Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch’s farm in Harborside, Maine was featured in the NYT last week. Their homestead and garden were part of a Cape Rosier/Blue Hill garden tour once, maybe 10-12 yrs ago, and I was lucky enough to visit it then, when I lived in Maine, along with some other similar gardens on former Nearing land. Coleman and Damrosch credit Helen and Scott Nearing with their livelihoods. The Nearings are also among those who first got me interested in voluntary simplicity, with their book Living the Good Life, when I read it about 20 yrs ago; they were very influential in modelling for me a way to think about living life (though my life as lived bears little resemblance to theirs). I’ve posted about the Nearings a few times in the past.
I recently read the book Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, a book about home-scale permaculture, and some of the techniques of permacultures described in that book are mentioned in this NYT article (the word permaculture is fairly new but the philosophy and the practices it embodies have been around for ages). For example:
The Nearings “built a garden walled with stone that collected heat in a climate where winter temperatures can still fall to 20 below zero. Their greenhouse, nestled against the stone wall, absorbed its stored heat at night. Such techniques, as well as a root cellar beneath the house, helped them live off the land year-round. “
“Close attention to soil health and the different needs of each plant are crucial. ‘We’re growing 35 to 40 different crops, in greenhouses and in the field, with no pesticides, because we don’t need pesticides,’ Mr. Coleman said. ‘Basically, we have no pests.’ That’s because pests attack sick plants, he said.”
Also, Francis Moore Lappe was on The Exchange (a New Hampshire public radio show) today. Her latest book is EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, which suggests some “thought traps” that mire us in despair and inaction, and which invites us to “Think Like An Ecosystem,” in terms of interrelationships and connections.
One thing Coleman/Damrosch, the Nearings,and Lappe have in common, it seems to me, is that they view and express their life’s work as an adventure, as something enticing, delicious, wondrous, and to be lived and shared for that reason:
A Blue Hill (ME) chef’s “words curiously echo Mr. Coleman’s about the Nearings: ‘Just the whole way they described growing their own food, building their own house, they made it sound like an adventure, and I was an adventurer,’ Mr. Coleman said. Farming is still the greatest adventure of his life, he said.”
Lappe says about moving to a more plant-based diet:
“I hope that this is the spirit in everything I write and say: the spirit of ‘Welcome!’ The expression of ‘Wow, this is so fantastic, why don’t you try it!’ And that is what happened to me back in my 20s when I changed my diet, it was all about excitement and discovery … That is the spirit, the spirit of adventure… with the Welcome sign.”
“‘What we do here is the most subversive activity we could possibly engage in,’ Mr. Coleman said, pouring a little Chateau Cape Rosier Reserve 2009, the white wine made from the Swensen red grapes that climb a trellis outside the window. ‘We are feeding ourselves, number one.’ “He added: ‘Mother Nature is supplying my inputs’ — like sunlight, compost, water — ‘for free, because I’ve taken the time to study how it works.'”