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Garden Hermit (wikipedia.org)
171 points by polm23 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments

This is amazing. I don't know whether I want one, or want to be one. As an occupation for retired gentlemen, I think it would be very appealing.

We sort of had one growing up, where the family had some land in the country and my parents let a very eccentric man live in a rennovated hippie school bus parked on it, and eventually he built a network of little huts that were each beneath the area threshold where a building permit would be required. He maintained the land and the things we built on it, like tree houses and ziplines over gullies (all farcically unsafe, but a kind of heaven for a 10yr old self and siblings). He lived there until they sold the land, and he moved in with his estranged brother on another piece of land, just the two of them, not speaking for years.

It was certainly less genteel than described in the article, but this pattern hasn't disappeared. People I know with land have had long term tenants on the property, sort of Kato Kaylin long term guest characters, and as a retirement plan, it certainly beats being warehoused in a retirement home.

If there were a deal where I could park an airstream on someone's back 40 in exchange for some minimal property maintenance and gardening into my late 70's and 80's, that sounds appealing. There would probably even be competition, so I should start thinking about how I might interview for such a role that I might prevail over the other ornamental garden hermits.

I wouldn't wait for retirement, I'd do it right now. Sadly I didn't grow up in an economic class where I just happen to know people with large amounts of land.

In America you don't need to be rich. Plenty of areas where land is absolutely dirt cheap, as long as you don't mind not really living next to anything and building your own buildings.

Sure, but as discussed the Garden Hermit gets a stipend or other support from the land owner, possibly in exchange for some kind of service. I could go buy nigh-useless land in Wyoming for a pittance, but there's a reason it's a pittance: it's probably unusable for agriculture, has little or no access to potable water, has no reasonable access to any infrastructure of any kind, etc. Basically, a much much more difficult living situation than the one being described by the article.

Is the rainfall there reasonable enough that you could collect what you needed to filter/drink and wash without being too wasteful? Are there large gas bottle deliveries that could handle heating and cooking?

The hermitic relationship removes risk for the hermit buying remote land, I guess. Saves you being caught with somewhere that turns out to be a dud.

You are talking about homesteading [0] which is in some ways similar to being a "Garden Hermit".

I think these similarities are mostly superficial. The key difference being up-front cost, sustenance (food/water/shelter), and expenses.

A hermit (as described/imagined here) on someone else's property would focus solely on gardening and basic maintenance while enjoying the luxury of not paying for landscapers, electricians, builders, plumbers, etc (and enjoy the time spent not doing all of those jobs themself).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homesteading

Sounds a lot like the modern variant of Walden: https://obscuredinosaurfacts.com/blog/post/2021/06/30/walden...

Henry David Thoreau would somewhat comically fit in as a particular modern day silicon valley archetype.

“I told him, that as he worked so hard at bogging, he required thick boots and stout clothing, which yet were soon soiled and worn out, but I wore light shoes and thin clothing, which cost not half so much…and in an hour or two, without labor, but as a recreation, I could, if I wished, catch as many fish as I should want for two days, or earn enough money to support me a week. If he and his family would live simply, they might all go a-huckleberrying in the summer for their amusement. John heaved a sigh at this.”

> Sadly I didn't grow up in an economic class where I just happen to know people with large amounts of land.

Rich city person?

The hermits in these stories advertised in the paper. Do what they did, they were not acquaintances with the owners.

Can you type with long finger nails?

"Mr. Hamilton agreed to pay his hermit £700 provided he lived in the hermitage seven years. His only equipment during this period must be a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a has sock for his pillow and an hourglass to tell the time.

In addition, he had to wear a camlet robe and never under any circumstances cut his hair, beard or nails, stray from the grounds or speak to anyone."

This is the subject of a painting by artist Hernan Bas, "The Ornamental Hermit".


The concept raises questions about power, class, voyeurism, contemplation, and loneliness. Reminds me of this story (pardon the source)...

"""As for the contracts, they were usually very rigorous. The most famous arrangement between one such hermit and an aristocrat called Charles Hamilton illustrates the strict conditions under which a hermit was supposed to act:

(A hermit must) continue on the Hermitage seven years, where he shall be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, beard, or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton’s grounds, or exchange one word with the servant.

Unfortunately for Mr. Hamilton, the only known hermit that agreed upon these conditions lasted merely three weeks at his “workplace.” One day, he vanished from the estate and was later seen in a local pub, probably enjoying his freedom with a pint of beer."""


Look, I get that they existed to be gawked at by the upper classes, and all, but. If anyone here is looking for a garden druid/hermit, I would be more than willing to build the barrow, as long as your estate is such that I never have to actually see you. Feel free to gawk all you want as I collect various plants from the area, just don't talk to me.

In all seriousness, that now sounds like a very 'wow look at how out of touch rich people were' sort of thing. . . . That I absolutely could see being a thing today.

I am from the region where Francis of Paola[1] lived. He's mentioned as the first example of Garden Hermit in the article.

He's regarded as a very important religious figure in my region and home town. I am quite sure a lot of more conservative people would find the idea that he was an attraction for rich people utterly offensive.

I find this very fascinating because as I grew apart from my catholic upbringing and started questioning things, after visiting Francis' alleged hermitage, I could never shake the thought that it didn't seem very remote, secluded or uncomfortable...


I imagine today's hermit would spend most of their time on their phone/tablet.

Or working from home.

The home is the work.

Or phablet

I'm reminded of The Sidley Park Hermit in Tom Stoppard's beautiful "Arcadia".

Hermit-in-residence doesn't sound so terribly different from artist-in-residence or writer-in-residence.

It seems like more of a framing issue, "garden hermit" feels like an eccentric ostentation, writer-in-residence feels like philanthropic patronage

The modern version of this must be Twitch.

i feel this so true

I'm always interested in how societies have depicted and accommodated oddballs throughout history. Though I'm not sure if this is an actual example or if it's just a contrivance of the super wealthy.

I've wanted to write a screenplay about an ornamental hermit ever since I came across this very article last year.

Is this the origin of garden gnomes? :)

Finally, my answer to "If there were no computers, what would you do for a living?"

Need to get me one of these

This seems like a good fix for CEOs who want people in the office because they enjoy watching the ants scurry about.

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