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by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I was please when I found an email from my cousin K in my indbox, earlier in the week. K left for California in her early twenties. I am much closer with her sister who stayed in our home state of Connecticut, but I remember fondly more than a few of K's visits back east.

On one of these she arrived at my place with her son C, who was then about to turn 4 years old. My place was a wonderland for kids of his age, loaded with the toys of my daughter, who is a couple years older than C. Sitting as I was with K at the kitchen table in the great room, C kept coming up and interupting us with news about the Princess on Nintendo and other such childish things. Somehwat annoyed, I explained to him, "You get to be with Mommy all the time. She is only visiting me for one hour. You need to share Mommy now." He didn't get it. When he was out of earshot I asked K, "What's up with the kid? Why is he so needy for attention?" Explaining her policy of radical availablility to him, she responded, "I just want him to know that he is loved." Encapsulating the discussion that followed, I told her, "C knows he is loved. You are projecting your feelings onto him. It's you who didn't feel loved as a child." She responded, "Thank you so much. My friends have told me that something wasn't right, but only now do I understand."

Opening the email from K last Monday I saw that, 25 years later, something still wasn't right.



Hi David,
C is preparing to move to Canada ... any chance you want to go with him? He's looking at this amazing property right now - there's plenty of room and he has big plans I think you'd be interested in. Call him if you're interested in hearing more - 619-xxx-yyyy



Hola K,
That is a "cottage." It is uninsulated. (You can see that in the photos.) You cannot winter there. It cannot be heated in the freezing cold.

It's a basic rule, realtors will tell you, you should not buy a property site unseen.

I lived alone in the mountains in northern Vermont. A week would pass and I'd see a hiker walking up the trail that ran through my meadow. I needed to talk with them, however briefly. Being alone for extended periods is difficult. It's not romantic. You start talking to yourself. And I had friends a short drive away.

I'd be happy to speak with C: Whatsapp - +52-1-415-xxx-yyyy

Concerned Cousin Dave

Hi David,
C has been reading up on homesteading - considering it less daunting than trying to make it in the city. He is desperate to get away from the superficial corrupt life everybody else buys into, and I cannot blame him for that. The realtor said the cottage is heated with the wood burning stove - that he won't always be able to go outside sometimes, but he did not say the cottage cannot be heated in the winter. I will talk to him again about this. As for not buying site unseen, I hear ya, but we don't have the ability to go to Canada and look for property.
Everybody is concerned - I get that. But I've already been concerned and he has to make a big change to go forward with his life. When you were in Vermont, did you have Internet?


Has C even been in winter?
Where, when and for how long?
Lake superior?!

Look at the photos of the wall below the windows. There is no thickness. There is no interior wall. There is one wall that holds the exterior clapboard and also the interior finish boards. There is no insulation. The place cannot be heated in the dead of winter.

Then there is too much glass to heat the place in the late fall, let alone February. Even if all those windows are double-paned argon gas-filled, which they are probably not.

You'd need several cords of wood (that is A LOT of wood) cut to length and split, to survive. And even then you'd have ice on the interior of the windows, be cold, and have to wake 2-3 times each night to feed the stove.

Then no one will make propane deliveries in the winter, so you're cooking on the wood stove and you don't have light.

Then there is no electricity.
Then there is the problem of food.
Yes, I had internet, when I powered up my generator and the provider's system was working.

As the most counter-cultural cousin, I would be a good person for him to talk with.
People don't "homestead" on an island in Lake Superior.

I sympathize with C's motives.
My phone number is below.

Hi David,
The realtor has assured me that it's too remote, that there are bigger issues than being able to heat the cabin. He did recommend adding insulation - but then explained that it's too remote to safely live there. Remote property is his business, so he will help C find something aligned with his goals. The realtor said he needs more acreage - and he definitely needs reliable internet and telephone service, so we aren't going forward with this property. Thanks for your concern. I'll let you know what we come up with.


The realtor talked me out of the island ... and recommended this one. C's going to do it...


Does C hunt?
Has he worked a chainsaw?
Is he rugged physically?
Is he competent at construction?
How does he take a bug bite? Those mosquitos up there swarm, in large swarms. You can't just brush them away.

The new place is a camp, not a house. It's not made to live in, just to visit.

When they shoot a deer, they have to bring it home to butcher and freeze it.

The island idea was too dangerous even for the realtor.

I had friends who homesteaded. Nature ain't no fucking picnic.

C isn't even Canadian.


