The Nourishing Homestead

Review by Kristina Sepetys

As springs bursts out all over, thoughts turn to gardens, new baby chicks, the delights of young spring produce, and hand-crafting specialty foods. Some may wonder how to dig more deeply into these pursuits to honor the seasons, and to live and eat closer to the earth and in community. A new book by Ben and Penny Hewitt describes the resourceful, interdependent life they’ve built on their small farm in northern Vermont, shares lessons learned, and encourages others to find balance and joy in their work and lives.

The Nourishing Homestead:
One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Souls and Spirit

by Ben and Penny Hewitt
(Chelsea Green, 2015)

Writer Ben Hewitt was raised in northern Vermont in a two-room cabin on a 160-acre homestead in Cabot, a dairy farming part of the state. He eventually bought 40 acres of his own with his wife, Penny, not far from where he grew up. They built their own house, powered with a windmill and solar photovoltaic panels, and carved out a small-scale hill farm. They homeschool their sons, keep cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, and maintain extensive gardens. They also keep a small orchard with nut and fruit trees, forage for wild edibles, and make the most of their harvest by processing meat, making butter, and fermenting, drying, and canning produce.

The Hewitts share the fruits of their traditional labors by preparing nutrient-dense foods for themselves and their immediate community, practicing techniques like raw-milk production, soil remediation, wild crafting, bionutrient-dense farming, permaculture, and agroforestry. They look for ways to maximize resources and avoid waste in just about everything they do, which results in some fun and creative activities, like making their own rawhide huaraches with buckskin ties, cooking up some satisfying roadkill, and frying up kefir fermented doughnuts in lard (recipe included).

The Nourishing Homestead offers an engaging combination of personal narrative, how-to instruction, and illustrative photographs to encourage others to build satisfying, permanent, and nourishing relationships with the land, nature, and one another. Although their experience and knowledge is deeply informed by their life on their particular piece of land in bucolic northern Vermont, they offer practical ways to grow nutrient-dense food on even a very small plot of land in any location, and to think about it as part of ecosystem. More than just eating nutrient-dense food, this book is a primer for living a nutrient-dense life.