Book review: The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing

This book contains Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life, originally published in 1970 and 1979, respectively.  Helen and Scott Nearing, pacifist, teetotaling, nonsmoking, caffeine-free, collectivist, and vegetarian, moved from New York City to Vermont’s Green Mountains in 1932, already middle-aged, to homestead.  These books cover their trials, accomplishments, and philosophies (read: politics) on that first plot and their second homestead in Maine.  These books inspired more than a few of the 1970s back-to-the-landers, as I learned from Back From the Land.  However, I also learned from that book that Helen and Scott were not quite so financially independent as their books lead one to believe.  Their day’s division into four hours “bread labor” and four hours leisure [pg 51] (not to mention their purchase of somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 acres of land[1]) was made possible not just by thrift and maple syrup profits, but also by a trust fund that doesn’t get a mention in The Good Life.
Nonetheless, you have to admire their achievements.  They hand-built a dozen stone buildings in Vermont and another nine in Maine largely by themselves, raised 85% of their food, wrote several books each, obtained all their heating fuel from their land, went on speaking tours, and entertained sometimes a dozen visitors a day in the height of their popularity in the seventies.  They mentored Eliot Coleman and sold him the land on which he now works and lives.
– Amanda
[1]  In Vermont they bought the 65 acre Ellonen tract [pg 17], from neighbor Mercy Hoard “a strip of land that would protect our house and barn from future pasture burnings” [pg 25], a 12 acre gravel pit from Sadie Clay [pg 40], and the 125 acre Tibbets Tract [pg 23].  In Maine they bought 100+ acres [pg 359].

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