Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Choosing a Simpler Life

9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM


The simple life — it has been written about and debated for centuries. Each generation defines it differently. Today, most folks would agree that living a simple life involves growing some of your own food, shopping at thrift shops, living in a smaller house and in general owning less stuff. And, despite a commercial culture that pushes us to buy more and bigger, there is a movement gaining momentum in the country to buy less and smaller, to be satisfied with things that are serviceable, even if they are not in the latest style.

For much of the later half of the 20th century, Helen and Scott Nearing epitomized the quest for a simpler life. Their homesteads in Vermont and Maine, which they wrote about in Living the Good Life, were a study in self-sufficiency and dedication to walking gently on the earth. Both Scott and Helen were invited to lecture around the world and their organic, vegetarian farm was open to the public. There is another Mainer, William Coperthwaite, whose search for simplicity has led him down a much less public path than the Nearings choose.

Coperthwaite lives in a three-story wooden yurt that he designed and built. He is a philosopher, educator and craftsman who writes eloquently on his relationship to all aspects of life — housing, friends, food, education and politics, in his book, A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity, now available in paperback.

Since his childhood, Coperthwaite has been fascinated by design, not just of material things, but also of how we craft our lives at work, school and play. Beauty, purpose, functionality and a sense of adventure are all aspects of Coperthwaite's handmade life.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his book. I know that I will never aspire to his level of simplicity, but it has provided me with a unique perspective in my own search to live a simpler and more satisfying life. I highly recommend it.

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