Phil Garlington reported for the Los Angeles Times many years ago, and later for the Register. After getting canned from his last job, he slunk off to a remote desert corner called Smoke Tree Valley to live on ten acres he paid $325 for at a county auction. Ten empty acres, "in the middle of a monotonous baked-dry alkali basin that's arid, scrub-covered, amenity-less and way the hell off the paved road." What's a virgin homesteader to do but write about it and author a book, Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead.
But I'm also a big reader, and before I moseyed out to develop my scatter in the sun-basted beyond, I boned up on the desert pioneers, and visited all the websites catering to homesteaders, survivalists and back-to-the-land romantics. So at least I took with me a lot of intellectual hardware. Although in practice it turned out a lot of the cute ideas I lifted from books pretty much flopped.
After the Register laid him off, Garlington told his side in a piece in the OC Weekly: "It was sort of 'Donner, party of one,' since nobody else in the newsroom got the ax."