Pete Seeger’s Guide to Surviving the Recession

Professional spartan Pete Seeger lives an unencumbered life with wife Toshi in a house on seventeen acres in Beacon, New York (bought for $1,700 in 1949). As a veteran of the Great Depression, he knows how to live within any means. Seeger spoke with Steven Kurutz.

Photo: Bennett Raglin/Wire Image

Marry a Bohemian
“My wife is truly one of the more extraordinary people I’ve met,” says Seeger. “Her father was an artist in Woodstock. Her mother was a World War I hippie—they called them bohemians. Toshi had to scrap to stay alive, so she was used to skimping. When I was on tour, she’d get a pail of water out of the brook with one kid on her hip and the other nipping at her skirt.”

Nothing Is Garbage
Back in 1949, “the streets between 14th and 23rd on the West Side were known as the Importing District; there were wooden boxes left on the sidewalk. I was singing in a nightclub with the Weavers, driving a Jeep, and on the way home I’d look for scrap wood. For a while, our ceiling read, ‘Made in Occupied Japan,’ ” says Seeger of the log cabin he built.

Photo: New York Magazine

One Is Enough
He owns one banjo, drives a used, electric-powered truck (bought from Electric Vehicles of America twelve years ago), powers his house and truck with solar collectors, and chops his own firewood: “It’s one reason I’m alive that I still like to split wood. That’s my idea of a pleasant half-hour.”

Grow Your Own
“My father-in-law put in a vegetable garden and sometimes I help. I collect maple syrup, too. I wrote one of my better songs about it, ‘Maple Syrup Time.’ [Sings] ‘First we get the buckets ready / Clean the pans and gather firewood / Late in the winter / It’s maple-syrup time.’ We eat it and we give it away to friends.’ ”

Indulge in the Occasional Rich-Guy Perk
“When I became successful my wife put the money in a bank account for our grandchildren’s education. Then I stole about $140,000 because I felt we should have a sailboat. We take the children out sailing on the Hudson now for free.”

Pete Seeger’s Guide to Surviving the Recession