This Organic Life
By Joan Dye Gussow
Joan Dye Gussow is an extraordinarily ordinary woman. She lives in a home not unlike the average home in a neighborhood that is, more or less, typically suburban. What sets her apart from the rest of us is that she thinks more deeply--and in more eloquent detail--about food. In sharing her ponderings, she sets a delightful example for those of us who seek the healthiest, most pleasurable lifestyle within an environment determined to propel us in the opposite direction. Joan is a suburbanite with a green thumb, with a feisty, defiant spirit and a relentlessly positive outlook.
At the heart of This Organic Life is the premise that locally grown food eaten in season makes sense economically, ecologically, and gastronomically. Transporting produce to New York from California--not to mention Central and South America, Australia, or Europe--consumes more energy in transit than it yields in calories. (It costs 435 fossil fuel calories to fly a 5-calorie strawberry from California to New York.) Add in the deleterious effects of agribusiness, such as the endless cycle of pesticide, herbicide, and chemical fertilizers; the loss of topsoil from erosion of over-tilled croplands; depleted aquifers and soil salinization from over-irrigation; and the arguments in favor of "this organic life" become overwhelmingly convincing.
Joan's story is funny and fiery as she points out the absurdities we have unthinkingly come to accept. You won't find an electric can opener in this woman's house. In fact, you probably won't find many cans, as Joan has discovered ways to nourish herself, literally and spiritually, from her own backyard. If you are looking for a tale of courage and independence in a setting that is entirely familiar, read her story.
Available in: Paperback, eBook
The Making of a Radical
By Scott Nearing
Scott Nearing lived one hundred years, from 1883 to 1983--a life spanning most of the twentieth century. In his early years, Nearing made his name as a formidable opponent of child labor and military imperialism. Having been fired from university jobs for his independence of mind, Nearing became a freelance lecturer and writer, traveling widely through Depression-era and post-war America to speak with eager audiences. Five-time Socialist candidate for president Eugene V. Debs said, "Scott Nearing! He is the greatest teacher in the United States."
Concluding that it would be better to be poor in the country than in New York City, Scott and Helen Nearing moved north to Vermont in 1932 and commenced the experiment in self-reliant living that would extend their fame far and wide. They began to grow most of their own food, and devised their famous scheme for allocating the day's hours: one third for "bread work" (livelihood), one third for "head work" (intellectual endeavors), and one third for "service to the world community." Scott (who'd grown up partly on his grandfather's Pennsylvania farm) taught Helen (who was raised in suburbia, groomed for a career as a classical violinist) the practical skills they would need: working with tools, cultivating a garden and managing a woodlot, and building stone and masonry walls.
For the rest of their lives, the Nearings chronicled in detail their "good life," first in Vermont and ultimately on the coast of Maine, in a group of wonderful books--many of which are now being returned to print by Chelsea Green in cooperation with the Good Life Center, an educational trust established at the Nearings' Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine, to promote their ongoing legacy.
With a new foreword by activist historian Staughton Lynd, The Making of a Radical is freshly republished-Scott Nearing's own story, told as only he could tell it.
Available in: eBook
The Contrary Farmer
By Gene Logsdon
Gene Logsdon has become something of a rabble-rouser in progressive farm circles, stirring up debates and controversies with his popular New Farm Magazine column, The Contrary Farmer. One of Logsdon's principle contrarieties is the opinion that--popular images of the vanishing American farmer, notwithstanding--greater numbers of people in the U.S. will soon be growing and raising a greater share of their own food than at any time since the last century. Instead of vanishing, more and more farmers will be cottage farming, part-time.
This detailed and personal account of how Logsdon's family uses the art and science of agriculture to achieve a reasonably happy and ecologically sane way of life in an example for all who seek a sustainable lifestyle. In The Contrary Farmer, Logsdon offers the tried-and-true, practical advice of a manual for the cottage farmer, as well as the subtler delights of a meditation in praise of work and pleasure. The Contrary Farmer will give its readers tools and tenets, but also hilarious commentaries and beautiful evocations of the Ohio countryside that Logsdon knows as his place in the universe.
Available in: Paperback
Loving and Leaving the Good Life
By Helen Nearing
Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life and many other bestselling books, lived together for 53 years until Scott's death at age 100. Loving and Leaving the Good Life is Helen's testimonial to their life together and to what they stood for: self-sufficiency, generosity, social justice, and peace.
In 1932, after deciding it would be better to be poor in the country than in the city, Helen and Scott moved from New York Ciy to Vermont. Here they created their legendary homestead which they described in Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World, a book that has sold 250,000 copies and inspired thousands of young people to move back to the land.
The Nearings moved to Maine in 1953, where they continued their hard physical work as homesteaders and their intense intellectual work promoting social justice. Thirty years later, as Scott approached his 100th birthday, he decided it was time to prepare for his death. He stopped eating, and six weeks later Helen held him and said goodbye.
Loving and Leaving the Good Life is a vivid self-portrait of an independent, committed and gifted woman. It is also an eloquent statement of what it means to grow old and to face death quietly, peacefully, and in control. At 88, Helen seems content to be nearing the end of her good life. As she puts it, "To have partaken of and to have given love is the greatest of life's rewards. There seems never an end to the loving that goes on forever and ever. Loving and leaving are part of living."
Helen's death in 1995 at the age of 92 marks the end of an era. Yet as Helen writes in her remarkable memoir, "When one door closes, another opens." As we search for a new understanding of the relationships between death and life, this book provides profound insights into the question of how we age and die.