Helen and Scott Nearing

“Each moment, hour, day, week, and year should be treated as an occasion—another opportunity to live as well as possible. . . With body in health, emotions in balance, mind in tune and vision fixed on a better life and a better world, life, individually and collectively, is already better.” 
Helen and Scott Nearing, Living the Good Life


Helen and Scott were devoted to a lifestyle giving importance to work, on the one hand, and contemplation or play, on the other. Ideally, they aimed at a norm that would divide most of a day's waking hours into three blocks of four hours: "bread labor" (work directed toward meeting requirements of food, shelter, clothing, needed tools, and such); civic work (doing something of value for their community); and professional pursuits or recreation (for Scott this was frequently economics research, for Helen it was often music - but they both liked to ski, also). They clearly honored manual work, and viewed it as one aspect of the self-development process that they felt life should be.

The Nearings were experimenters and were also very widely read. They frequently quoted authors of centuries past in their own books. They found wisdom in some of the attitudes of the past, but did not feel tied to the life patterns or technologies of the past. Apart from the necessity that drove them to the land, when they sought a good life during the Depression, keys to their success in the lifestyle included intelligence, commitment, and self-discipline.

Their New England climate sometimes provided as few as 100 frost-free days in a year. For people aiming at self-reliance, this was a big problem. About their subsistence crop raising, they wrote: “Our initial gardening experiences in Vermont... were conventional. We did as the neighboring natives did, planted what they did and when they did. Then we started to branch out.” [Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse, p.4] They began to experiment first with cold-frames and later with greenhouse culture; those years being distinctly different from the present time, there was virtually no personal experience with greenhouses in their area and little accessible literature on the subject.

Scott Nearing -International Vegetarian Union