The Wisdom of Helen and Scott Nearing

Dedicated lifelong homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing answer questions from MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers about pets, herbal remedies, safe cleaning products, and work opportunities with organic farmers.

| January/February 1980

As we've noted several times in these pages, Helen and Scott Nearing are light years ahead of most of us when it comes to getting back to the land and living a life of voluntary simplicity. As well they should be, since they originally homesteaded a run-down farm in Vermont's Green Mountains away back in the autumn of 1932.  

Life was good for the Nearings on that mini-farm . . . until the slopes around them exploded into ski resorts in the early 50's, forcing Helen and Scott to move on to a rocky inlet on the coast of Maine and start all over again.  

And that's where you'll find the Nearings today: still clearing brush, still building honest stone houses (Helen and Scott are famous for their stone houses), and still raising most of their vegetarian diet themselves in unbelievably productive holistic gardens . . . just as they've been doing for nearly 50 years.  

Naturally (in more ways than one), the Nearings have learned a few things about homesteading and getting back to basics over the years. And, lucky for all of us, they've agreed to share some of that knowledge with MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers in a regular question and answer column. Don't expect personal replies to your queries. The most important and most frequently asked questions will be answered here—and here only—where we all can read what the Nearings have to say.  

Q: I've cleared 1 1/2 acres of alder bottom for my gardens, but now I'm faced with the task of removing the deep-rooted stumps. Is there a way to get rid of them without bringing in heavy equipment? I've seen bulldozers at work, and they absolutely destroy the soil.  

A: Twenty-odd years ago, we faced the same problem that you describe: a piece of cut-over land filled with tree and brush stumps. We simply cut all growth on the plot to ground level and then mulched heavily with rotted hay. In the course of a few years, the stumps had rotted out and the land was clear. This technique provided us with an alternative to bulldozers, and prepared raw land for a successful blueberry plantation. You'll find a full description of how we did it in Chapter 8 of our book. Continuing the Good Life.

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