Root Cellaring, Mulching Materials, and Other Wisdom From Helen and Scott Nearing

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Scott Nearing, sharing a meal with a friend and considering reader questions about root cellaring and mulching materials.

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

Q: I have a root cellar and use it to store apples, turnips,
potatoes, and onions. However, although my food room seems
to stay dry, I feel that an unacceptable percentage of the
put-up produce rots before I can use it. Have you had any
experience with root cellaring that might help me figure
out what my problem could be?

A: Our root cellar is directly underneath the kitchen.
It’s lined with cement, and has drains built into its
floor. We store apples, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots,
onions, and turnips in wooden crates, in boxes, or in
baskets and put dry autumn leaves between the layers
of produce. Using this technique, we’ve been able to keep
spoilage down. However, when food is stored in such a
manner, it’s best to go through the boxes every month or
two to eliminate any fruits or vegetables that show
signs of spoiling, before they can
“contaminate” their neighbors.

Q: Can you tell me what mulching materials you’ve had the most
success with?

A: Most of our mulching is done with autumn leaves,
spoiled hay, and seaweed. Good mulch, as you may know, must
be both loose and light.

We don’t mulch open areas in our fall garden until
a good frost has crusted the ground. This practice, we
feel, prevents slugs and mice from using our plant
protection as a comfortable winter hiding place!

Q: Do you believe in the possibility of a worldwide utopia?

A: The term “utopia”–as it’s ordinarily
used–refers to a form of social organization which is
flawless and, therefore, cannot be improved upon. We don’t
believe in such a thing. We do, however, have definite
ideas with regard to a workable, worldwide society that
supersedes nationalism.

Scott has elaborated on the subject of “worldism”
in his book United World, published in 1945. We still have
some paperbound copies of the volume, which can be
purchased–for $2.50–from the Social Science
Institute. The same
subject is approached in a different manner in Scott’s
latest book, Civilization and Beyond, which costs $4.50
from the same publisher. (Please enclose 50$ postage per

Q: I’m interested in any comments either of you may have on
the personal commitment of marriage. I’ve been married
almost 14 years now, and I’m still occasionally in wonder
at the dynamics of the relationship.

A: No marriage is perfect, but some are better than
others. We’ve been living together for
close to half a century, and while we have quite different
characters and interests, as well as different ideas on
many subjects, we still get along and still are

We believe that sharing interests is essential for
close comradeship. Walter Lippman has said, in A Preface to
, “The emotion of love, in spite of the romantics, is
not self-sustaining; it endures only when the lovers love
many things together, and not merely each other.”

Q: It was a pleasure seeing you at the First Homesteaders
Festival in 1978, and we’d like to see you again. Will you
be making some public appearances this summer?

A: We enjoyed the First Homesteaders Festival held in
1978 near Elmira, New York. A young couple, Sherrie and
Norm Lee, are holding the Fourth Annual
Festival at their homestead during the weekend of July
23-25 this year. Write to them for information if you’re interested
in attending or in receiving a sample copy of their
Homesteaders News.

We, however, have said “no” to all “appearances”
this year (after all, with 175 combined years of joint
activity behind us, we feel entitled to a rest), but we’ve
added that “maybe we’ll drop in” to Sherrie and Norm’s
affair and/or to the Bread and Puppet Circus in Glover,
Vermont on August 15 and 16, 1981.

Q: My grandmother, who was a good “natural foods” cook, died
when my grandfather was 70 years old. At that time, he
looked like a man of 60. Now, five years later, he looks to
be 100! I’m sure he’s suffering from malnutrition, due to a
diet of medicine and the poor food frequently served in
hospitals and nursing homes. But how do you tell a
75-year-old man that he has to change his ways and listen
more to himself than to his doctors?

A: At 75, your grandfather should be mature enough to
know how to take care of himself … unless his wife
babied him through the years. If so, it’s partly her fault
for not having educated him in good nutrition or let him do
his share.

Tell him to eat as much raw food as he can chew.
Make sure that half of his diet is composed of uncooked
edibles, and have him eat such foods first before he
fills up with the heavier, prepared part of the meal.
Suggest that he have fruit for breakfast and lunch, and a
big salad first thing for supper. If the hospital or
nursing home won’t furnish these, he should provide them
himself (or perhaps you could go shopping for

It would be difficult for Scott, in his nineties,
to get along without a helping hand from Helen. And it
would not be easy for her, in her seventies, to get by
without him. We plan to preserve good health as long as
possible, and–if we’re lucky–to go

Q: I’m very interested in your “anti-cooking” book. Is it
available yet? And, if so, how can I get a copy?

A: Send a stamped, addressed envelope to the Social
Science Institute for

Q: I’ve just finished reading Continuing the Good Life and
found it very intellectually nourishing. I was, however,
uncertain as to the meaning of the phrases at the top of
page 184: “… only many lives ahead will give us time … to fulfill all we hope to do.” Is this a reference to

A: The passage was not intended as a reference to
reincarnation so much as to the continuity of life. Without
going into the question of whether reincarnation does occur
(there has been much evidence indicating so, and little
supporting the belief that it does not), we take it for
granted that something of the beings which we are survives
death, and goes on with whatever may lie ahead.