The Paperback Writer has a very special guest, Cormac O’Hugh, a woman who is a starving writer and loves nature. She lives in the Appalachian Mountains and lives self sufficiently. She is inspiring, because she actively lives an anti consumerism lifestyle. Nature inspires her, she is creative, and she has her own garden. This is her story.
You paid less for your cabin in the woods than most people pay for a new car, and you made it work for you. This is incredible, especially during a time when the housing market was not too great. Please explain how you did it?
Did a lot of research and followed real estate listings online. Spent every spare moment on the quest. I had several ‘watch lists’ and waited for prices to go down. I learned a long time ago, the best way to get a bargain is to find a serious ‘don’t wanter’, someone desperate to sell for some reason. Also, I wanted a small place, and those are harder to sell these days.
The home you bought was in a little need for repair. What affordable changes did you make, and how did you go about this?
I am fortunate to have friends with skills willing to help, but it is an ongoing project. Again, research is key, and finding inexpensive materials and ways to renovate. There was one room that was just dried in. No interior work done. I insulated, put up wallboard, put in rustic pine flooring. Paint works miracles. Kitchen next biggest project and again, found inexpensive ideas, like plywood countertops, which fit well with the rustic, cabin décor, and can be both attractive and durable. Do a lot of work myself. Habitat for humanity.
Could you provide some examples about how you are able to live this way?
Forget status and status quo. I never eat out, I rarely buy beef. I shop at Goodwill, consignment shops, etc. I grow and preserve a lot of my own food. I barter with neighbors for vegetables and eggs. I don’t have an iphone. I don’t have cable TV. I get all my info and entertainment from the internet. I’m very frugal with electricity and water, and do most of my heating with wood, much of which comes from my own property or is barter from others. Have one credit card for emergencies only, like major car repair. I drive an older car and have no car payments.
You told me how you love life, and being around the nature that surrounds your home. Can you expand a bit on that for us?
Not everyone likes rural living like I do, but you can live cheaply in a more urban setting also. I’m a freak for nature. A lot of my entertainment comes from immersion in my surroundings. I love to hike and study the flora and fauna here. Generally, both property and living expenses can be less in a rural setting. I wanted nature, less noise, traffic and air pollution.
What state do you live in, and what is the weather and wildlife like?
I live in the Appalachian mountains in the extreme northeastern corner of Georgia. The weather is pretty mild here. Winters are not severe, it rarely snows and snow doesn’t last long. Because there is less pollution and a lot of forest, it is not unpleasant here in the summer. I rarely require air conditioning. I have deer, black bear, coyotes, fox, wild turkey, hawks, an abundance of birds and lots of small game, like raccoon, possum. Some less desirable critters, like copperhead and eastern rattle snakes. Also some wild boar, but I haven’t seen one or been bothered by them.
Do you become inspired from where you live in the woods?
Constantly. Did I mention the plethora of wild flowers, some which are quite rare? How about all the butterflies? Nature inspires, fascinates, and relaxes me. I’m also inspired by some of my neighbors, who are from families who have lived the rural mountain life for generations and are full of folklore and self sufficiency.
Can you tell us about your novel that you are currently working on?
I’m kind of stumped on a genre. I guess it is fantasy, but there are no dragons or elves or high magic. There is some earth magic. It takes place here on earth in a time long past and forgotten. It addresses very modern concerns, however, such as racism, sexism, religion and so on. It is told through the life story of a young, bi-racial girl caught between the two cultures of her parents.
What real life advice can you give to young people who are interested in pursuing life such as yours; buying a cabin and being as self sufficient as possible in order to afford to live freely and write?
Avoid debt. Live as far below your means as you possibly can. Think twice about what you really need. There is a huge difference between want and need. You have to be willing to give up convenience for self-sufficiency, and once you do, you will find self-sufficiency more convenient than you ever dreamed.
What kind of things would you advise to look for in a house?
That’s a hard one. I’m single and live alone. If you are a young person you have to live somewhere you can find a way to earn a living. If you are a couple, or have children, you look for things that weren’t that important to me, such as quality of school systems. I love the tiny home concept that is growing. It forces one to not collect ‘stuff’ one really doesn’t need, as there is no place for it. The smaller the home, the less maintenance and utility cost. Concentrate on the basics. You want something that is warm in winter, cool in summer, and dry all year, something sturdy, a place with ‘good bones’. Look for something that needs just cosmetic work rather than serious, major repairs, unless you have the funds or know how to do the repairs.
Besides school quality (if that is needed) check out crime rate in the area, property tax, cost of homeowner insurance. You want the most you can get for the least you can spend. Another reason I like tiny homes, because many can be mortgage free with a cost that is equivalent to what many folks pay as a down payment!
Now that you have your cabin in the woods, what are your future goals and things that you are working towards?
Well, my ongoing renovations for one thing. I want to expand my garden area. I want to finish my current book, and get on to the next, as the current one is the first in a series. I want to get my website/blog back up. I want to read as many books as I can, learn all I can. Other than that, I want to enjoy life to the fullest extent possible.
You talk a lot about ditching the modern conveniences in life, like cable TV. What can we work on getting rid out in our lives in order to live one that is richer, and fuller? Additionally, what are some steps that we can take to make it easier on our mother earth?
Live real life. Get outside, enjoy nature. Get out from in front of the TV and ditch the damn cell phone. Forget texting, connect with people in real life. Forsake the false gods of status, consumerism, and consumption and thereby satisfy both the desire for a richer life and reducing your carbon footprint. There are a million little things you can do to help poor mother earth. Don’t use toxic products and chemicals in your home and yard. Recycle, reuse, repurpose, compost, eliminate waste, and conserve.
Grow a victory garden, even if all you can do is plant an herb in a pot, or lettuce in a window box. During WWII, 40% of the nation’s produce was raised in home gardens to the tune of 10 million pounds of produce. Grow what you can and grow it organically. This minimizes the need for chemical dependent Big Agri, and for trucks hauling produce, and refrigerated storage facilities to store commercially grown produce. You will be healthier due to better nutrition and exercise! A huge step to help mother earth!
Finally, is there any further advice or any information you would like to add?
Don’t give up on your writing. Practice makes closer to perfect. Don’t expect instant success. Someone once said learning to write well is equivalent to getting a law degree, it takes a lot of work and study.
You can follow Cormac on Facebook and Twitter by following the links below!