Scott Nearing’s
“Horse Chow”
(Part 3)

Dateline: 28 March 2008

Scott & Helen building a stone wall.

My last two blog esays have been about Scott and Helen Nearing, their 1954 book, Living The Good Life, and what remarkable people they were. Each of my essay’s has been titled Scott Nearing’s “Horse Chow”. But I have yet to tell you about the “horse chow” which, I hasten to add, is not for horses. In this essay I might actually get to telling you about Scott’s horse chow.

As noted previously, one of the reasons the Nearings left urban life with its many trappings and conveniences was to maintain and improve their health. Scott was 49 years old when they made their break for the Vermont wilderness. Helen was 20 years his junior.

The Nearings saw very clearly that the typical modern lifestyle was inherently unhealthy. For the urbanized masses, work was becoming more sedentary and separated from fresh air and sunshine. Furthermore, the corporate-industrial system was spraying food with synthetic chemicals in the growing, and adulterating the food with chemicals again in the preserving and processing. In their “Good Life” book, the Nearings write:

Among the vested interests that have come to the fore in the modern world there are those who deliberately devitalize, drug, and poison the population for profit. Perhaps it may seem absurd, in this day and age, to write about deliberate poisoning. Most people associate the poisoning of food with family feuds in the Middle Ages, with primitive warfare, or with an occasional bit of spite-work perpetuated in a fit of anger or jealousy. Research shows the words are more applicable today than they were in the days of the Borgias.

Poison, says the dictionary, is “any substance which by reason of an inherent deleterious property tends to destroy life or impair health when taken into the system”. Any food product which tends to destroy life or to impair health therefore may be listed as a poison.

Among the many poisonous foods that are commonly consumed, the Nearings list: white flour, white sugar, polished rice, oleomargarine, canned foods, puddings, cakes, and anything with artificial colors, preservatives, and flavorings. Alcoholic, caffeinated, and carbonated beverages also fall into the poisonous category. Here are a couple more pertinent quotes from the book:

Food processing, poisoning, and drugging is undermining the health of the American people as well as yielding large profits to the individuals and corporations engaged in processing, poisoning, and drugging.
We are equally convinced that the immense sums spent by the food processors, drug manufacturers, and pharmaceutical houses for advertising, propaganda, lobbying, and other types of “public relations” are having a deleterious effect on the well being of the American and other Western peoples.

Helen and Scott wrote those words 56 years ago. They stated that Millions of people in the United States [are] more or less helpless victims of the food industry. It was true then. It is even truer today.

With those things in mind, the Nearings decided they would no longer be victims. They determined to not consume the poisonous food of the industrial providers. They would modify their diet to eat whole, fresh, fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. And, being vegetarians, they never ate “the cooked carcasses of beasts, birds, or fish.”

All of which means that they didn’t eat the overwhelming majority of foods found in any modern supermarket. Such foods were seen as part of the “corporate market economy.” And living the good life was a declaration of separation and independence from such an economy.

Beyond the matter of health, those readymade and poisoned foods were seen as completely superfluous. They quote Mark Twain: Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries. Then the Nearings add their own insight: A market economy seeks to ballyhoo and bamboozle consumers into buying things they neither need nor want.” It was true then. It is even truer now.

All of this leads us to the question: How did they survive without all the “good” modern foods?

Well, they actually managed to survive quite well. Scott lived to be 100 years old, and Helen to 91. Both were healthy and active to the end. It is reported that they did not go to doctors, did not have any sicknesses, and were on no medications.

Helen writes in her final book ("Loving and Leaving The Good Life") that, with age, Scott grew physically weaker. When he could no longer carry in their firewood, he decided it was time to go. He simply stopped eating and starved himself to death, at home, while Helen cared for him through the “final episode.” It was suicide by starvation, which, frankly, I find shocking. Helen died in an auto accident while driving herself to town several years later.

The point is, these two people were remarkably healthy and physically productive, and for far longer than the average modern man or woman. They attributed much of this vitality and longevity to their diet. They attributed it to Scott’s “horse chow” mix.

Oh, but look.... time has run out once again. I’ll have to tell you about Scott Nearing’s Horse Chow in my next essay.

Stay tuned.....

CLICK HERE to read the fourth and final essay in this horse chow series.

CLICK HERE to go back to the first essay in this "Horse Chow" series.


