My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vacation: Good Life Center, Four Seasons Farm

Vacation Day #5 continued...

After our picnic at Woodlawn Museum near Ellsworth, we drove over hill and dale, through farmland and woods and little villages... on and on we drove, seemingly forever out into the beautiful middle of nowhere called Harborside, which looks like this (because it is this!)...

Harborside is a village on the southwest side of the Blue Hill peninsula, sitting prettily along the eastern shores of Penobscot Bay. We never saw the village itself, but that may be because we were following a set of twisty-turny directions to our actual destination, The Good Life Center at Forest Farm.

Forest Farm, built in 1952, was the final homestead of
Scott and Helen Nearing - authors, speakers and proponents of "the good life"... one of self-sufficiency, simplicity, frugality, productivity, creativity, community involvement, and kindness to all fellow creatures and the natural world. They believed in living intentionally, allowing your principals to guide your choices, and in balancing hard physical work, mental and creative pursuits, and leisure. They were a fascinating pair who lived long, productive and interesting lives (Scott, feeling he'd lived long enough, stopped eating and died at age 100 in 1993, Helen in a car accident at 91 two years later). You can read much more about them, their lifestyle, philosophy and teachings, and about The Good Life Center, in the excellent article, Nearing Enough, or in their many writings. And maybe a little bit through this post, as I've interspersed some of their quotes among the photos, along with links to a few of their books...

Rebecca, one of the GLC's two full-time caretakers.

Forest Farm's house, outbuildings and garden walls were all built by the Nearings with rocks from the beach and timber from their land. They had grid electricity and running water, but used composting toilets and heated the house with nothing but a central wood stove. The house's solar panels were added in 2005, making The Good Life Center completely off-grid.

"We sought to make a depression-free living,
as independent as possible
of the commodity and labor markets...
We sought a simple basis of well-being
where contact with the earth, & home-grown organic food,
would play a large part...
We decided to liberate & dissociate, as much as possible,
from the cruder forms of exploitation,
the plunder of the planet; the slavery of man and beast;
the slaughter of men in war, and of animals for food."
~Scott & Helen Nearing, Living the Good Life

The Nearings were voracious readers and prolific writers, publishing many books and articles. This is just a fraction of their personal collection of books...

"I came with an assignment;
to seek out the truth, to teach the truth,
to help weave justice and mercy
into the fabric of human society..."
~Scott Nearing, The Last Term of my Education

The lovely view of Spirit Cove from the living room window

"Do the best that you can in the place that you are,
and be kind."
~Scott Nearing

They had a lot of neat stuff hanging on the walls, including some of Scott's old worn work gloves, old violins (Helen was a trained violinist), photographs, Scott's "Wanted" Poster, and various awards & certificates, of which this was my favorite...

Recognizing that all forms of life are worthy of respect,
I disturb the life process as little as I can...
~Scott Nearing, The Making of a Radical

Kevin, the other caretaker/gardener and our fun tour guide!

The Nearings spent many years building the soil with veganic (vegan organic) compost and grew most of their food. They also supplemented their income here by harvesting and selling blueberries. The gardens are still veganic and provide for gardening workshops, while the produce is donated to needy families, soup kitchens and other charities.

Helen built the stone walls enclosing the 50'x50' garden. This is just a small segment of it, still early in the season...

The food I prepare & serve is meant to build healthy bodies,
not to cater to corrupted taste buds
that urge one to eat unhealthy things
long after the claims of hunger have been satisfied.
Enough is as good as a feast: better, in fact,
because if you don't overeat, you don't get sick or fat.

Not far from the garden was their very cool yurt, built for them by a friend...

We took a photo of the inside but this post already has photo-overload! (Besides, it looks from the inside like what you probably imagine it does from seeing the outside!) What I neglected to photograph was the little yurt outhouse nearby! :-)

Back in the garden, some pretty potato blossoms...

Check out these dazzling radishes Kevin picked for us! We snacked on some right there (you can see the one in BW's left hand with a bite out of it!) ;-) and ate the rest in salads during our week in Searsport...

The good life is never stable, never secure, never easy
and never ended. It is a series of steps or stages,
one leading into the other and all, in their outcome,
adding, not subtracting; augmenting, not diminishing;
building, not destroying; creating, not annihilating.
~Scott & Helen Nearing, 1965

We weren't nearly done visiting gardens, for the Nearings' nearby neighbors (whose land used to be part of the Nearings' homestead) are gardening authors Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch and their Four Seasons Farm...

