Living off the Land, Log Cabin Builder, and Other Profiles

A Florida woman who writes about living off the land and an elderly log cabin builder in Minnesota are two of five extraordinary ordinary people profiled in this installment of an ongoing feature.

| September/October 1979

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    Happy Jack Preston is an unstoppable log cabin builder, with some 30 structures to his name.
  • 059-profiles-singing-for-children.jpg
    A performance by folk musician Barry Louis Polisar singing for children about the problems they confront in life: annoying siblings, mean teachers, and nagging parents
  • 059-profiles-tandem-travelers2.jpg
    Eugene and Sylvia Berlatsky on one of their many tadem bike rides.

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In celebration of little-known MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type folks from all over.

Marian Van Atta: Living Off the Land

Marian Van Atta is helping to solve two of today's most pressing problems—rising food costs and the use of harmful pesticides—by spreading expert advice about both organic gardening and foraging for wild edible plants.

Marian has been sharing her knowledge of wild and cultivated foods through a handbook called Living off the Land, a weekly column published in three Florida newspapers, and a subtropic newsletter ($5.00 for six bi-monthly issues, $1.00 each for back issues). The newsletter—which has since become Ms. Van Atta's pet project—contains information on the identification and culture of tropical and subtropical fruits and vegetables, often includes recipes,. and features a "Seed Exchange" through which participants can swap different varieties of "plant starters."

"My philosophy," says Marian, "is quite simply this: Plant seeds, bushes, and trees. If we all live economically—and ecologically—now, our future harvests will help make this world healthier for generations to come! — Ruth Hormanski.

Happy Jack Preston: Log Cabin Builder

Happy Jack Preston is a wiry, tough, and well-preserved octogenarian who has lived the life of a pioneer since he first settled in northern Minnesota back in 1906. Happy lumberjacked as a young man, hauling heavy loads of logs along a 20-mile trail by horse and wagon. And since then Jack has built some 30 log structures by hand.

The woodsman and his wife raised nine children in their old, self-made cabin until the building rotted away to the point where they had to stoop over to look out the windows. Then, at the age of 78, Jack constructed the sturdy poplar structure —still warmed by the heat of a woodburning stove and lighted by the glow of a kerosene lamp—in which he lives today.

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