Woodsqueer: Crafting a Sustainable Rural Life
by Gretchen Legler
“Woodsqueer” is sometimes used to describe the mindset of a person who has taken to the wild for an extended period of time. Gretchen Legler is no stranger to life away from the rapid-fire pace of the twenty-first century, which can often lead to a kind of stir-craziness. Woodsqueer chronicles her experiences intentionally focusing on not just making a living but making a life—in this case, an agrarian one more in tune with the earth on eighty acres in backwoods Maine.
Building a home with her partner, Ruth, on their farm means learning to live with solitude, endless trees, and the wild animals the couple come to welcome as family. Whether trying to outsmart their goats, calculating how much firewood they need for the winter, or bartering with neighbors for goods and services, they hone life skills brought with them (carpentry, tracking and hunting wild game) and other skills they learn along the way (animal husbandry, vegetable gardening, woodcutting).
Legler’s story is at times humbling and grueling, but it is also amusing. A homage to agrarian American life echoing the back-to-the-land movement popularized in the mid-twentieth century, Woodsqueer reminds us of the benefits of living close to the land. Legler unapologetically considers what we have lost in America, in less than a century—individually and collectively—as a result of our urban, mass-produced, technology-driven lifestyles.
Illustrated with rustic pen-and-ink illustrations, Woodsqueer shows the value of a solitary sojourn and both the pathway to and possibilities for making a sustainable, meaningful life on the land. The result, for Legler and her partner, is an evolution of their humanity as they become more physically, emotionally, and even spiritually connected to their land and each other in a complex ecosystem ruled by the changing seasons.
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