He has done a lot of fishing in his life and knows how to gut and scale a fish. He has never hunted but he plans to buy a gun and learn how to use it, even if he just hunts for the dogs. He is vegan - I'm not sure what food choices he will make once he gets to Canada. He can have chickens if he wants to go back to eating meat and eggs. He has probably never held a chainsaw but he has an axe. He isn't exactly rugged, but he's tough, and he will get tougher. He is a beginner at all of this, and he knows it is not picnic. He is willing to put his life on the line for a life worth living. The superficial, bs life in San Diego was more than he could bear. He is not Canadian, but it sounds like he can buy property and go there, and as long as he doesn't take a job from a Canadian, he can live there without interference. I will find out if they have mail delivery ... it's an hour's drive from Baudette Minnesota, so he might have to go across the border twice a year. I know it sounds crazy ... but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Neither of you know how desperate, brutal and lonely the wilderness is.

You cannot live as a vegan as a homesteader. You have to raise, butcher, freeze animals and eat them.

No one is living in a "camp." That's why they call it a "camp," because it is a temporary dwelling.
It's just for weekend use during hunting season, November. No one would think of spending a month there, let alone wintering in it.

Who is going to put the new roof on it to stop the rain from coming in?

It's worse than saying he's going to sail across the Pacific solo, without knowing how to sail.

There is a lot between the extremes of Southern California and isolation in the Canadian wilderness. There are so many other, more viable, reactions to the meaninglessness of consumer culture, Mexico, for instance. "Rainy River Valley," we're talking a very short, cloudy, wet summer, a horrible growing season. You can't even go outside without mosquito netting and your pants tucked into your socks, because they'll eat you alive, so bad that you'll get a fever from the inflammation. And then there are blackflies and deerflies. Let him go volunteer at a wilderness center. There, at least, he can learn how to use a chainsaw.

Ok. I lived in the woods, in the north, with friends who were homesteading. And he's reading books and not even going to talk to me.

Down the road from my place in VT lived a man who was really good at fixing machines, the kind you need to live in the wilderness. Saying goodbye after speaking with him about something we were going to do, build, change... he said "Just remember what they say, 'Be careful.'"

They made a movie about a greenhorn who went to live solo in the wilds "Into the Wild." He didn't last long. Same romantic drivel...


It's very frightening. I don't know what to do

It's frightening for you and you don't even know half, not a quarter.

I had many visitors in VT who would not leave the immediate vicinity of my house/lodge. We're not talking about the West Hartford Reservoir. The big woods are scary.

Start by not encouraging him.
Do not entertain the idea.

There is a reason, many reasons, why no one lives there.

You need community, neighbors (or a lot of money) to make it in the country... and he doesn't know anyone there.
I bet you that you cannot even drive up to the place, not within a mile, during spring thaw, "mud season" or during the rainy summer... for sure not when there's snow. Then you'd need a snowmobile. And you better know how to fix it when it breaks down several miles from home loaded down with the food you need. For that matter, you'd better know a bit about car repair, because the shop is a long way off. Or what happens when the water pump for the house goes? Is there even indoor water? If you are not physically big, splitting wood is a huge effort.

It's a waste of money, because he won't stay there 2 months. Be responsible. Invest the money for him.

Forget about heroic, romantic solutions. Life is much more mundane.

You've got my number.

He isn't planning to be vegan. He will probably want to raise chickens. He cannot talk to you because he is offended that you think he is having a romantic notion, and isn't tough enough. Also, as for how lonely it is, you never told me if you have internet when you were in Vermont. He is thinking as long as he is warm inside and has internet, he'll be able to work and stay occupied. in addition to everything he is going to grow...


Well, that's pretty romantic isn't it, some warm pod in the woods?

It's an uninsulated shell. It's a camp, not a home, not a warm pod. It's a rugged, unfinished shelter where guys go to kill animals and drink a few weekends a year. And you'll be lucky to sell it for half of what you are paying for it, because everyone will know that it's been abandoned.

Most people, including myself, aren't tough enough to live like country folks in the country. (It's different if you have money.) I don't have the physical strength, the brawn. Obviously, if he is doubtful of his physical capacity, if I bring up the subject and he shies away, if he can't just state, "I'm tough enough," then there's room for discussion.

There is no growing season there, you cannot grow things, it's called Rainy River Valley.
Has he a green thumb? Good with plants? It's a talent, like playing the piano. Not everyone can

I guess if he has a satellite connection and a generator, he'll have internet until the the gasoline runs out.
But he'll be too busy splitting wood to use it much. Then a garden and chickens and fixing the roof and... during the short 6 months when it isn't winter will give him little time for internet.

I did have internet, when I started my generator.

I've been in 25 degrees below zero. It's brutal and dangerous. You need special clothes. Up there, there'll be weeks of it. Going to the outhouse to crap in 25 below is a procedure.

Well, that's what I get for taking an hour or so of my time to advise my city-slicker cousin about running off to the Canadian woods. The guy takes offense. See, that right there, not saying thank you when someone offers you advice, even advice you don't like, that's one of those rude city habits that loses you friends fast in the country.