Just a few of their greenhouses and fields

There wasn't much produce available for sale yet, but we supplemented our free veganic radishes with a couple of organic hothouse tomatoes from the Four Seasons produce stand, whose pretty landscaping made for a nice BW photo backdrop...

I loved the license plate on their truck...

(Though I have to confess that this particular Maine car tag design - one of several - had confused me at first. From afar and as a blur on moving vehicles, it looked to me like an Arizona plate, showing an AZ sunset background with two saguaro cacti (who turned out to be the man and little girl) silhouetted against it! I kept wondering why so many Arizonans had driven to Maine! Ha, I'm such a dilbert!) :-)

Coming up next: a wee break from vacation posts as I share some hay-hauling photos, then on to Searsport, Belfast, Camden and Rockport for the 4th of July and various adventures in hiking, sailing, eating and more! :-)


  1. The garden looks amazing and I love that yurt! It looks like they had their own paradise there. I would love to live off the grid!

    I can totally see how the license plate threw you off. It does look very much like Arizona's!

  2. Gorgeous Harborside! Looks like paradise.

    The Nearings are such an inspiration. It must have been so wonderful to visit their home site and see the legacy of their work...those gardens look amazing, and the commited volunteers are living proof that what they stood for and accomplished in their lifetime was truly profound and long lasting.

    I hope their world view and philosophy becomes the norm rather than the exception in years to come.

    I have one of Eliot Coleman's books; I'll be referring to it with renewed interest now.

    Maine may not be your stereotypical, status quo holiday destination (in the vein of Florida, Hawaii, and so on...I'm sure those places are fantastic too) but it certainly is a wonderful place with many charms and interests...I would love to go to Maine!

  3. Molly - That garden IS amazing! I'd love to see it at its height (and get a bushel of tomatoes and kale at the very least!) :-) I love the yurt too! The entire place was peaceful and beautiful... you'd really enjoy it. I think it's great the place is off-grid now, and wish we were too! :-)

    Thanks for backing me up on the AZ license plate! LOL

    Rose - Visiting The Good Life Center was one of the things I most looked forward to, and it definitely didn't disappoint! It seemed strange not to see Scott and Helen working in the garden or chopping wood or turning compost or something! Their spirit and legacy are still present and going strong, though, and I can't even imagine how many people they've influenced and inspired over the years, and will continue to. I share your hope that their worldview will become the norm one day.

    Which of Eliot's books do you have?

    I hope you get to visit Maine one day soon! If we both play our cards right, you'll even have a nice vegan cottage (but which one? lol) in which to stay, and friends to take you places! ;-) Wouldn't we have fun??

  4. I have the 4 Season Harvest, one of many gardening books that I really need to read more of...hopefully, I'll have more time for that sort of thing soon.

    That vegan cottage sounds wonderful and yes, I think we would have fun.

  5. I'm sure this must have been a highlight of your trip (at least the inspirational highlight). This is one place I'd like to talk about more in a phone call where I can ask so many more questions.
    Your opening photo is so pretty it could be a post card! I know you said you had a lot of photos but you needed to! There was so much to see. The Yurt is fascinating. What do you do in a Yurt? Is it a home?

  6. Rose - I'm pretty sure that's the book of his I urged Robyn to buy when she bought her greenhouse last year (and she did - I'm very good at spending other people's money, lol) - but I'm not sure she's had time to read it yet either!

    AdventureJo - You are right, it was one of many highlights, but definitely the inspirational (and educational) highlight of our trip! I'd love to answer your questions about it on the phone! It's another place I think you would have really enjoyed visiting too.

    I agree, that perfect view of the sailboat on the bay does look like a postcard! And thanks for helping to justify my abundance of photos! :-) Choosing which ones to post hasn't been easy!!

    I love your question about the yurt, because it gives me a chance to share some fun links with you! :-) Yurts are the traditional homes of the nomadic people of the Asian steppes, warm and portable, much like teepees. You can read about them here, or see some great photos of traditional Mongolian yurts (also called gers) here. Yurts can be used for anything... homes, lodging, meetings, retreats, etc. They can be big or small, permanent (made of wood) or portable (usually made of canvas in the US, with wood lattice walls), rustic or fully equipped with plumbing and electricity. There are several yurt manufacturers/builders in the US, from the Pacific NW to Maine. Here's a page from Pacific Yurts' web site, How Are Yurts Used?. They also have a great photo gallery, where you can see the inside and outside of all kinds of yurts!

    Did you know that UNH has a yurt? I was only there once - went with Inez and our friend Lynne, who used to spend the night there a lot. It was fairly small and very rustic. Now UNH has two more yurts, including this this big fancy one!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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