing up the kids to move to a northern clime in January. When building a house, consider insulation. T...more
This book offers an interesting look into the homesteading movement in the 1970s, which was made popular by Helen and Scott Nearing with their book "Living the Good Life". A lot of young middle-class people in the 1970s were discouraged with modern living and the economy was worse than in the 1960s, and they were being bombarded by new technologies, yet feeling like they didn't know the value of true, meaningful work. This book talks about several accounts of families or couples moving onto farm...more
I am continually fascinated with the back to the land movement and homesteading. I have absolutely NO desire to pursue this life, but I still find if interesting.

The author of this book left the city and built a small cabin in Main with her husband and two sons. She tells her own story and the story of many other homesteaders and commune dwellers from that era. The primary theme is unmet expectations. Many homesteaders envisioned a life off the grid that involved simple living, harmony with nat...more
Back from the Land is the pessimistic counter to Radical Homemakers. If you got a lot of cautionary data from This Life is in Your Hands, Back from the Land will be even more useful since the latter profiles several different failed homesteaders rather than sticking to one story.

Granted, reading about why the previous generation gave up on their farms is tough for modern homesteaders. But if you don't learn from the past, we're doomed to repeat it, right?
Dec 06, 2010 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
This was highly amusing. A great account of a homesteader's personal experience. I have to give her credit for sticking it out for so long. And I'm always so happy to have photographs in books like these, and there were 20. Agnew gives us the good, the bad, and the in-between of homesteading. She makes some very wise observations. She learned a lot from the experience and was clearly enriched, even though it ultimately was not the lifestyle she wanted to maintain indefinatley. And really, who co...more
Lest we should forget that a bunch of people (of my parents' generation) already decided to go back to the land, and came back. This is an honest, interesting account of all the not-so-enchanting aspects of living off the land in the 1970's.

Working on a farm myself (for 3 months) is all it took me to realize that pastoral bliss is not all its chalked up to be. The beauty is in the balance of now and then.
An interesting contrast to the modern farm movement. Well written investigation of the motivations and discoveries of the back to the land movement in the 1970s. I'll be interested to see if the current crop of off-the-grid idealists ends up with the same disillusionments, or creates a viable alternative culture of food.
Because they didn't realize how much work it would be and being poor was no fun. That's the answer I already expected - I was hoping for some more analysis and less anecdote. A quick read, interesting enough if, for example, you and everyone you grew up with belonged to this group of people.
Moral of the story: homesteading is no fun if you have kids, want dental care, enjoy being warm in the winter, are not in perfect health, do not enjoy brutal manual labor day in and day out in horrible weather, or get stressed out by never having money for necessities.
Melissa Brenneman
Anecdotal treatment. Baby boomers look back on their pursuit of an American agrarian utopian ideal, what didn't work, and what aspects of their idealism endure in their more mainstream lives since leaving the land.
Jul 24, 2008 Kami rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: eco
Interesting book. I think I probably would have tried this had I been the right age at the time. I probably would have left the land for the same reasons they did.
Thorn MotherIssues
I really enjoyed this. I think it's prompted me to read more about homesteaders/commune-dwellers/back-to-the-land folks.
an interesting premise, but every time she brought up a story just to complain about something personal, I wanted to take a nap
Written by a librarian, this is a good account of the failures and lost hopes of a generation.
This was ok. A little dry, a little rough, but interesting enough to finish it.
Lauren Tamraz
Great account from a former homesteader in maine.
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