Friday, January 16, 2015

A Homestead Bookshelf

How We Learn

A good friend of mine contends that you can do anything if you can read! I think her more distinct point is that you can learn to do anything if you can read, comprehend what you read, and then try it out. Cheryl is a great believer in self-education and experimentation. I just had a conversation with another friend who reminded me that some of us learn well by reading, but others of us learn better by listening or by being taught by someone. In fact, I recognize that there are several learning styles and each of us has the greatest probability of successful learning when we use the style that fits us best and, at the same time, take advantage of more than one method.

I think I learn best when someone shows me how to do something, but I also naturally gravitate toward reading. I truly love to read and am usually reading any number of books all at one time. I have stacks of books with various tags and bookmarks (along with notebooks and pencils) near my bed, on the table or counter, near my chair, in the car and often under my arm. I am never without reading material close by.

When it comes to learning new skills for use on the homestead, your bookshelf will look different than mine. What you choose to read will, of course, depend on which skills you are needing at the moment and your current interests. Indeed, your bookshelf may even reside in the cloud or on an electronic device. But I will describe my favorite homestead book and offer a recommendation.

On the Bookshelf

The topic of homesteading is very broad. The one book I know of that truly covers many of the basics is The Encyclopedia of Country Living: an Old Fashioned Recipe Book by Carla Emery. I've lived with this book for a long time. My first copy was the original trade published "Bantam" paper-back edition (1977). I received the book as a gift from my father to mark the occasion of my graduation from high school in 1978. I have since replaced that book with the ninth edition. If you don't mind reading from a screen, the ninth edition can be downloaded as a free pdf file on the internet. Just Google it. If you plan on downloading and printing it out, be aware that it is massive - over 800 pages. The book focuses on food production, including all aspects of raising animals for food, and covers preparing, preserving and storing food as well. There is a shorter, introductory section for odd topics such as finding land and staying warm in an Idaho winter. The writing style is casual and friendly. This book is a classic!


A comprehensive book such as the Encyclopedia really cover topics in a more general way and Carla wrote largely from her own experience and research. Some subjects are covered only briefly. There have been times when we have needed information in more depth than the Encyclopedia offered. In these cases we have never been disappointed with the Storey Guides. There seems to be a guide for about everything we've wanted or needed to know. Many of the guides for raising particular animals were assigned reading for our children as we added different animals to the homestead. The guides, bulletins and books are really good. If it is published by Storey, I feel like I can trust it.

The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan and published by Storey is an introductory guide to homesteading and a great all-purpose book for growing food, including animals. If you need quality, in-depth information about just any homesteading topic, I recommend you look to see what else Storey offers on the subject.

What has been your most useful homesteading book?

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