Crafting a Sustainable Rural LifeA chronicle of the rewards and challenges of building a life on a farm in backwoods Maine
“Woodsqueer” is sometimes used to describe the mindset of a person who has taken to the wild for an extended period of time. Gretchen Legler is no stranger to life away from the rapid-fire pace of the twenty-first century, which can often lead to a kind of stir-craziness. Woodsqueer chronicles ...
Building a home with her partner, Ruth, on their farm means learning to live with solitude, endless trees, and the wild animals the couple come to welcome as family. Whether trying to outsmart their goats, calculating how much firewood they need for the winter, or bartering with neighbors for goods and services, they hone life skills brought with them (carpentry, tracking and hunting wild game) and other skills they learn along the way (animal husbandry, vegetable gardening, woodcutting).
Legler’s story is at times humbling and grueling, but it is also amusing. A homage to agrarian American life echoing the back-to-the-land movement popularized in the mid-twentieth century, Woodsqueer reminds us of the benefits of living close to the land. Legler unapologetically considers what we have lost in America, in less than a century—individually and collectively—as a result of our urban, mass-produced, technology-driven lifestyles.
Illustrated with rustic pen-and-ink illustrations, Woodsqueer shows the value of a solitary sojourn and both the pathway to and possibilities for making a sustainable, meaningful life on the land. The result, for Legler and her partner, is an evolution of their humanity as they become more physically, emotionally, and even spiritually connected to their land and each other in a complex ecosystem ruled by the changing seasons.
Praise for Woodsqueer
"This poignant examination of the natural world and the author’s unique place in it will delight readers itching to get outdoors." — Publishers Weekly
"At times humbling and grueling, but it is also amusing...Woodsqueer shows the value of a solitary sojourn and both the pathway to and possibilities for making a sustainable, meaningful life on the land." — Book Riot
“A warm and clear-eyed book... detailing an intimate connection to place and people as Legler and her partner opt for a slower pace, closer to nature. Even in its challenges, she makes a strong case for the deep value in knowing the plants and animals where you live, the joy and compassion that knowledge and connection provokes, not just for the sparrows, the milkweed, the doe, but also for one another and for our own selves. The book is as much a case for the soul-level nourishment and healing that is possible when we’re open to learning from land, as it is a description of the texture of life lived that bows away from the pace and ease of modern life, and how it offers, over time, a bridge to 'the pulsing, thrumming energy' that joins us all, human, plant, creature." — Boston Globe
"Twenty years ago, Legler moved with her partner, Ruth, into a post-and-beam Cape on 80 wooded acres in western Maine and started penning essays about the couple’s experiences carving a life out of what came to be their small farm: essays on building fences, tending goats, hunting deer, cutting wood, and much more. Over time, the essays coalesced into a book that reflects on not only the joys and challenges of homesteading in rural Maine, but also on human relationships — between romantic partners, among neighbors, and more — unfolding against an agrarian backdrop." — Down East Magazine
"Woodsqueer is about more than just the ins and outs of sustainable farming and rural living, as the subtitle might suggest. It is underscored by the concept of connections — with nature, animals, other humans — and what it takes to build, sustain and repair these relationships.” — Sun Journal
"Woodsqueer is used to describe the strange mindset of a person who has lived in the wild for an extended period, but it may also describe Legler and her partner. What follows is in part a predictable rural tale of chopping wood, raising chickens, and foraging for mushrooms, but it is skillfully interwoven with the dramatic personal saga of Legler’s past relationships, ill-begotten love affairs, and ultimately, happy marriage to Ruth." — Minnesota Alumni Magazine
“Legler is a seeker. This book is more than ‘a back to the land’ memoir; it is a spiritual autobiography of a woman in relationship with the earth in all its power.” — Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
“Gretchen Legler’s evocative and eloquent stories glow like a hearth. Her life in the Maine woods with the woman she loves is by turns joyous and conflicted, generous and greedy, compassionate and cruel. But the author is always honest and her prose exquisite, and the home these two women built together is one you’ll want to visit again and again.” — Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
“In this luminous inquiry into the meaning of self-sufficiency, love, and continuance, Gretchen Legler invites us to question what we all need to feel alive to ourselves, moving beyond human connection to land, animals, and home into the wild nature of contentment itself. In Woodsqueer, Legler has crafted a morality of natural desire.” — Barrie Jean Borich, author of Apocalypse, Darling
“With raw intimacy and astonishing attention to detail, Gretchen Legler brings what it means to live off the land into the twenty-first century. Woodsqueer is a refuge in these crazy times, a reminder that survival is hard but joyful.” — Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author of Lava Falls
“A perfect memoir in every way . . . a deeply layered, painfully honest, and wholly gripping story. Legler keeps blazing the way toward a literature of hope.” — Janisse Ray, author of Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans
“Legler immerses us again and again in the sometimes tender, sometimes bloody experiences of life on a farm in rural Maine. Whether she’s nurturing chicks, milking goats, skinning hides, or foraging in the woods, the labors involved when living intimately with the land come through in all their sweaty, sensuous, humbling pleasures.” — Catherine Reid, author of The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables
Praise for All the Powerful Invisible Things
"Ms. Legler has written a book that is part nature guide, part family history and part feminist tract, and she captures the reader's imagination with the same skill and precision with which she catches spring walleyes on the Rainey River. "— New York Times
"These moving essays so seamlessly connect her inner and outer selves that Legler (a creative writing teacher whose work has been anthologized elsewhere) even manages to combine such seemingly at-odds subjects as her love of and respect for animals and her love of hunting, her affection for her ex-husband and her strong sexual attraction to women, without ever sounding hypocritical or confused. Nature plays a part here, but really these are essays about emotional states, and Legler bares her heart as easily as she slits open the belly of a deer." — Publishers Weekly
"The awesome vision of a woman tearing herself down to the bone and then slowly, painstakingly, recreating herself in her own image...Although these essays are ostensibly distinct, together they create a sense of process that makes this book exceptional. Legler's epiphanies are book-length--and longer. What this volume evokes is beyond sympathy; the reader aches for Legler's pain." — Kirkus Reviews
Praise for On the Ice
"The emotional honesty of Legler's reporting significantly increases our understanding of life on the last great frontier." — Publishers Weekly