We used a picker truck that had retired from the oilpatch to put our logs up. It wasn’t usually a community event, and it certainly didn’t happen over a weekend.
My wife and her father made a formidable team that worked extremely well together. I was often the facilitator, and there were some jobs where a (relatively) young male was the best choice (pounding 20 inch spikes of 15 mm rebar into logs 25-40 feet in the air, using an 8 pound sledgehammer - that was usually me).
We had family and friends come by to help out - some of you reading this will remember peeling logs or helping with the roof - but the vast majority of the work happened after we got the kids on the school bus, and it was just Dad, Deb and me.
There are good fractions of a mile between most neighbours out here, and often more than a mile if we are talking farms and not the acreages scattered through this area on marginal farmland. We enjoy the quiet and the privacy. We don’t worry if our music is loud or even if our dog barks too much. Not many people in earshot.
But when you live in a city, you are surrounded by other people. Those other people end up being potential friends, customers, suppliers, fellow volunteers, people who need help. You are usually aware that you live in a network of humans who work together to create the society you are a part of.
I can forget about that society for days at a time, and think of a city as a shopping area full of goods and services, not a milieu of creativity and collaboration. If I don’t have something in the house, it goes on a list for the next trip ‘to town,’ and each trip has multiple tasks added on to whatever primary purpose inspired the use of time, gasoline, and our human energy.
So the myth of the tight-knit rural community finds expression in local sports teams, dance moms, some churches, and a few cultural groups. But it takes extra effort out here, where people aim for self-sufficiency.
The internet, as a place without place, removes some of that self-reliance, or at least removes some of the friction that encourages it. We have mostly figured things out, or we wouldn’t be living out here. Social media can give us just enough human connection that we can deal with the unexpected, the unplanned, or the frightening. It also, somewhat awkwardly, allows for the give and take of the informal economy that saves us from having to buy everything new.
We forget, living out here, that those who are embracing the internet economy in population centres are starting to live in a world where things and services are available as needed, without costing much money, and then they go away when not needed, so that there isn’t the constant accumulation of tools and ‘stuff’ just in case it will be needed again. It’s available via app, on demand, delivered by hustling young people trying to pay their student debt down, one gig at a time.
This newsletter is trying to imagine a coarser web than that - not thousands of strands of spider-silk, but a few ropes that can be relied on, that give us some of the functionality of the Uber/Fiverr/Postmates/AirBnB world even as the reality of geography constrains us.
There is a theory that constraints are part of what makes great art. In our case, the constraint of physical distance means that some app ideas simply don’t work where the population density per square kilometer is in the single digits. But the constraint may just end up producing a product that has advantages over its city cousins.