At Home in Nature: Modern Homesteading and Spiritual by Rebecca Kneale Gould

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By Rebecca Kneale Gould

Stimulated variously via the need to reject consumerism, to stay toward the earth, to embody voluntary simplicity, or to find a extra non secular course, homesteaders have made the unconventional determination to move "back to the land," rejecting smooth tradition and facilities to reside self-sufficiently and in concord with nature. Drawing from brilliant firsthand debts in addition to from wealthy old fabric, this gracefully written examine of homesteading in the US from the past due 19th century to the current examines the lives and ideology of these who've ascribed to the homesteading philosophy, putting their studies in the broader context of the altering meanings of nature and faith in glossy American culture.

Rebecca Kneale Gould investigates the lives of recognized figures equivalent to Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Ralph Borsodi, Wendell Berry, and Helen and Scott Nearing, and she or he provides penetrating interviews with many modern homesteaders. She additionally considers homesteading as a kind of dissent from client tradition, as a departure from conventional spiritual existence, and as a tradition of environmental ethics.

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Indeed, this nineteenth-century legislation, promising 160 acres in exchange for five years of dwelling on the land, was primarily an expression of the dominant American ethos: railroad-produced expansionism, early industrialism, and manifest destiny. Today’s homesteaders, although they often are seeking inexpensive land and the same skills and fortitude as earlier pioneers, might see the Homestead Act as an ironic and troubling prelude to their own struggles against industrialism, consumerism, and corporate greed.

Strains of spiritual perfectionism and exceptionalism are not hard to find in many testaments of homestead living. Here again we find that familiar and persistent themes in American religious life may go underground, but they do not go away. In analyzing homesteaders’ life choices—particularly the choices to farm, write, and urge others back to nature—I am also investigating the evolving cultural conditions that have influenced these choices and to which the new lives of farming and writing are intended to be a response.

13 While Arnold Greenberg has found the “café-homestead” as one way to work from a home base while nurturing a broader community, he now feels it is time to turn this successful venture over to new hands. He is retiring from his current labors to pursue new versions of the homesteading school he ran in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While the café may have been a kind of a homestead, Arnold feels he must get back to teaching young people the practical and social skills necessary for the new millennium.

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