Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hallelujah and The book list

Thank you, G-d! I don't have to make the afghans - John Ashcroft has resigned. I do not necessarily believe his replacement will be a vast improvement, but still, we all need good news now and then. Let us all say schecheyanu!!

Deb asked me to list what's on my homesteading/self-sufficiency/gardening/etc...bookcase, lest anyone else wants to make the transition from academic urbanite to rural farmer (ie, in case some of the rest of you are totally nuts). Since I'm always grateful for any excuse to skip out on my current dissertation chapter (Donne and Shakespeare aren't getting along, and they are drawing me into it. Oh, and its just possible I've written something stupid - like 80 pages or so), here I go.

Basic Homesteading Books: My top six, the ones I couldn't go on without, complement each other nicely.

1. The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery. Its huge. Its comprehensive. She's wonderful (I did some editing for her, and she's been to my house). If you could only have one book, this would be the one. That said, it has flaws (some of which I have helped fix for the tenth edition, coming out one of these years), and in some places insufficient depth. But the breadth is astounding. Wanna grow spelt? Melons? Butcher a turkey? Milk a cow? Can sauerkraut? And the book is full of recipes, some terrific some flawed, but designed to be made by people who are really and truly producing their own food. Don't live without it. And consider buying it directly from her website www.carlaemery.com - she's a sweet lady and can use the money.

2.Permaculture: A Design Manual, by Bill Mollison. Mollison is a genius - he created something genuinely different and brilliant when he invented permaculture. It will change your way of thinking about homesteading design, energy usage, sustainability and everything else. There are cheaper books, but if you are going to buy one, spend the money and get this - its too good to miss, too smart, too creative. I'm not a permaculturist per se, but he's influenced my thinking a lot, and discovering Mollison was definitely one of those "oh, wow!" moments.

3. Another such moment was reading Nathan Griffith's _Husbandry_ - precisely because while I suspect he never read Mollison, he seems to have created his own local variety of sustainability that uses some similar techniques and ways of thinking - but also some very different stuff. His politics are appalling to me, but he's very smart, and fun to read. He also writes articles in Countryside Magazine.

4. 50 years ago, the Robinsons' _Have More Plan_ was on the cutting edge of homestead design - it still is. You should definitely ignore the gender roles, the suggestions that you spray with DDT, etc... but that doesn't invalidate its essential wisdom. If I were building a house (and G-d willing, I never will), I'd use their homestead plan, at least in part. And when I finally have the money to renovate the kitchen, I *will* use their homestead plan.

5. I'm going to pick _The Contrary Farmer_ as the best basic book by Gene Logsdon, although that's tough - his old _Homesteading_ book, and his _Two Acre Eden_ (Deb, make sure you look at that last one - it would be really relevant to small scale homesteading) are so terrific - he can really write. He's creative, and funny and smart. You should read everything he writes, and I'll probably recommend some more books by him later in this process.

6. Finally, The first 10 Backwoods Home Anthologies. Ok, their politics are even more appalling, and their taste for lots and lots of guns sucks. But there is lots of information here duplicated no where else. They are worth the money, and the older ones spend less time on ways of passing concealed weapons and more on homesteading techniques. Jackie Clay alone is worth her weight in gold. Try www.backwoodshome.com and search for "Hardcore Homesteading" - its the perfect post peak oil article.

Ok, much more on this topic, but I'm too tired to stay conscious, and I've got some serious thanksgiving to do.

Cheers,

Sharon

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