Man Who Gave Up Everything to Live Off the Land: "Living Off the Land Sucks."
|"I'M GOING STARK RAVING MAD": Jerry
Higgenbottom, with a small piece of the very land that is supposed to be
giving him sustenance.
Jerry Higgenbottom thought he had it all. A townhouse in the suburbs. A good
job. On the waiting list of a moderately expensive golf course. Late model Pontiac
in the driveway. But there was something
missing in his life.
"Once I turned 30, I felt as though I had come to a crossroads,"
admitted Higgenbottom. "I wasn't happy with where I was. I needed a new
It was while channel surfing one night after a long day at the office that
he found his new inspiration. "I was watching that pioneer challenge show,
or whatever it's called, on the Reality Show Network, about a year ago, and
I was immediately smitten," explained Higgenbottom. "I thought to
myself, "what a perfect way to snap out of my ennui."
"In this modern world, there's some kind of romantic longing I think we
all have for a simpler life," he mused. "Like that show with that
chick from the video on the Internet. What's her name again?
"I really miss TV. And electricity."
After months of internal deliberation, Higgenbottom took the plunge. He sold
his house, quit his job as a mutual fund salesman, broke up with his girlfriend,
and set off to do what he had dreamed of doing for several weeks: living off
the land, much as his forefathers did.
He rashly purchased a small parcel of land in Northern Ontario advertised in
the classified section of the Toronto Scar. This was his first mistake,
according to the once idealistic young man.
"The thing is, there's Northern Ontario, and then there's Northern
Ontario," sighed Higgenbottom as he swatted away golf ball-sized black
flies in his porch/living room/bathroom/bedroom. "Ontario is real big.
I mean REAL big. When the classified ad said "Northern Ontario," I
figured it was somewhere around Barrie."
It turns out this "rustic" property was approximately 2400 kilometers
north of Toronto, and accessible only by rubber dingy. "No wonder the land
was so cheap," grumbled Higgenbottom. "The nearest town is
don't know where it is. I don't think there are towns up here. I don't
think there are people up here. I haven't seen any yet. My mailing address
"I really should have looked into exactly where this property was before
I signed the deal, but I was just so desperate to go-I had a really bad day
at work and stuff. I wanted to get away from it all, but not this far away from
After an 11-day journey by bus, plane, canoe and rail cart, he arrived at his
new plot of land. Despite a total lack of experience or aptitude at carpentry,
he then set out at building his own home, with his own two hands. "I watched
Monster House a couple of times-I figured that was good enough," he said.
"Baptism by fire, right?" However, on top of his total ineptitude
at building stuff, getting building supplies up to the very remote location
proved to be difficult. "Getting anything up here has been difficult."
|"A lovely view of Hudson Bay, if you
crane your neck just so." The approximate location of Higgenbottom's
new homestead, and a picture of his 'home,' built with his own two hands
(inset). "It's gonna be a cold winter."
Instead of learning on the job, his attempt to actually build his own house
has made him realize that he is totally incapable of building a house. "Before
I came up here, I couldn't even put a nail in the wall. Now, I still can't put
a nail in the wall, nor do I have the money anymore to pay someone else to do
"Yep, living off the land sucks ass."
As for food, Higgenbottom's plans to hunt for his dinner have proven to be
equally troublesome. "These animals, they run when you shoot at them. They
move. It's not as easy as those hunting shows make it look. And even if I did
hit one, I wouldn't know what to do with it if I actually wanted to eat it.
Therefore, I've been subsisting on a diet of whatever I can get to grow in the
permafrost. Hmmmm...turnips for dinner again tonight!"
Does he miss his hometown and the comforts of the material world? Yes. Yes
"If I could afford it, I'd totally move back to Toronto. Unfortunately,
the roof that I built with my own two hands caved in, and I had to blow the
remainder of my savings on getting that fixed by a roofing contractor, who charged
me five grand just to get here from Moose Factory. Ugh."
As for advice for those considering doing what he did? "Wait till the
urge passes. Stay in your suburban house and buy a canoe or something. God.
If you ever think about doing something like this, don't.
"Sure, the rat race may be a drag, but at least there are other rats around
you can talk to."
A little bit of advice for everyone: if you're going to give up your life to
live off the land like a pioneer, do some research first. Cool down period.
Despite a serious lack of experience in home repairs and maintenance, gardening,
cooking for himself, and hunting