Mother Earth Living

Living the Simple Life in Vermont’s Green Mountains

Greg Joly and Mary Diaz try their hand at a Thoreau inspired homestead.
By Joyanna Laughlin
March/April 2004
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In 1994, Greg Joly and Mary Diaz bought twenty acres of heavily wooded land in Vermont’s Green Mountains and began to fulfill their dream of homesteading.
Photo By Sandy MacKinnon

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Guiding Ideals: “Thoreau and the early homesteaders felt that simple living was a way to get to the higher principles they believed in.”  —Greg Joly

A twenty-first century couple follows in Thoreau’s footsteps.

Staking the claim

In 1994, Greg Joly and Mary Diaz bought twenty acres of heavily wooded land in Vermont’s Green Mountains and began to fulfill their dream of homesteading.

Built by hand

The family’s 1,200-square-foot, two-story log home is a manual labor of love. Using fieldstone from their property, Joly laid the foundation in 1995. The next summer, he framed the house with logs he harvested on his land and hand-milled onsite. Friends and neighbors helped raise the frame.

Off the grid 

A pair of seventy-five-watt photovoltaic panels and three deep-cycle batteries run the lights, a radio, and a laptop computer. A generator-powered well provides running water, which is heated by firewood.

Modern realities

Henry David Thoreau’s writings and handcrafted cabin at Walden Woods inspired the American homesteading movement. To succeed now, however, Diaz teaches special education to provide the couple with an income and health insurance.

Words of wisdom

“Learn to work with the materials you have, think hard about what you can and can’t live without, buy the best tools you can afford, and learn how to take care of the outhouse,” says Joly.

No man is an island

Living in the woods pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist isn’t good for you or the world, Joly and Diaz say. Foster community wherever you live.

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