a visit to helen and scott nearing’s

visiting eliot’s farm had the advantage of a bit of a two for one deal.  in addition to his great farm – right next door is the final estate of helen and scott nearing.  this is not chance, eliot’s farm is actually located on land that the nearing sold to him in 1968.  it helps explain why he his is farm in such good shape, and while the soil is of such a high quality after 40 years of hard work.  the fact that the nearings sold the land to him for the same price they paid for it in 1952 helps explain one of the reasons his farm is so financially successful.

the nearing’s last home was a little more modern than their earlier designs – but is still certainly rustic.   for those not familiar with the nearings and their legacy – it would only be a slight exaggeration to say they are responsible for the entire back to the land movement.  their book the good life was the inspiration for many people to create a new life in the country.  making a journey to their home seemed a symbolic event – a paying of  homage to those that went before us – whose work continues to inspire us.  of course in this case it’s trying to live a simpler, good life in the city.

the garage/tool shed on the right, the house on the left

the view from the front of the house is absolutely amazing especially with a few lupines still blooming.

the view with lupine

the caretaker kevin was kind enough to show us around the house, the extensive library they kept, the simple kitchen, and then into the gardens.

the passive solar greenhouse

helen was an early adopter of the south-facing passive solar greenhouse design.  the north wall is built of their beloved stone, and acts as a passive solar collector storing heat in the day and radiating it out at night.  the foundation is stone as well with three-foot foundation to keep cold temperatures from creeping in.

the nearing's walled garden

the walled garden reminded me of a european kitchen gardens, utilizing the ever popular rocks to create shelter,thermal mass, and keeping critters out.

and of course i had to take a photo of the stone outhouse – cause what could be stronger than a brick shithouse?  i’m thinking stone.

stone outhouse

we wandered back into the woods and found these little amazingly well constructed yurts, one large one for meetings, and a smaller one that apprentices used to stay in.

big yurt

little yurt

who would have guessed that when i started this blog that there would be so many pictures of yurts?  certainly not i.  the nearing’s estate seems to be struggling a bit, we made sure to leave a donation as we left.

i left feeling a little sad, i’m not sure why, maybe because helen and scott had such strong vision for the world, but if anything all those things that helen and scott were fighting against are accelerating so much faster.  and maybe part of it was that the estate seemed so empty and slightly forgotten.  and maybe part of it was that so few people have picked up the torch of helen and scott – not just the lifestyle – but the politics of what they were fighting for.

no matter what i was glad to have spent the time i did at the nearing’s estate – to feel their spirts in the work we still do.  i’m inspired to read their books again and the ones i’ve not read before.


6 responses to “a visit to helen and scott nearing’s

  1. When I start rapping, I’m going to go by L’il Yurt.

  2. I so glad you made it there (along with Elliot Coleman’s operation). One must be mindful that the Nearings slected the homesite because it was isolated and forgotten! They always wonder why there were all those visitors coming by and interrupting their plans. The Nearing land trust is keeping their vision alive and is active in providing opportunities to live “the Good Life”.
    Thanks Patrick for the post and pictures (and living their vision)!
    I met Helen several times and she was one of finest, kindest individuals I’ve crossed paths with and loved cherries and ice cream!
    Bless them both!

  3. just stumbled onto this blog looking for greenhouse ideas. I could not stop laughing at your comment about the Stone outhouse. I am going to save the picture and use it someday in a presentation. Thanks.

  4. Charlie Ferguson

    Thanks for posting…….Charlie Ferguson

  5. I read Living the Good Life many years ago and was inspired then but unable to do much about it. Now I’m old and starting over with a much smaller cottage and more land, so I think I’ll but the new edition and reread it. Thanks for all the images of their former place!

  6. Greetings! I am on the Board of the Good Life Center and just wanted you all to know that Forest Farm is alive and doing well. Please do check out our updated Website at http://www.goodlife.org as well as our current Facebook Page. We have a Monday night Speaker Series in July and August. Come Visit!

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