October 6, 2015 § 4 Comments


The cows gather beneath the big apple tree down at the far corner of the field. They’d eat themselves sick if I let them, so I run a short line of fence to keep them in check. The apples are amazing this year, which is supposed to mean it will be hard winter, but may just mean that the apples are amazing this year. Part of me hopes for the former; another part would be fine if it were merely the latter. Neither part has much choice in the matter.

The morning fire routine has begun, a small one in the small kitchen stove, just enough to take the chill off, boil water for coffee, cook eggs. Dark outside, hoar frost on the ground. The cows down the field under the apple tree, maybe thinking about the drops on the wrong side of the fence.

Probably thinking about nothing at all.

Go It Alone

September 30, 2015 § 11 Comments

Broom corn before the rain

Broom corn before the rain

The rain began in the evening hours. It was soft and uncertain at first, then gathered in the dark, and by early morning was driving through the opened window just above my head. Small slaps of water woke me from a deep slumber, and for a few minutes I just lay there, feeling the rain against my face, the cats pressed against my leg, the lyrics from Isbell’s song Go It Alone playing over and over in my sleep-softened mind.

Find me a place
With salt on the roads
I’ll do what I’m told, buy what I’m sold again.

Summer is over, the edges of the days coming closer together. The leaves are turning fast now, soon to wither and drop. The roads will be slick with them.


The Smell of the Late Summer Air

September 22, 2015 § 43 Comments


Every morning around 8 or 8:30 you drive past the old farmhouse that sits tight to the road. Sagging porch along the front, cushioned chair, an old chest freezer with two old chainsaws sitting atop it. Old, old, old. Across the road, to your left, a small herd of cows, Jerseys mostly, heads bent to the ground in search of food. It is late in the grazing season, the grass shorn low by all those big cow teeth. On a few of the recent unseasonably warm mornings, you’ve spotted the wife sitting in the cushioned chair, reading. What she’s reading, you’d like to know and you think of stopping to ask, but of course do not.

A few miles down the road, you pass another farm. Again, not prosperous. At this one, the front door is always open. Not usually, not often, not frequently, but always, and you wonder at what point the change of season will compel the closure of the door. There is no screen and you think of the flies. Must be something to behold. Sometimes, you can see a man sitting in a chair just inside the opening. Watching the world go by, you guess. He doesn’t return your wave.

You get an email from a friend, says all the prime farms in his area are being bought up by “the rich kids.” They’re buying into the good life and instagram’ing the shit out of it is how he puts it (he’s always had a way with words. He’s always exaggerated, too). He sends you a link to an account, and you hover over it for just a second, but you don’t take the bait. What’s the point? If you had the money, you would do nothing different. With what money you do have, you’re doing nothing different. Your friend is as jealous as he is disparaging. Maybe he is disparaging because he is jealous.

Besides, you’ve got the image of those chainsaws on that chest freezer. It’s almost too much common sense to reckon with. It’s like an antidote to everything absurd. You’ve got the image of that man in the unscreened opening of his front door, resting after morning chores. You’ve got the narrow ribbon of gravel road before you, the ping of small rocks against the underside of your truck. The smell of the late summer air.

Teen Earthskills Immersion Program

September 16, 2015 § 7 Comments


Teen Earthskills Immersion Program

It is through immersive, hands on, participatory experiences in nature that connections to the wild are made deepest. Rather than making a craft and hanging it on the wall, you use it. Rather than admiring the forest from afar, you are part of it. This is the experience we are creating with this program.

Come join us at Lazy Mill Living Arts for our one weekend-a-month teen program. At each meeting we will learn what it takes to camp out and be comfortable during that part of the year. In December this might be in a wall tent with a wood stove. Our focus will be on the nearest seasonal wild harvest, from acorns to muskrat. In addition to harvesting these foods we will learn how to preserve and cook with them. We will also make tools and crafts useful to living with the land, such as hafting a knife or carving a digging stick. Other skills and activities will include blacksmithing, archery, tracking and games.

The dates for the weekends:

Oct 3 & 4

Nov 7 & 8

Dec 5 & 6

Students arrive each Saturday at 9:30 am and stay until 3 pm Sunday

Please bring lunch for each day. Dinner and breakfast provided. As always, we strive for local and organic foods in all our meals.

Program Cost: $450 for Fall Session (Oct-Dec), $600 for Spring Session (Jan, March, April, May)

Scholarship applications are available

Located in Stannard, VT

Ideal for ages 13-17

We are flexible on age of participants if someone is really excited about taking the course

Please contact us for more information!

A Good One to Keep in Mind

September 13, 2015 § 22 Comments


The mornings are jacket-cool now, the early fog like a layer of smoke in the valley below the pasture, the sickliest of the soft maples already starting their slow turn. Apples falling everywhere. Later, in the afternoon, it is warm-verging-on-hot, and the sky is startlingly, surreally clear in the late summer light, the edges of everything a little sharper than seems normal, the colors a little deeper.

