Shantyboat Living Here and Now

First published on a cold, rainy day a few years back:

The “back to basics” attitude at the heart of shantyboat living was driven by poverty… of the pocket book or of the soul.  Those who dream of shantyboats were/are  thinking of how to stretch a fistful of our final dollars.  It’s the human condition in this time of  contradictions, the time of plenty but also this time of outsourcing, where manufacturing has left America.

But this is also a land of hope and possibility.  It was, it is, and always will be.   We make our own destiny, a new path, a future of our own invention.   It’s in there.  If we act. Even if just for a day.  Shantyboat living can be the dream of trading our hectic lives for a fistful of hours and just a little peace, casting ourselves free of too much “must do” in our lives.

Waking to a drizzly Seattle Sunday, my groggy thoughts turned toward the day ahead.


I’ve been on vacation for a few days, but it’s back to work tomorrow.  It’s not a bad job at all, but after 34 years I’m growing tired.

“What’s my dream?”, I asked…  What do I want?   Today?

I turn off the mind of chores and responsibility, just this one day and it comes to me.   I see a day that is peaceful, affordable, relaxing,and it seems possible.   Shantyboat living.

So I made it so.  Not in a boat this time, but right here at home.

And how did it go?

It’s closing in on noon now, and Harlan Hubbard would recognize the morning so far, one that is calm, yet productive.  Hubbard is the patron saint of shantyboats, his book, the bible.  Shantyboat: A River Way of Life.

A fire is lit and doing it’s work of keeping the rain and drizzle out of my bones, lifting my soul and spirit.  The old Morris chair in the corner of the living room is comfortable, the setting cozy, the view out my window  all I could hope for.   There are the colors of fall, a gentle waft of smoke from the neighbors chimney down the hill, and the flitting of chickadees and hummingbirds at the feeders in the window.

Music is playing, classical Christmas music from the King’s College Choir in England, and though it’s coming through the Internet it’s music Harlan and Anna would recognize and approve of.  Peaceful.  Meaningful.  Beautiful.

There’s bread dough rising in the kitchen a few feet away, and soon there will be that wondrous smell of fresh baked bread wafting about.  Is there anything better?

Breakfast will be a fried egg sandwich with a vegetarian sausage that was on sale for $2, well over 50% off.  It’ll be topped off with some salsa I made from the last batch of tomatoes rescued well into the first frost.  And freshly baked toast, of course.  I’d be surprised if breakfast cost a buck a serving.  Delicious, frugal.  Sounds shantyboat.

There are beans in a pot on the stove, with the last of a sack of potatoes, assorted spices, carrots, some leftover chicken… all set to become a stew for dinner tonight.  The stock built from cuttings from last week’s veggies.   It’s a meal for two for well less than three bucks.

And finally, I settle in with a good book, Hubbard’s Shantyboat on the Bayous.   Inspiration no matter where I am.

The must-do stuff can wait.   Work is tomorrow, so leave it there.

Shantyboat living.  No matter how distant your boat dreams, take a moment to make the bliss of that lifestyle a reality right now.   If Monday means a job that leans toward soul sucking, if life seems a bit dark or just mundane…. stop.  Take a moment right now.   Make a moment.   Live in that moment.

It’s within reach.

Make it so.

Home is what we make it. It’s harder than those simple words, but it’s possible. No matter our income or our health, within reason, it’s within us.


Leftover Chicken Stew… 8 big servings.

1-1/2 pounds cooked chicken (like what you rip off a rotisserie chicken)
4 cups chicken stock or homemade vegetable stock
4 cups chopped carrots
3 cups chopped celery
6 cups potatoes, cut in 1 inch cubes

1-1/2 cups shallots or simple yellow onions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or a little more)  Powered is fine.
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the onion/shallots and garlic in a touch of olive oil/butter/fat til soft, adding a bit of broth if it gets dry.
Add the flour and stir til combined.
Slowly add the stock, stirring to mix with the onions et al.
Add all the other ingredients and enough water to cover.
Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until all vegetables are done.Freezes well.


Originally posted 2016-09-09 10:18:46.

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