A Simple Life at a Farm in Maine

Inspired by legendary back-to-the-landers Scott and Helen Nearing, Kate NaDeau lives simply and seasonally in a handbuilt stone house on a twenty-six-acre Maine hillside.

| May/June 2001

  • Kate designed organically shaped beds that undulate through the terraced hillside, planted with evergreens, shrubs, and perennials. She built up the thin soil by growing cover crops such as buckwheat and winter rye, then tilling them into the soil as green manure.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • The stone walls extend six feet high, and the second story was constructed from fir two-by-fours. Kate made the signs declaring the property’s name, Stone Soup Farm. “Because we didn’t have a big construction and building budget, we made a lot of choices that had to do with what we had at the time,” Kate explains. “It was a lot like that great old folk story: a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but making it all out of stone.”
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • Kate gathers statice and winged everlasting for making dried bouquets and wreaths, a fall and winter activity.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • An echinacea fan, Kate leaves the heads on the coneflowers bordering her expansive southern deck so that they attract birds all winter long. The birds also help strew seeds that pop up come spring. During the summer she leaves flavored vinegars—here, opal basil gives the jars a deep red glow—on the big southern-facing deck to steep in the sun for a few weeks.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • Kate bought the Amity woodstove (the company’s now out of business) in the early 1980s, when high oil prices were forcing many people to seek out heating alternatives. “I love the aesthetics of it, the pattern on the front,” she says. The chimneys from the woodstove and the kitchen cookstove are encased in a massive interior stone wall; the radiant heat from the wall warms the upstairs room as well. In winter, the sun reaches almost to the back northern wall; Kate uses only four cords of wood each year to keep the home toasty.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • A yard sale find, this chair is another example of an item that Kate loves for its “patina.”
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • A brick floor in the dining area absorbs passive solar gain. Kate’s greenhouse is through the wood door.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • A window from an old California bungalow made its way to Kate’s kitchen door in Maine to remind her of her roots. Kate chose open shelving in her kitchen as a nod to old farmhouses. “I love to get access and see things—jars, dishes,” she says. “That harkens back to the farm mentality and peasant living; you have what you have, and it’s there.”
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • Kate’s collection of vintage tools, appliances, and other decor are all items that help create a wabi-sabi environment (see page 48) in her home. Kate uses the woodstove for baking, but in summer it doubles as counter space for her many garden-related projects.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates
  • Kate loves to eat breakfast and watch the sun rise from the porch on the home’s east side. She often spends summer afternoons bundling herbs on the porch swing.
    Photography By Carolyn Bates

When Kate NaDeau’s former husband, Phil, suggested they leave Northern California for Maine, she had a typical West Coast reaction. “Maine!? That’s the North Pole. I couldn’t live there!’” she laughs. But Kate, Phil, and their eleven-year-old son, Justin, craved a simple farming life, and they couldn’t afford the kind of acreage they wanted in the already-escalating California market. In his campaign to move his family east, Phil introduced Kate to Scott and Helen Nearing, pioneers of the back-to-the-land movement. As Kate read the Nearings’s simple living manuals, “I was totally blown away not only by the integrity the Nearings brought to the garden, but the fact that they could garden that much in Maine,” she says.

So Kate’s family traveled to Maine’s central coast in early December, a time when Kate figured she could taste the worst of what the region might offer. “It was raw and open and stark,” she recalls. And in Monroe, Maine, the family found its paradise: twenty-six acres on a south-facing slope bordering a stream.

STONE SOUP FARM, 156 Red Barn Road in Monroe, Maine, is open to the public daily, May 1 to August 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call (207) 525-4463.

“I live a strongly seasonal lifestyle,” says Kate, “The weather is ever changing, and farm-related activities are so different.”

Hand-Built Home

Kate and Phil had been especially taken with their property’s southern exposure because they wanted to build a passive solar home. Influenced by the Nearings, they planned to build a stone house using a slip-form method of construction and, influenced by their time on the West Coast, to incorporate elements of Japanese architecture. “I wanted to build a building that was connected to the land and fit in with what was already there,” Kate says.

So they designed a simple home, bermed into the hillside to the north and open to the south, that meanders down the hill to the west. “The idea was to weave together beauty and utility,” Kate explains. “Passive solar is so wonderful— working with the climate instead of trying to fight it—bringing in some kind of harmony, working with the elements.”

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