Slouching toward Rancho Costa Nada


Rancho Costa NadaPhil 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.

I'm a rugged individualist only in theory. Some of the other inhabitants of the valley may be just as misanthropic and anti-social as I am, but they're also handy and self-reliant. I'm more a conceptualizer.

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."

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