Protecting Berry Crops, Windpower and Other Homesteading Advice From Helen and Scott Nearing

Helen and Scott Nearing provide homesteading advice on protecting berry crops, installing a Swedish toilet, taking that final plunge into the good life, windpower and roofing materials for a stone house.

| July/August 1982

  • 076-048-01
    The Nearings have learned a good deal about homesteading over the years . . . and they've agreed to share that knowledge with MOTHER's readers in a regular question—and—answer column.

  • 076-048-01

Helen and Scott Nearing share their homesteading advice with MOTHER's readers, including protecting berry crops, installing a Swedish toilet and windpower. 

Helen and Scott Nearing are light-years ahead of most of us when it comes to living a life of voluntary simplicity in harmony with nature. Back in 1932 they began homesteading a run-down farm in Vermont's Green Mountains, and later—when the slopes around them exploded into ski resorts in the early 50's—Helen and Scott moved to a rocky inlet on the Maine coast . . . and started all over again.  

That's where you'll find the Nearings today: They're still clearing brush, still building the stone structures they're famous for, and still raising most of their vegetarian diet themselves in productive wholistic gardens . . . just as they've been doing for 50 years.  

Naturally, the Nearings have learned a good deal about homesteading over the years . . . and they've agreed to share that knowledge with MOTHER's readers in a regular question—and—answer column. Send your queries about self-reliant living on the land to Helen and Scott Nearing, THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS®, Hendersonville, North Carolina. Please don't expect personal replies, though. The most frequently asked questions will be answered here—and here only—so that we can all benefit from what the Nearings have to say. 

I've enjoyed reading your column in each issue of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS® . . . and was especially interested in the pest control method you described in MOTHER NO. 72. In that issue, you said that you use a fine-mesh nylon net over your spread of 200 cultivated blueberry plants to keep birds from devouring the crop. Well, this summer I'm watching out for 1,000 berry-bearing plants, and I'd sure appreciate some more information on how to protect them. Could you tell me, then, the exact size and mesh specifications of your net, and where such a bird barrier can be purchased? 

Initially we draped a fine tobacco cloth over each bush to keep the birds away. However, we quickly found this tactic to be far too labor-intensive, since we had to remove the covers when any of the fruit was ripe for picking and then put them back. We also found that berries, leaves, and twigs were continually getting stuck in the mesh, making the harvesting chore even more troublesome. So, as the bushes reached heights of six feet and taller, we switched to a more manageable net-and-pole setup. We purchased large irregular pieces of secondhand Japanese fishing net—ranging in size from 50 to 100 feet on a side—through a Massachusetts firm (Charles Belsky, Dept. TMEN, Holyoke, Massachusetts). We then cut the one-inch nylon mesh into convenient blocks, devised a pole-and-wire grid that spanned the entire quarter-acre blueberry patch, and sewed the net sections together to create a continuous barrier. The poles we use measure 8 feet high and are placed 16 feet apart.  

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