Matthew said...

You just have to leave us hanging, don't you! Horse Chow, but not for horses...hmmm

Now you've really peaked my interest.

Poisonous food--It makes one wonder, if we ate closer to a strictly biblical (old testament?) diet would we, in fact, live longer? Not as long as Adams 930 odd years granted, but perhaps more people would live into their 100's

Well, I can hardly wait to find out what this "horse chow" is now. Please don't leave us wondering for too long :-)


Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Matthew,

An Old Testament diet would not include things like Pepsi, Oreo cookies, Captain Crunch breakfast cereal,Pringles potato chips, Wonder bread and all the rest of the junk (poison) that people in modern nations consume by the hundreds of tons each year.

And if people didn't eat that stuff they would certainly be healthier, and lifespans would naturally be longer.

That's a good observation on your part.

Seems to me that any pre-industrialized diet of whole and fresh foods would be healthier.

I will finally reveal the details about "horse chow" in my next essay.

Really, I will. ;-)

Matthew said...

Hi, Mr. Kimball

The thing (that I started thinking about once I had published the above comment) about a strictly Old Testament diet is all of the "unclean" animals (all that ham and bacon for one) that are permitted in the New Testament. But I agree that it would be vastly better if we went back the the "pre-industrialized" way of doing a lot of things (eating at the very least).

I have been reading in Carla Emmery's Encyclopedia for Country Living, about how herbs (and wheat, I think) start losing their nutrients as soon as they are crushed, ground, or whatever. It's no wonder they have to add nutrients back to flour and stuff--just to make it worthwhile eating (not that it necessarily is).

There is so much that we just don't usually think about--where our food comes from; where the gas came from that we use to run into town; or where we would get clothes from, if we couldn't buy them at a store. I know that we can't expect to be able to do everything for ourselves all at once, but sometimes it seems like that goal is a looong ways off. At least we can try. :-)

The more I think about it, the more I hate being so tied to and trapped in the system. But they're so good at what they do, that even once one realizes that one has been ensnared, it takes a long time to disentangle ones self. I think that one of the biggest steps one can take is finding a community of like minded people and getting acreage among them. It always seems to come back to the land. It (at least to me) seems that the land is one of the most important parts of self-sustainability. Maybe that is why God spent some 400 years preparing the land for his people before He guided them to take it over. I think I've heard it explained that God let the pagan nations live in the land to cultivate it and prepare it for His people, Israel. And when they finally took possession of the land, He only allowed them to do it a little at a time--as they were able to settle, and take dominion over it. A little at a time it's not so overwhelming.

I guess I need to remember what our Sunday School teacher said this morning during our study of Ecclesiastes (3:11a--He has made everything beautiful in his time.) It is in God's time that things look beautiful--not our time. We tend to want everything now, our way. But in His time, even the trials, hardships and times when it is hard to wait, will all work together to become a thing of beauty.

Thank you for being a good example of one who is trying to do his best in the place where God has him. Some days it can be really hard (especially when your day job is so far removed from what you really want to be doing), I know, but on your blog you always seem to have an encouraging and instructive word that brightens my day--thank you.


Herrick Kimball said...

Well thought and said, Matthew.

I thank God for the ability and opportunity to talk about and share the things I do in this blog.

And I sincerely thank YOU for your encouraging and instructive response here.

Teri said...

I'd recommend "Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life" by Jean Hay Bright link

Scott's death doesn't quite go the way that Helen would like you to believe. He was actually failing for some time before he died and she needed help to care for him. The book was written by folks who bought acreage from the Nearings and is an interesting tale of homesteading in its own right.

Dan said...

Well, the picture of the "Horse Chow" is what caught me. Here I am months - almost a year- later finally reading these posts. I've heard of the nearings and seen pics and news of their still-active homestead. You've told me a lot about them that I didn't know, and that probably wouldn't get generally published.

I'm shocked that Scott just 'decided for himself' when it was time to go. What an affront to his Creator. However, as you've mentioned previously, the Nearing's didn't exactly have the same ideas about God that we do. How unfortunate. To think that he believed that his life was not worth continuing because he couldn't carry firewood anymore. Something's not right about that.

They did leave a pretty good model though. Like you said, chew the meat and spit out the bones.

Anonymous said...

My, aren't you self-righteous. Scott was more of a human being that you will ever be.