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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recommended Reading for Homesteaders

The other day, my buddy, Marianne Arkins wrote a post on how her parents went back to the land in the mid 70s. (I told you it was a big deal back then. LOL)

I don't know what pushed us over the edge to do the same. Perhaps it was because we were young and idealistic. We liked working with our hands and building something out of nothing.

The first time I realized that living off the grid was possible was when I went on a field trip to an Amish community. I was hooked and I tried to learn all I could about simpler living.

At the time, the only way to get information about country living was from Mother Earth News or a very good neighbor. Since we lived in a small city, we started with Mother. The good neighbors came later.

Mother Earth News is still alive and well, but it's not the magazine it used to be. It's geared more for nice suburbanites than back-to-the-landers. For the BEST info, scour garage sales for the early years of Mother. I think we still have every issue from the 70s and 80s.

Countryside Magazine is also a very good instruction manual. Ironically, I'm told that's how my sister-in-law found out I was a writer. She found the magazine at her hairdresser's. This particular issue shown here is my first foray into freelance writing. (No, that is not me on the cover!)

Country living books:

I've mentioned before that I really liked A Little Land - A Lot Of Living. It was written during the 40s and much of the advice still holds true today.

But when I got serious about living simply, I turned to Carla Emery's, The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book. This book CHANGED my life. It took me from the realm of the wanna-be homesteader to someone who took risks and experimented freely.

You can see by the tattered and worn cover that this book was read often--and loved. Emery had a cozy, conversational style that made her easy to read.

This edition is from 1977. But during my garage sale forays I actually found an original mimeographed edition (circa 1974) that was mailed out in sections to subscribers. Someone had painstakingly collated the sections together and placed them in one binder for reference.

It is a privilege to see someone before the age of the internet pull something like this together.

I had heard when Emery was alive that she was hunting for all these original copies and trading people a brand new copy of her book for the mimeographed ones.

It was my bible for many years and I still take it out from time to time to read her journal on how she managed with seven kids and a lot of faith.

Having the experience of old timers is gold, but if you can't find that, I can recommend any of these books or magazines.

If you're interested in homesteading or simpler living, the world is full of information now. There's little Google can't find for you. But the best teacher is experience. Get yourself three or four chickens for the back yard. Try red worm farming. Or plant a fruit tree. Every little step is one step closer to self sufficiency.

Don't be afraid to fail. It takes time to develop skill, but it's something you'll keep the rest of your life.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

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Carol A. Strickland said...

I'm always surprised to see a copy of Mother Earth on a newsstand. Back in the 70s I got it all the time. I was going to build a straw bale house and double-dig my garden and all that.

Nowadays I can't even keep the weeds in my backyard under control, much less grow food. (Though I do have fruit trees and vegetables planted.) I still have dreams of a solar-powered straw bale house, though now I'd like it in a metropolitan community, within walking distance of interesting places and a good bus line.

Maria Zannini said...

Ack! Weeds are the bane of my existence.

Rather than weed, I prefer to mulch heavily or till it under when I can. Since I was in a new place, I didn't have any mulch to spare and this year my little tiller gave up the ghost, so weeding was constantly on my mind.

Good for you for keeping fruit trees and growing veggies! It's more than most people can do.

Red Garnier said...

I've always wanted to grow my own fruits and veggies, I should give it a go. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, right! Then I'll have to call you Superwoman. Wife, mother, famous author, and now gardener.

LOL! Go for it. Your kids will think you're a wizard.