Nearing Enough: Simple Living Lessons

A reflection on the simple living lessons offered by legendary homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life.

| October/November 2003

  • Scott Nearing tends the productive organic garden he and Helen made at their final Forest Farm homestead on Cape Rozier, Maine.
    Scott Nearing tends the productive organic garden he and Helen made at their final Forest Farm homestead on Cape Rozier, Maine.
    RICHARD GARRETT
  • Helen Knothe and Scott Nearing in 1931.
    Helen Knothe and Scott Nearing in 1931.
    COURTESY CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING
  • The Nearings built homes and garden walls of stone in both Vermont and Maine using slipform masonry. To learn more about this   sustainable building technique, see
    The Nearings built homes and garden walls of stone in both Vermont and Maine using slipform masonry. To learn more about this sustainable building technique, see "The Art of Slipform Masonry" video on MOTHER's Bookshelf, page 120 in this issue.
    RICHARD GARRETT
  • The Nearings simple-living philosophy us reflected in the wooden bowls and plain foods they prepared.
    The Nearings simple-living philosophy us reflected in the wooden bowls and plain foods they prepared.
    LYNN KARLIN
  • At ages 68 and 89, Helen and Scott began building these stone buildings and garden walls to make their last homestead, which is open to the public today as a testament to a life of simple living.
    At ages 68 and 89, Helen and Scott began building these stone buildings and garden walls to make their last homestead, which is open to the public today as a testament to a life of simple living.
    PHOTO: LYNN KARLIN
  • The beginning structure of the Nearings final homestead.
    The beginning structure of the Nearings final homestead.
    LYNN KARLIN
  • Helen Nearing, pictured outside of her Harborside, Maine, home.
    Helen Nearing, pictured outside of her Harborside, Maine, home.
    COURTESY CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING

  • Scott Nearing tends the productive organic garden he and Helen made at their final Forest Farm homestead on Cape Rozier, Maine.
  • Helen Knothe and Scott Nearing in 1931.
  • The Nearings built homes and garden walls of stone in both Vermont and Maine using slipform masonry. To learn more about this   sustainable building technique, see
  • The Nearings simple-living philosophy us reflected in the wooden bowls and plain foods they prepared.
  • At ages 68 and 89, Helen and Scott began building these stone buildings and garden walls to make their last homestead, which is open to the public today as a testament to a life of simple living.
  • The beginning structure of the Nearings final homestead.
  • Helen Nearing, pictured outside of her Harborside, Maine, home.

Learn more about homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing and their simple living lessons of self-sufficiency.

Simple Living Lessons From the Nearings

By candlelight and snuggled away under quilts in a cozy, slant-ceiling guest room one winter's night long ago, I read Helen and Scott Nearing's Living the Good Life, which had been left on the bedside table for me by my host.

The Nearings wrote, "We maintain that a couple, of any age . . . with a minimum of health, intelligence and capital, can adapt themselves to country living, learn its crafts, overcome its difficulties, and build up a life pattern rich in simple values and productive of personal and social good."

Helen and Scott Nearing lived a self-sufficient life in the 1930s and '40s in Vermont and, later into the 1990s, in Maine, their principles always directing their choices.



Still today, the Nearings' initial questions, dilemmas and fears are shared by many people who want to take their lives into their own hands and live in a simpler, less routinized, more socially sensible manner, with sun, wind and rain on their faces and organic food in their bellies, while leaving far, far behind them highrises and fluorescent lights, suburbs and office cubicles, processed air and food and water, the proverbial Joneses, and those ubiquitous racing rats equipped with cell phones and beepers.

Can we feed ourselves from our own garden? Will a farm be another sort of drudgery? Is a principled life really a possibility in today's world? Can I learn all I need to know? Will the garden tie me down in new and even more profound ways? Can I integrate the life of the mind and continue to do my art/music/writing even as I pick off chewing creatures from my Swiss chard? Can I really live what I believe?

rdblack8806
9/15/2017 9:54:25 AM

I love everything they stand for but I can't eat raw carrots. Gotta have some kind of stove to cook on. Robin B.







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