In the past few years, there has been an explosion of homesteading books on the market. Books on how to start your dream farm in the country, books on how to turn your suburban yard into a working farm, and even books how to be self sufficient in the city. With so many different books available, how do you know which one is right for you? I recommend the try before you buy method of checking it out from the library first. As for what I keep in my own personal library, there is a trio of books I wouldn’t be caught without.
Perhaps the bible of the self sufficiency movement is Storey Books’ Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land. It’s a large format guide printed on newsprint with step-by-step drawings that accompany well-written straightforward instructions and articles. The range of skills covered in this tome is immense – Animals, Cooking, Crafts, Gardening, Health & Wellbeing and Home. Within each of these broad areas is a wealth of information. Some of the articles that I’ve relied on and enjoyed the most are Bird Food Recipes, Basic Bread Baking, Making Homemade Wine, Holiday Gifts From Nature, 25 Aromatherapy Blends for De-Stressing, and Braiding Rugs. A great resource for the beginner, this book focuses on learning skills and doing tasks with as much do it yourself ingenuity as you can muster – instructions don’t start out with “go out buy a pre-fab kit to ferment your fruit juice”, but shows you how to build or assemble the components yourself. Whenever I have a question about a technique, a tool, or an old-time recipe, I usually consult Country Wisdom first.
Another fabulous book in my collection is John Seymour’s Concise Guide to Self-Sufficiency. It covers basically the same breadth of topics that Country Wisdom does, but the real draw for me with this book and in fact, all of Seymour’s books) are the incredible color drawings and step-by-step illustrations. In the dead of winter, I love to curl up on the couch and gaze at the beautiful garden plan illustrations – all of the rows of vegetables in their raised beds, orderly and drawn lovingly perfectly to scale. But it’s more than just a pretty picture book – its chock full of information. The sections on beer and wine making are especially informative to a beginning brewer, and of course, accompanied by great how-to illustrations.
The third book in my must-have homesteader library is geared to the urban/suburban homesteader – The Backyard Homestead by Storey Books. It’s got a lot of the same content as Country Wisdom, but it’s reformatted into a pretty snazzy guide for those working in smaller spaces. Unlike the other two books, it also focuses mostly on the food aspect of homesteading. An incredibly valuable section is How Much Food Can You Produce?, which outlines exactly what you can grow or raise in three sizes of homestead. Other sections I particularly enjoy are Grapes, outlining how to start a small vineyard, Fruit Trees, Cidermaking, Making Sausage, Foraging and the entire chapter Homegrown Grains.
With the right information, the right tools and a do it yourself spirit, you can set up exactly the kind of homestead you’ve always wanted, no matter where or how you live. Growing as much of your own food as you can, making your own candles or bath salts, baking your own breads, knowing how to butcher basic cuts of meats – homesteading is defined by doing it yourself and being as self sufficient as you can be. And remember – don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it if you’re living in a one bedroom apartment without outdoor space – if I can do it, so can you. Just plan to scale, don’t get discouraged and give it your best shot!