Chelsea Green Publishing

A Handmade Life

Pages:144 pages
Book Art:Color photos, black and white illustrations
Size: 9 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781933392479
Pub. Date March 07, 2007

A Handmade Life

In Search of Simplicity

By William Coperthwaite
By (photographer) Peter Forbes
By John Saltmarsh

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
March 07, 2007


William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years hasexplored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness-buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being.

A Handmade Life carries Coperthwaite's ongoing experiments with hand tools, hand-grown and gathered food, and handmade shelter, clothing, and furnishings out into the world to challenge and inspire. His writing is both philosophical and practical, exploring themes of beauty, work, education, and design while giving instruction on the hand-crafting of the necessities of life. Richly illustrated with luminous color photographs by Peter Forbes, the book is a moving and inspirational testament to a new practice of old ways of life.


"This book, a richly textured exploration of Bill Coperthwaite's work and thought, encourages us to take the lessons of his life to heart. Each of us has the potential to craft our own lives with our own hands--actively, joyfully, and nonviolently, drawing upon the wisdom of our ancestors, striving for justice in the present, and fulfilling our obligations to those who will inherit our legacy."--John Saltmarsh (review refers to an earlier edition)

Publishers Weekly-
Serene and thoughtful, this rambling scrapbook by Maine native and yurt-house builder Coperthwaite provides a vision of a life lived simply and self-sufficiently. From violence to education to how to build a "democratic chair" or make an axe, Coperthwaite covers an abundance of topics as he describes his version of a "handmade life" and explains why such a life is desirable. Never quite didactic, Coperthwaite meditates on topics-such as the idea of employment as exploitation-more than he preaches about them, moving glibly from idea to disconnected idea. A recipe for "a bread so good to both the palate and to health that a diet of bread and water would be a delight" is placed next to an anecdote about a young Eskimo girl named Maggie, for example. And the author's own poems, along with poems by D.H. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson, intersperse the narrative. Peter Forbes' engaging color photographs illustrate Coperthwaite's concepts-no easy feat given their breadth and diversity. 67 color photos, 10 b&w illustrations. (review refers to an earlier edition of the book)


  • Winner - The Nautilus Award - 2004
  • Winner - Independent Publisher, Gold Medal (Inspirational/Spiritual)


William Coperthwaite

William Coperthwaite was a native of Maine who traveled the world in search of folk-art techniques and subsistence skills. Impressed by the beauty and intelligence of the traditional central Asian nomadic tents called "yurts," Coperthwaite adapted and introduced to North America yurt design and construction. For four decades he participated in building more than three hundred yurts for family homes, schools, camps, and outbuildings. Awarded a doctorate from Harvard University's School of Education for his work with Eskimo villagers, Coperthwaite taught in a variety of innovative educational settings. William passed away unexpectedly in late 2013. His organization, the Yurt Foundation, continues to serve to promote sensible and economical self-reliance through workshops, lectures, and publications. 

John Saltmarsh

John Saltmarsh is one of the founders of The Good Life Center, the Nearing's former homestead in Harborside, Maine. He is an associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston with a joint appointment in the departments of Cooperative Education and History. He has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Feinstein Institute for Public Service for Providence College. He resides in Wayland, Massachusetts.


Peter has become a leader for the American conservation movement by creating a life in conservation as photographer, writer, and storyteller about the relationship between people and place. For the last fifteen years, Peter has focused his energies on bringing together and strengthening the worlds of environmentalism and social justice and offering those professions his experience with story, facilitation, contemplative practice, and relationship to nature.  Peter is always learning and innovating across the boundaries of profession, culture, and home, and this has made his work influential to the different fields of leadership development, sustainability, philanthropy, and conservation. You might find him teaching spoon-carving on a city street, or giving a keynote address on courage at a national conference, or helping to heal a fracture within a community, or photographing a lost art.  What he cares most about is strengthening people’s connections to one another and the land that sustains them, the most visible and important example being his family’s farm and tapestry in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. He is the co-editor of Our Land, Ourselves, author of The Great Remembering and What Is a Whole Community,  and co-author of Coming to Land in a Troubled World, and collaborated with William Coperthwaite as the photographer for A Handmade Life. You can learn more about him at


The Permaculture City

The Permaculture City

By Toby Hemenway

Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns. The same nature-based approach that works so beautifully for growing food—connecting the pieces of the landscape together in harmonious ways—applies perfectly to many of our other needs. Toby Hemenway, one of the leading practitioners and teachers of permaculture design, illuminates a new way forward through examples of edge-pushing innovations, along with a deeply holistic conceptual framework for our cities, towns, and suburbs.

