Book review: Homesteading in the 21st Century by George Nash & Jane Waterman


The authors were 1970s back-to-the-landers inspired by Helen & Scott Nearing. They lived all over the country before returning to Vermont and homesteading. To devote themselves full time to the farm, Jane left medicine and George left his construction enterprise. They now live off their land, making their money from their sales of heritage meats, eggs, and organic vegetables.

This book covers the big three of homesteading: shelter, gardening, and animals. George has also written a whole book devoted to renovating old houses and in the chapter-long summary of housing he covers some points that I hadn’t seen in other homesteading books – like the service drop (the terrifying and confusing tangle of wires and connectors that run from the utility pole in the street to your house). In the gardening section was this revelation: “Each degree of increase in a south-facing slope is equivalent to a southward shift of 70 miles – which means the ground will warm faster in spring. Laying out your garden in a 10º slope is the same as moving it 700 miles southward.” [pg 44] The writing is a delightful mix of purple words (Littoral? New one on me.) and homey colloquialisms. Humorous & colorful but still good, practical advice.

“Reducing superfluous consumption and paring down your list of wants to your list of needs doesn’t mean that you have to live a life of privation. It just requires you to find more in less. The goal of homesteading is to live deep, not wide.” [pg 10]

They truly have a balanced outlook on what they’re doing. For example, in their list of recommended reading they suggest not only Living the Good Life by the Nearings, but Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life, by Jean Hay Bright, the book that “debunked” the Nearings.

— Amanda


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