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The Good Life

by Tara

Today, we were on a mission to do two things. First, check out the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, and second, visit Helen and Scott Nearing's homestead in Harborside, Maine. But before we did any of that, we rescued a very slow little turtle whose pokey road-crossing was going to lead to certain death. After Tyler dashed out to snatch and then deposit the stodgy guy safely in the grass, we got underway.

One Turtle Rescued from the Road

Arriving in Rockland for the second time, Tyler waited in the car to read while I visited the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center to see a collection of Andrew Wyeth paintings. I've been a fan of Wyeth ever since I stumbled upon a book of his work during my college job of dusting bookshelves in the stacks of the Hege Library Friends Historical Collection. I did more browsing than dusting!

The Farnsworth Art Museum & Wyeth Center

The museums were every bit as inspiring as I hoped they'd be. In the small Wyeth Center, three generations of the artistic family's paintings were exhibited. The first pieces were by the eldest, NC Wyeth—vibrant, luminous illustrations of pirates and pilgrims for classic novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. Then came Andrew Wyeth's stunning, hauntingly realistic watercolors of the surrounding countryside. Finally, there were a few paintings by his son James Wyeth, who moved from Maine to New York City and lived with Andy Warhol.

After losing myself in images and brushstrokes for an hour or two, we hit the road once more, traveling northeast along the coast towards the town of Harborside. Though only thirty miles from Rockland as-the-crow-flies, reaching this tiny, out-of-the-way hamlet involved covering over eighty miles on a circuitous coastal route following steep dirt roads and rocky hillsides.

Two hours after leaving Rockland, we arrived at our destination: the final homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing, pioneers of the modern "back-to-the-land" movement, authors of numerous books, and builders of dozens of stone structures. As we delve into our next project—finding a piece of land to homestead on—we are eager to learn as much as possible from those who came before us. Part of that research led us here.

Helen and Scott have long since passed away, but we were welcomed to the homestead by a friendly man who now works to keep up the site. As he led us around the property, we were inspired by just about everything we saw, from the garden's stone walls to keep the critters out, to the greenhouse, to the beautiful stone home they constructed when they were in their 80s.

Portrait of Scott Nearing Old Photo of Helen & Scott Nearing Helen & Scott Nearing's Wooden Spoons and Bowls Helen and Scott Nearing's Stonewalled Garden Helen & Scott Nearing's Greenhouse

The visit also included a film about the couple, part of which can be seen here:

We hadn't yet read any of the Nearings' books, but many people we've talked about our project with have told us that we simply must. Heeding this collective advice, already intrigued by what we'd seen at the homestead, we purchased one of the publications offered in the house bookshop. Then, we headed home, four hours back to Limington. As I drove, Tyler read to me from The Good Life. After a single chapter we were already inspired and encouraged by their story:

We were seeking an affirmation,—a way of conducting ourselves, of looking at the world and taking part in its activities that would provide at least a minimum of those values which we considered essential to the good life. As we saw it, such values must include: simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, [and] an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.

…Our second purpose was to make a living under conditions that would preserve and enlarge joy in workmanship, would give a sense of achievement, thereby promoting integrity and self-respect; would assure a large measure of self-sufficiency and thus make it more difficult for civilization to impose restrictive and coercive economic pressures, and make it easier to guarantee the solvency of the enterprise…

…Our third aim was leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one's fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.

Helen & Scott Nearing
Maine Country Mailbox

Almost everything we've read in The Good Life resonates deeply with us, stoking the burning fire of our desire to begin a homestead of our own. We can't wait!

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    Pete and I love the passage from The Good LIfe. Hopefully our days of moving out to our own piece of land are not to far behind you guys. We have to get all this pesky traveling out of the way first ;) When the time comes I know you guys will have it down pat and we will be looking to you for inspiration and advice.
    Posted by Natasha on August 17th, 2011 at 1:39 PM
    Adding it to my list of "must get" books! :)
    Posted by Magalie on August 18th, 2011 at 7:41 AM
    This totally reminded me of "Alone in the Wilderness". Just amazing stuff. Have you guys seen it?

    Posted by Magalie on August 18th, 2011 at 7:51 AM
    Natasha - All that pesky travelin' does get in the way of homesteading just a little bit. But maybe you guys can travel on up our way, camp on our land, and we can hang out and build stuff and grow stuff together! Also, apparently we're really close to the AT... just sayin'.

    Maggie - Thanks for the movie suggestion! No, we haven't seen it, but it looks right up our alley. We're enjoying reading about your Egyptian adventures, and checking out all those gorgeous photos of the blue, blue sea!

    Posted by Tara on August 18th, 2011 at 10:58 AM
    Probably you already know him and his book, but just in case you don`t. This is also a _must_ read for you i think: Wm. S. Coperthwaite, A Handmade Life. And he is also in Maine if i remember it correctly.
    Just found your Website, thanks for the inspiration! Great to see that some people manage to actually _DO_ what they dream.

    Martin from Berlin
    Posted by Martin on August 28th, 2011 at 12:58 PM