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Hemenway lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs for food, water, shelter, energy, community, and livelihood in sustainable, resilient ways. Readers will find new information on designing the urban home garden and strategies for gardening in community, rethinking our water and energy systems, learning the difference between a “job” and a “livelihood,” and the importance of placemaking and an empowered community.

This important book documents the rise of a new sophistication, depth, and diversity in the approaches and thinking of permaculture designers and practitioners. Understanding nature can do more than improve how we grow, make, or consume things; it can also teach us how to cooperate, make decisions, and arrive at good solutions. 

Available in: Paperback

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The Permaculture City

Toby Hemenway

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The Nourishing Homestead

The Nourishing Homestead

By Ben Hewitt and Penny Hewitt

A practiculture way to grow nutrient-dense food, produce healthy fats, and live the good life

The Nourishing Homestead tells the story of how we can create truly satisfying, permanent, nourished relationships to the land, nature, and one another.

The Hewitts offer practical ways to grow nutrient-dense food on a small plot of land, and think about your farm, homestead, or home as an ecosystem. Much of what the Hewitts have come to understand and embrace about their lives of deep nourishment is informed by their particular piece of land and local community in northern Vermont, but what they have gleaned is readily transferable to any place—whether you live on 4 acres, 40 acres, or in a 400-square-foot studio apartment.

Ben and Penny (and their two sons) maintain copious gardens, dozens of fruit and nut trees and other perennial plantings, as well as a pick-your-own blueberry patch. In addition to these cultivated food crops, they also forage for wild edibles, process their own meat, make their own butter, and ferment, dry, and can their own vegetables. Their focus is to produce nutrient-dense foods from vibrant, mineralized soils for themselves and their immediate community. They are also committed to sharing the traditional skills that support their family, helping them be self-sufficient and thrive in these uncertain times.

Much of what the Hewitts are attempting on their homestead is to close the gaps that economic separation has created in our health, spirit, and skills. Ben uses the term “practiculture” to describe his family’s work with the land—a term that encompasses the many practical life skills and philosophies they embody to create a thriving homestead, including raw-milk production, soil remediation, wildcrafting, Weston A. Price principles, bionutrient-dense farming, permaculture, agroforestry, traditional Vermont hill farming, and more. The Nourishing Homestead also includes information on deep nutrition, the importance of good fats, and integrating children into the work of a homestead.

The Hewitts’ story is reminiscent of The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing, and is sure to inspire a new generation of homesteaders, or anyone seeking a simpler way of life and a deeper connection to the world.

Available in: Paperback

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The Nourishing Homestead

Ben Hewitt, Penny Hewitt

Paperback $29.95



By Mark Schimmoeller

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

Reminiscent of classic literary travelogues, Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America takes readers on an inward, emotional journey as he inches across landscapes and communities from North Carolina to Arizona.

Schimmoeller became inspired by his unicycle as an adolescent. It taught him that rushing—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall, and so, instead of accepting the speeding, straight line that de-fines modern American life, he adopted his single wheel’s wayward rhythms.

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke is more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a playful, recalcitrant slowness that is increasingly rare in a culture obsessed with acceleration. At times ach-ing and other times joyful, Schimmoeller intersperses recollections of his journey with vignettes of his present-day, off-the-grid homesteading with his wife in Kentucky and their efforts to save an old-growth forest.

Schimmoeller’s personal journey will resonate with anyone who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love or searched for it, or who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist's Guide to America is also available as an audio book! Browse and download the book here >>

Available in: Paperback

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Mark Schimmoeller

Paperback $17.95

Power from the People

Power from the People

By Greg Pahl

Over 90 percent of US power generation comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy. It is delivered through long, brittle transmission lines, and then is squandered through inefficiency and waste. But it doesn't have to be that way. Communities can indeed produce their own local, renewable energy.

Power from the People explores how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.

Using examples from around the nation - and occasionally from around the world - Greg Pahl explains how to plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest energy from sun, wind, water, and earth. He also explains why community power is a necessary step on the path to energy security and community resilience - particularly as we face peak oil, cope with climate change, and address the need to transition to a more sustainable future.

This book - the second in the Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Post Carbon Institute's Community Resilience Series - also profiles numerous communitywide initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.

Available in: Paperback

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Power from the People

Greg Pahl, Van Jones

Paperback $19.95