I couldn't talk him out of it. It's worse than that the mundane is unbearable to him. He cannot build a life in the US with the corrupt government, whether real or perceived, it is more than he can tolerate. He is not willing to consider buying a house in Tennessee or Arkansas... the places I would want to move to.


Have him come to Mexico. Very different from San Diego or Arkansas.
Rent a place for $300 dollars a month.
Bring his compu and keyboard.
Great, cheap, fresh food.
Try it for 6 months.
I'll help.

It's his money that he want's to use to buy the property?


come visit, at least, i'll put you up
you should move here, too
it's great


I will pass this onto him. where in Mexico are you? how would he get there? can he bring his dogs?


I'm in San Miguel de Allende.
He can bring his dogs.
I don't know; how does one travel with dogs?



I cannot thank you enough for all your information and incredible invitation for C to move to where you are in Mexico ... I will do everything possible to make that happen. I am sure it is the best option he has for leaving the country. Could he live well there on $1000 a month ... he might even have $1400. I would call you but I'm too upset to talk right now.


David, I haven't talked to C yet, so this is all in my own head ... but I'm reading up on how we could get there. We could enter Mexico in Larado and it's another 10 hours. and we can bring the dogs and cats. If we could drive, that would be amazing. Does this seem like a safe trip?


Hola K,
Sorry for the lateness of my reply. I've been very busy with my internet project, especially with my programmer going AWOL for a few critical days. My girlfriend, Veronica is away at a course and I've been in a frenzy of work, with no one to call me back to earth.

Driving down from Laredo is fine. Everyone drives up and down from there. Just don't drive at night. Let me repeat that. Do not drive at night. The danger of Mexico is large in the imagination of the American public and we're glad it is. Otherwise everyone would move to Mexico, because, as you write, it is a dream. The fruits and veggies are abundant, in season, inexpensive and, if you want it, organic. The climate in San Miguel is perfect. Although the midday sun is strong. May and June are dry and hot. But at 6,000 feet above sea level, the evenings cool off. The rains come in July and August, usually just a 40 minute afternoon thunderstorm and cool everything off. With bricks, stones, concrete, earth... all not radiating heat the air is much cooler.

Yes, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time - "on a dark desert highway" or a deserted street at 2am - shit happens. But, if you take the normal precautions, as you would in any city in the US, the odds are fine. Years back Sefira had her small Honda motorcycle stolen. I commiserated and then told her, "The US has been robbing Mexico for centuries. If they rob a few gringos, it might be seen as turn-about."

A young man can live princely here on a lot less than $1000usd/month. You can find a humble apartment for $300/month. Right now I have my apartment where I used to live before I moved in with Veronica sitting empty, except for the cat (a wild animal, who comes and goes through a cat door and is lovingly fed and cared for by my landlady upstairs) and my office.

Mexico is the traditional refuge for people fleeing the US. Go south young man. We had a discussion about C when you both came to visit me on Farmington Avenue, when he was 4 years old. You thanked me for explaining something that your friends had been trying to tell you. If he comes to Mexico, you'll thank me again. I'm really good with "fatherless" young men... if they want to listen. A camp in the Canadian woods is brutal. Mexico, with or without Uncle Dave, is easy. If he want's to get lost down here, there are better places to do that, but San Miguel is a natural place to first land.

Cousin David


As it turns out, Mexico sounds like a dream to me, but not to C. He's not looking for a place to live princely or easy. He wants to be challenged.


I heard Ram Dass tell a story once. He said that he came from a wealthy Jewish family and that his brother was clinically crazy. However, they kept him at home. Until one day they found him in front of the kitchen stove with a stack of paper money, pushing bills one at a time into the flame. They immediately committed him because, as Ram Dass said, You can do a lot of crazy things in a Jewish family, but you don't burn the money.

You are crazy to consider buying that type of property in Canada, especially site unseen. If it does not end in personal tragedy, Gd forbid, it will in financial tragedy, Gd forbid. If he wants to go to the wilderness in Canada, let him rent a place. Why does he have to buy?

With love and respect, you are both confused. Take your money and go see a therapist.

C's problems have very little to do with his location or money or ease. You can't substitute external challenges for internal ones.

You take the dogs and have him go travel around the world. That's a challenge he can leave behind, if you want or need to.


Final thoughts: I knew from the start, when K invited me to go live on in a cottage on an island in Lake Superior with her son, that things were out of balance. I hope this story has a happy ending.


photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David has invested years of his life and more money than he cares to reckon into his global Lokkal project, an event calendar and searchable directory/business network for towns and cities around the world, combining aspects of Facebook, Google and Trip Advisor. Think: Digital Town Square. Think: the yellow pages for the new millenium. See more. A madman crying in the wilderness for years, reinforcements are recently arriving, the A team is assembling and preparations to launch in other cities are being made, gracias a dios. Interested?

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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