Written 71 years ago, the “Have More Plan” continues to have significant impact on the lives of the self-sufficient minded community. I had no idea when I first encountered it that it would be such a “game changer” for me. My mom and dad wanted to get out of the city and move to the country and live a simpler life. I was in my junior year of high school. I had always had an interest in gardening and rural skills, but this seemed a bit extreme. As it turned out, a life in the country was a great thing and continues to influence me today.
For those of you that are not familiar with “the Plan,” let me give you a primer. Ed and Carolyn Robinson lived in New York City in the early 1940’s. Ed describes a day when he and Carolyn took their son to the nearest park several blocks away on a hot day. Doing so took quite a bit of effort including packing up needed supplies, walking to a bus stop, taking a bus ride for 15 blocks and finding a spot to spread a blanket. Moments after doing so, a policeman came by and told them that they couldn’t be in that area for recreation. When asked why, the response was, “how long do you think the grass would last if everyone was allowed to sit and walk all over it?” Something clicked in the Robinsons that day and they began their work to move to a more rural setting nearby that would allow Ed to continue to work on his city career. They found their place — a 5 acre plot in Connecticut about an hour away from New York City.
I still don’t know if it was intentional or not on the part of my parents, but when I was a teenager I spotted a copy of “The Have More Plan” by Ed and Carolyn Robinson on our coffee table and started browsing its pages. Little did I know the strong influence it would exert on my family then, and the lifestyle I now get to enjoy with all of you here in the Tooele Valley. Back then, I found myself reading it again and again, and daydreaming about living a more self-reliant lifestyle, and having some land to raise my own food with.
As happens many times in life, directions change. I went to junior college, met a girl and got married and started a family. Frankly, I married too young and wasn’t even who I was going to be at that age. The marriage lasted 11 years, and during that time we had two great sons. One of them lives here now in Tooele.
I later met and married Maggie. It was, and is, a whirlwind romance. We met in October 1988, and were married a few months later in February 1989. It’s been a great marriage. Enter the “Have More Plan” once again. It had drifted from my memory. Somewhere along the way, Maggie and I came across a copy. It had the same effect on Maggie as it did on me earlier in my life. Maggie comes from rural roots as well, and greatly enjoys independent thinking and living. The “Have More Plan” resonated with her, and it once again exerted its positive influence. In fact, it would be safe to say that reading that book together was the genesis of our embracing a life lived in the country, raising a significant amount of our own produce, having chickens, growing fruit, and enjoying horticulture as much as we do.
All this from something that was originally published in 1943. It’s now at least in its 16th printing. Published a few years before the end of World War II, this landmark work has fired the imagination of generations of Americans and influenced thinking in other nations as well. This last week we were cleaning closets out preparing for a yard sale when I once again came across the Robinson’s book and quickly browsed its pages. I smiled when I realized that much of current self-reliant living concepts isn’t original with us but were actually written about so long ago. In turn, there are many concepts in the Plan that are time-honored principles and practices that can’t be directly attributed to any one time, author, geography or nation. Many of these principles served our ancestors well, and I’m glad that there is strong interest ongoing to preserve and pass down this know-how to our progeny. Listen to what Ed had to say way back in 1943, “You and your family can become self-reliant. You will be able to keep your own home in shape, even improve your house and land. You can be healthier and happier. You can be sure that the food you eat is rich in vitamins and minerals.” That sounds a lot like what I hear from other “forward-thinking” authors today.
While there are outdated references to a few things (for instance, we no longer use DDT as an pest control substance now that it’s dangers are well documented), the Have More Plan still has the ability to fire one’s imagination, give great insights, and provide a map of how to move towards much more self-sufficiency and the contentment and satisfaction that comes from “doing it yourself.” A simple web search using the keywords “Have More Plan Ed and Carolyn Robinson” will give you sources where you can buy a copy for about $10. That’s a bargain.
Why not get a copy and enjoy the journey? While there are many things in the book that you may end up not doing, you can still enjoy the experience vicariously. There is something for everyone that is a small community-minded person. A sampling of topics covered includes finding property, country houses, harvest rooms, outbuildings and barns, various livestock and poultry, advantages of beekeeping, gardening with less effort, fruit trees and small berries, how to set up a miniature dairy, and so forth. There is a sense of innocence in the narrative, along with a great dose of optimism. It’s a great read, and real spirit lifter.
I hope you get as much enjoyment, inspiration, and encouragement as I have. I think my old friend will add as much to your life as it has to mine.
Jay Cooper can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can visit his website at dirtfarmerjay.com for videos and articles on gardening, shop skills, culinary arts and landscaping.