Helen and Scott Nearing: Wild Versus Garden Produce, Commercial Pesticides and Home-Schooled Children

Helen and Scott Nearing provide homesteading advice on building from local materials, wild versus garden produce, commercial pesticides for safe compost use and socializing home-schooled children.

| September/October 1982

  • Helen and Scott Nearing column
    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.

  • Helen and Scott Nearing column

Helen and Scott Nearing share their homesteading advice with MOTHER's readers, including wild versus garden produce, commercial pesticides for composting and how to socialize home-schooled children. 

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.  

My wife and I plan to build our home from locally available materials . . . and we feel that a wood and stone building would best meet our requirements. We'd like to construct the dwelling under our own steam, too . . . but so far we've been able to find only limited information about appropriate hand tools (it seems they've all been replaced by gas- and electricity-powered implements). At the present time our only tools are a small wheelbarrow, a hammer, and a couple of wrenches and screwdrivers. We'd like to know which hand tools were especially useful in the construction of your home, and which (if any) power tools were essential. We'd appreciate, too, learning what particular brands or suppliers of high-quality hand tools, for both construction and gardening, you might recommend.  

Every job requires specific equipment, and constructing a home is no exception. For a start, though, you'll find that shovels, handsaws, garden forks, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, and axes will be useful for a variety of homesteading chores ... including building a house. As for power tools, when putting up our first dwelling, we had both a saw and a cement mixer that were gasoline operated. However, these were soon replaced by hand implements, as we felt that the power tools were too dangerous to use, and we found them extremely noisy. The quietness and slower, more natural rhythm of working with hand tools far outweigh the convenience of power equipment. Our latest building venture — which extended over three years — included a five-room house, a garage, a workshop, and a storage area . . . all of which were constructed by hand and built of stone and concrete.

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