Having Children, Keeping Pets, and Other Wisdom from Helen and Scott Nearing

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Scott Nearing, seat at left, viewed keeping pets as a form of slavery.

The following are questions readers submitted to Helen and Scott Nearing in their regular column on homesteading.

Having Children

Q: My husband and I have been happily married for five years
and will soon have our own homestead. We’ve though a lot about having children, but, frankly, we’re worried about the future. The
lack of available quality education, the problem of
pollution (especially nuclear), the possibility of economic
collapse, and the threat of war on an overcrowded planet
all seem to be good arguments against bringing young people
into the world. We’d appreciate your views on this subject.

A: In our childbearing years, we already had second thoughts
about having children for the reasons you have aptly

At present, the unsettled social conditions in the U.S.
preclude any possibility of bringing up children normally, even in a secluded homestead environment. Television
and schools are sure to provide corruptive influences.
(However, a young neighbor of ours, Melissa
Coleman–when given cheap candy at a school Halloween
party–accepted it sweetly, didn’t eat it, came home,
and put it on the compost pile. She was wise beyond her

Personally as a woman I’ve felt no deprivation
from lack of children. But who knows, a few little
Scotties and Scottinas racing around might have been nice.
On the other hand, I happen to believe in reincarnation and
feel sure I’ve had hundreds of children in other lives and
will have many again. This particular life–free of my
own brood–has proved interesting and productive, and
there have been plenty of other people’s children roundabout.

Keeping Pets

Q: Have you ever tried keeping pets such as a dog or cat? My parents
think that having such animals is a waste of time and food.
We have farm animals that I like a lot, but I’d love to
have a dog and cat, too. What do you think?

A: Vegetarians should not have pets, especially meat-eating
ones. Nor, thinks Scott, should any self-respecting person
own a self-respecting animal, as this involves an act of
slavery one to the other. He asks: “Do you
keep the cat or dog, or does the animal keep you
to take care of it?”

I have a cat that I dearly love, yet I definitely dislike
having to feed it cat food and keep it away from the birds.
This cat will be my last (but I’ve said that about the last
three or four I’ve had!).

Choice of Vehicle

Q: We’ve gotten our land.  Just as we’d
hoped, it’s a good way from “civilization”
BUT it’s also at the end of some pretty rough roads. What do
you think (in view of today’s high gasoline prices) would
be the most practical vehicle for us to own?

A: Your choice of a vehicle will, of course, depend on what
you expect to haul: passengers, or heavy loads of
materials. For the latter, a pickup truck with four-wheel
drive is invaluable. It will use up more gas than a small
car, but the jobs it can do for you will probably be worth
the expense. If you’re more interested in toting people,
get a small station wagon that will haul light loads
and passengers.

We find a four-wheel-drive pickup necessary on the farm,
and have a diesel runabout for long distance driving.

Preferred Soap Powder

Q: You’ve written that you use soap powder for
laundry. I, too, preferred and used Duz soap powder until
earlier this year, when it disappeared from the grocery
shelves. Now, I can’t find this product anywhere. The only
soap powder I’ve found to replace it is a gentle baby soap,
and I want the heavy-duty kind. Where do you think it might
be available, and what brand do you use? 

A: I don’t know much about brand names or availability. I have
a large supply of Fels Naptha boxes for my laundry, and
over a dozen ancient (and very hard) cakes of Ivory soap
that I can turn into shavings.

Selling Maple Syrup

Q: You’ve mentioned in previous issues that you sold your
maple syrup and your blueberries to cover overhead costs on
your homestead. What methods did you use to advertise these

A: At sugaring time, we sent out a leaflet which gave prices
and so forth, put small ads in some magazines whose
rates we could afford, and had a 40-mile route that
covered a number of roadside stands which handled our
products. We usually took half a day each week to travel to
these stands and, by doing so, we kept in touch with our
store customers. People also came to the door to buy
directly from us.

It’s been easier with blueberries. Folks come to pick their
own, either for the market price or on shares. We’ve
never had to advertise blueberries, but they’re not easily
shippable anyway.

Food Ethics

Q: I’m a vegetarian, not only because of the economic and
nutritional factors involved but because I believe it’s
morally wrong to eat the flesh of once-living creatures.
Some of my friends say that– if it’s wrong to eat
meat–it must also be wrong to eat plants. They point
out that plants are also alive, and–according to
recent research–can demonstrate a remarkable range of
emotions. That leaves me with nothing to eat!

What is your response to this kind of argument? Also, do
you take any types of supplements? And what do you do about
minor illnesses?

A: Surely, plants feel … and we apologize when we consume

All forms of life have at least the rudiments of thoughts
and feelings. We’re quite aware of that. We try to eat
as low on the sentient chain as possible. Fruits and
nuts–end products that the tree or plant is “finished
with”–might be the logical food solution.

In any case we must eat (and kill) something in order to
stay alive. In the new anti-cook book I’m writing, I have a
chapter entitled “To Kill or Not to Kill”, and it discusses
the morality of taking any life.

As to supplements, when we travel abroad–and can’t
get our usual good home food–we carry vitamins C, B,
and E with us. At home, we hardly need them, though we
recently started taking some B12 tablets. We drink our own
rose hip juice for vitamin C, put brewer’s yeast in some
soups, and add wheat germ to applesauce.

For minor illnesses (do you mean colds?), we do what the
animals do: stop eating, go on liquids, and rest as much as