Homesteading Inspiration Gained From Reading Wendell Berry


Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry

One of my favorite authors of all time is Wendell Berry. Over the years I have received great encouragement and inspiration from this author for many endeavors, particularly when it comes to homesteading and permaculture.

Who Is Wendell Berry?

Wendell Berry was born on August 5, 1934 in New Castle Kentucky. His father was a lawyer and a tobacco farmer. Berry grew up on the farm and later attended the University of Kentucky and then Stanford University. He married Tanya Amyx in 1957 they had two children and in 1965 they purchased a farm called Lane’s Landing in Henry County Kentucky where they have lived ever since.

Wendell Berry the Farmer. I think this is one of the things I admire most about him. Despite all his fame and success as a writer, he still loved to farm and seen it as an important part of his life and important for the world.

Berry recognized that the agrarian lifestyle had many benefits. He wanted to raise a family this way, he wanted to serve his community in this way, and he saw it as a way to stand up for the things he believed in.

Wendell Berry the Story Teller. I think most people recognize Berry as a novelist and short-story writer before they see him as an essayist and poet. His 8 novels and 51 short stories have had a huge impact on many readers, usually sparking a feeling of nostalgia and a longing to be a part of the idealistic societies he often writes about.

Wendell Berry the Poet. Berry’s poems have the ability to take you somewhere else, to transport you to the place, time, or thought he is writing about. His poems are not frivolous drivel but instead thought-transforming statements in artistic form. These poems can give you hope, inspiration, and even the courage to dream and act upon those dreams.

Wendell Berry the Activist. Although his stories and poems convey his beliefs and worldviews, his essays are his clearest works of activism to try and bring about social change. Berry’s visions of idealism aren’t just his private thoughts but instead, a vision of hope for the future that he believes in and works toward. His essays are thought-provoking works and although I personally don’t always agree with him entirely, I greatly respect his views.

Wendell Berry: Life and Work (Culture Of The Land)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 07/02/2010 (Publication Date) - University Press of Kentucky (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-08-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Just A Couple Of My Favorite Quotes From Wendell Berry and What They Have Meant To Me

I will share only 3 quotes from Wendell Berry that have sparked a lot of inspiration for the life I am pursuing, but not because I couldn’t have listed many more, but because I don’t want to rob you of the experience of being inspired first hand through his writing.

These are 3 popular quotes but my thoughts about them are unique as I’m sure your’s would be as well because the impact will be different depending on your own life experiences and vision for your future.


No Better Form of Personal Involvement

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”

Wendell Berry, “The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry”

Can growing an organic garden really have an impact on the “cure of the environment?”

When you first read this statement from Wendell Berry you may have doubts that a person growing a garden can really do what he claims it can do but let’s take a look at the difference it actually makes.

For every one person growing a garden, as far as I can tell, makes an environmental difference in at least 5 ways.

  • When you grow an organic garden it becomes one less piece of the world that is not getting harmful chemicals sprayed on it. This not only has an impact on the land you are growing on but the air that moves off of your property into other parts of the world and the water runoff that eventually makes its way to the creeks and rivers.
  • When you grow your own food organically it is that much less food that is being purchased that has been grown that way eventually having an impact on just how much is grown that way, ultimately over time reducing that amount and hence reducing the amount of chemicals being sprayed.
  • Fewer purchases at the grocery store means less transportation impact. Because food is being consumed locally a truck didn’t have to bring it across the Country and burn fuel.
  • When you grow organically it has a positive impact on pollinators which in return have a greater impact on nature as a whole eventually having a positive impact on the environment as a whole. The more pollination going on means more plants, more trees, more food for creatures including us.
  • Gardening is contagious! When you grow an organic garden you can’t help but develop a passion for it and with passion comes a proclamation, a declaration, a sermon if you will of spreading the good news of organic gardening. This leads to converts who in return grow their organic gardens and preach the same good news. One garden leads to many gardens, leading to a greater impact in the world.

Check out my article: 10 Reasons To Start Homesteading Now, Right Where You Are for more on this topic.

With that I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Mr. Berry in that as “Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.”

The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
  • Shoemaker Hoard
  • Berry, Wendell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 08/05/2003 (Publication Date) - Counterpoint (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-08-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Stay Brave Enough To Keep Going In

Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.

This is from the 3rd stanza of “The Country Of Marriage” a poem by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry wrote this poem about marriage but I believe this stanza of the poem has implications for all areas of life, not just marriage.

In the image that Mr. Berry gives us, we can imagine walking through a forest in which the canopy is thick and blocking out much of the sunlight, and as we walk into this unknown and dark place we are faced with different emotions.

At first, we may face fear and perhaps anxiety about the unknown, the darkness, the lack of clarity of what is further in, past where we can see. However, the thing that causes us to persevere, to pursue, to keep going is in Berry’s words the “graceful clearing” and “its ways to be made anew day after day, the dark richer than the light and more blessed.”

He points out that the clearly lit openings certainly have their joys and pleasures but just as attractive is the unknown, the darkness, the adventure of a new day in which anything can happen if only in Berry’s words “we stay brave enough to keep on going in.”

To view this in the perspective of the homesteading life, I would say that to persevere in a lifestyle that makes you happy, that provides you with the necessities of life but is also filled with things anew and many unknowns day by day is truly a grand adventure and a blessed life. It is a lifestyle that can fulfill a deep desire and give a grand satisfaction to the soul “if only we are brave enough to keep going in.”

So find joy in both the known (the graceful clearing within the forest) and the dark unknown mysteries of what lies ahead, for both have something to offer us in this life.

A Country of Marriage: Poems
  • Berry, Wendell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 03/26/2013 (Publication Date) - Counterpoint (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-08-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

When I read this poem from Wendell Berry my thoughts immediately go to how many people and even myself at times dwell on the possible problems of the future. Pollution, economic turmoil, degradation of morals and ethics among people, all the possibilities of all the things that can turn bad.

This poem, however, doesn’t leave us with those thoughts, it reminds us that nature goes on about its business and when we spend time there seeing this we can be restored with a hope of better days and be filled with a desire to see it come to be with action.

What we do today and tomorrow matters! It’s easy to have a grim look at the future and give up and do nothing but better is the life that pushes on, sees the possibilities of a better world for our children and grandchildren, and does everything we can to make it a reality.

Be restored and rejuvenated as you come into “The Peace of The Wild Things” that’s what this poem says to me.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
  • Counterpoint LLC
  • Berry, Wendell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 10/01/1999 (Publication Date) - Counterpoint (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-08-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Pick up a couple of books by Wendell Berry, if you don’t enjoy the essays so much then try his poems, if the poems don’t do it for you then experience his stories as many have and have been changed by them. I’m sure his books will be a treasure on your bookshelf that you will come back to time and time again when you need a little encouragement and inspiration.

Harold Thornbro

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Public Speaker, Teacher, Homesteading and Permaculture Enthusiast. If You're Looking For Me, You'll Find Me In The Garden.

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