I heard something on the radio news and I thought to comment on it here, but of course I did not, and now I can’t even remember what it was, though I do remember that it made me a just little sad for just a little while, at least until I went into the woods to cut the last of the season’s firewood. Late, I know, so I split it small. It’ll dry, and if it doesn’t, I’ll burn it anyway.

I spent a little time over the past few weeks culling posts from the archives of this site, not so much because I minded having them published, but because it seemed as if it might be a valuable exercise for me to see what felt worthy of keeping. Which, frankly, wasn’t a whole heck of a lot. But then, I think I once estimated that maybe 10% of what I’ve written here was of decent quality, and that’s almost exactly the percentage that made the cut.

The culling process reminded me of a writing truism: There are no good writers, only good rewriters. For those of you inclined to play with the written word, it’s a good one to keep in mind.

I Look Forward to Finding Out

August 20, 2015 § 19 Comments


I was really touched by all the comments relating to my previous post. Thank you for that.

Something will evolve into this space, I am sure, though I’m equally sure that I’m not sure what it will be or when it will happen.

But I look forward to finding out.







Nothing is More Important

August 16, 2015 § 86 Comments


This morning the air feels thick and settled, and when I walked down the field to feed and water the meat birds, I could barely discern the cows through the haze. They rose clumsily upon my arrival, lumbering forms in the half-light, heading for the well-trod path that connects field and barn. They know the routine.

It has been more than five years since I started writing in this space. For at least the last two of those years, I have understood that someday the nature of my work here would change. That day has arrived.

There are many reasons I have decided to stop posting regularly, but chief among them is the sense that, in ways I have yet to fully understand but nonetheless know to be true, it is undermining my sense of personal integrity.

I have long believed that this medium cultivates and even encourages two-dimensional relationships; indeed, I have written of this often. Perhaps it is the very nature of these relationships that foments another of my primary concerns: That my continued presence here is slowly transforming my family’s life and experiences into a product. Our lives and experiences are too sacred to us to risk having them become a lifestyle fit for consumption.

Finally, my relative absence from this space over the past few months has enlightened me to how much healthier it is for me – in mind, body, and spirit – to focus my energy on direct experiences shared with family, friends, community, and the non-human world.

I will continue to publish my work here on occasion. After all, I am a writer (among other things), and one of the things I do appreciate about this medium is its lack of an editorial filter. Here, for better or worse, I can publish writing that would not otherwise find a home. But while this writing will inevitably draw on my real-world experiences (indeed, it can be no other way), it will no longer include the minutia of my family’s lives in either words or images.

This has not been an easy decision, in no small part because I have been the beneficiary of amazing support from so many of you. Thank you for that. For those of you whose support is expressed financially on a monthly basis, please know that I will not be offended in the least if you suspend this support.

Finally, I leave you with one small request. I ask that for every minute you would otherwise pass reading this blog, you spend at least one minute engaging in the real world with your family, friends, and non-human community. For these are the basis of a real and meaningful existence, one that is rooted in genuine shared experiences and the commonality of a particular place.

And in a society that is rapidly succumbing to the false promises of technology, nothing is more important.

  • "Nesting deeply into a farmstead requires skill, patience, and the right mindset. Sharing his insights after nearly two decades of this life, Ben Hewitt's success beckons others to follow. Are you intimidated by a non-corporate farmstead life? The Nourishing Homestead empowers anyone aspiring to such a life: yes, you can." —Joel Salatin, farmer and author
  • "Inspiring and informative. A brilliant union of theory and practice." —Shannon Hayes, The Radical Homemaker
  • "If Walden were a how-to book and updated for the twenty first century, The Nourishing Homestead would be it. Whether you have land or not, are a hardcore homesteader or a suburban gardener, you'll find this book packed with countless how-to gems for personal and family liberty. The practical usefulness of this book is hard to overstate; the Hewitts have written a manual girded by direct experience alone, not ideology--a true rarity." —Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead
  • "In this fine and eloquent and moving book, Ben Hewitt takes a principled stand for the unconventional childhood, for the intellectual and emotional and soulful nurture of nature." -- Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle
  • "Ben walks you along the lanes of his small family farm right into the heart of parenting. He does not judge the new normal of life’s fever pitch pace but fills you with the courage to follow your hopes that may well transform your family" - Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting
  • “This is a beautifully written, honest, introspective, soul-revealing, and soul-stirring account of one family’s choice to live close to nature and to allow their children to learn naturally, without school, in a self-directed manner. The book’s biggest message, I think, is that we do have choices; we can chart our own lives, we don't have to follow the crowd if we don’t want to.”—Peter Gray, Research Professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn: How Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.
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