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Chelsea Green Blog

Meet the Nearings: The Models for ‘Back to the Land’

An article written about Helen and Scott Nearing from 1971 is still one of Mother Earth News’ most popular Nature and Community pieces. That’s almost 40 years of sustainable newsworthiness! Do you want to know who these folks are and how they relate to the homesteading and small-scale farming movement? Read on. They’re the behind-the-scenes folks everyone should know about. From Mother Earth News:
Helen and Scott Nearing have been living today’s counterculture for better than a generation. Almost four decades ago (in 1932), the couple “dropped out” to a rockscrabble mountain farm in Vermont’s Green Mountains where they spent the next 20 years rebuilding the soil, constructing solid homestead buildings from native stone; growing their own food, heating with wood they cut by hand and co–authoring numerous books and magazine articles. Tick off any of the present’s most “in” passions—women’s lib, equal rights, organic gardening, vegetarianism, radicalism, homesteading, subsistence farming, ecology—and you’ll find that the Nearings have been doing instead of talking for 40 years. In 1952, when “developers” began despoiling the slopes around them for a ski resort, the Nearings sold their Vermont farm, moved to a remote Maine cape and began all over again . . . clearing brush, building honest stone structures, planting vigorous gardens and—in general—making their place in the world on a soul-satisfying, sweat-of-the-brow basis. Helen and Scott Nearing—then—are hard-working, proud people who pay their dues, think for themselves and stand on their own two feet . . . exactly the kind of folks that “made this country great. ” Salt of the earth. Rugged individuals. People who stand up for what’s right. The Great American Dream Couple. Folks who would be honored in every corner of this nation. Well, yes and no. The Nearings most certainly have paid their dues and taken stand after lonely stand for their vision of right . . . only to find that truth, justice, honor, decency—even simple rational thought—can be a highly suspicious commodity here in The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave. A pacifist, Scott was tried for sedition by the Government for opposing U.S. entry into WWI. Acquitted by a jury, he was then blacklisted by the academic world for—among other things—his stand against child labor. His textbooks were even taken from the schools and he became a prophet without honor in his own country. Of course, the U.S. Government and this country’s academic circles have no monopoly on stupidity. Scott once joined the Communist Party . . . only to be expelled for writing a book that took exception to Lenin’s theories on imperialism. Nobody loves a freethinker. […]
Read the entire article here. Check out books by the Nearings: Wise Words for the Good Life by Helen Nearing Loving and Leaving the Good Life by Helen Nearing The Maple Sugar Book by Scott and Helen Nearing Simple Food For the Good Life by Helen Nearing


Tips on No-Till Farming and Cover Crops

In the below Q&A, author and permaculture designer Shawn Jadrnicek answers questions about no-till farming and the use of cover crops from two readers (one from North Carolina, and the other from Nova Scotia). In his groundbreaking book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek provides in-depth information on water flow management along with projects that use the free forces of nature—gravity, […] Read More

Reimagining Restoration as a Radical Act

Finding ways to manage “invasive” species as we’ve come to know them has sparked a vigorous debate within conservation and restoration communities, as well as farmers, gardeners, and permaculturalists.In her thought-provoking book Beyond the War on Invasive Species, author Tao Orion urges us to rethink and reimagine restoration as a way to break out of […] Read More

What Can Wisteria Do For Your Forest Garden?

Jerome Osentowski, founder of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI) in Basalt, Colorado, is one of North America’s most accomplished permaculture designers and author of the new groundbreaking book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse. Part case-study of CRMPI’s innovative greenhouses and part how-to primer, Osentowski’s book shows that bringing the forest garden indoors is possible, even on […] Read More

Tips on Perennial Crops with Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Perennial Vegetables, Paradise Lot, and most recently The Carbon Farming Solution—a groundbreaking new book that treats agriculture as an important part of the climate change solution, rather than a global contributor to the problem. As part of our “Ask the Expert” series going on throughout the month of May to celebrate […] Read More

How to Design Swales for Optimum Water Flow

May has arrived! The birds are chirping, flowers are budding, and it’s time to officially celebrate Permaculture Month.Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you in our “Ask the Experts” series. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate. Submit your questions here.Today’s topic is […] Read More
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