A Different Book

At the Carolina Farm Stewardship conference last weekend I found the book vendor’s booth very tempting. Most of the books were the “how to” variety, and I wanted to fill a bag with them. But bags of books aren’t in the budget anymore, and I already have piles of books waiting to be read, so I exercised self-control and came home without any new books.

It’s not as if we don’t already have shelves full of farming/homesteading books already. Back when we were planning the transition to this life I greedily consumed nearly every book I could find about homesteading and sustainable farming. I read the message boards on Homesteading Today. I subscribed to every relevant magazine I knew about. I read ATTRA publications. I was trying to soak in all I could, while planning the self-sufficient future I imagined.

IMG_8797

Looking back I now realize that much of what I had planned to do was unrealistic. It takes trial and error and real-life experiences to figure that what will work, what won’t, and how much is enough.

We have a good life now. We’re not self-sufficient, but we are self-reliant. We don’t produce our own electricity (as I had hoped we would), but we do produce nearly all of our food. We aren’t obtaining everything we need by bartering, but we have established a farm business that provides us with meaningful work and the minimal income we need. Things didn’t work out exactly as I’d imagined they would, but they did work out.

Twelve years ago my favorite homesteading book was Carla Emery’s Encylopedia of Country Living, which I read cover to cover. Now my go-to book reference is Pam Dawling’s Sustainable Market Farming.

I wonder what the most-consulted book on my shelf will be twelve years from now?

Advertisements

23 comments on “A Different Book

  1. Joanna says:

    We have a range of books, maybe not as extensive as yours and a couple of new ones, but at the end of the day when I need information I go to the internet. I love books for being able to read easily but to find specific information, it needs to be in a pdf or e-book version – I wish you could get both at the same time, in the same way that the Open University sent their books out. So much easier just to read the book and then go back and search using the pdf copy

    Like

    • Bill says:

      These days we rely heavily on the internet. Youtube is a great “how to” resource. I still love books though, and back in the day I spent a lot of time on airplanes, where internet wasn’t an option. For worst-case scenarios we also like to have some books that will serve us well if there is no internet (like our wild edibles books).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. BeeHappee says:

    Twelve years from now you will be reading how to retire in Florida. 🙂
    I was just browsing through the book “Lean Farm” by Ben Hartman, you need to add that to your list. 🙂 Just kidding. It was interesting to me, because I worked in a manufacturing environment for over a decade, and ‘lean’ was big.
    Was always amazing how my grandparents farmed, without a single farming book ever, or internet, but then again, from the time they toddlered out of the crib, they were on that farm, they became a book.

    Best of luck with all the kids (including the ones that do not follow the rules of the book) !!!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      My Grandpa was a super farmer and he only had a third grade education. Books weren’t an option for him. On the other hand many of us in the alternative ag movement rely on books written before 1945 to help us restore pre-chemical practices. In other words, we’re relying on old books to help teach us the things our grandparents knew without books. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Glad to hear how things turned out, and that you measure success by what you’ve achieved, not by the things that didn’t happen.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s still a work in progress. We’re doing better in some areas than I’d hoped for, but we’re not as far along in others. We’re striving for a balance and a peaceful contented life. After all, there is a limit to what we can do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, yeah, I went to ATTRA’s website. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information there. It’s a great resource. I couldn’t find what the ATTRA acronym stood for. Maybe it’s just the name and not an acronym at all. Reguardless, I have found my Winter website to glean information from. Thanks for giving me my Winter direction.

    Twelve years ago my favorite book of reference was Ruth Stout’s book on no work gardening. I try to add one book a month to my library. This month’s book was a “Fix-it-and-foget-it cookbook” by Phyllis Pellman Good. It has 700 slow cooker recipes. At first glance it looks to be a great addition to my library. I hardly ever buy books new. I have had great success buying books from Amazon used. This book was originally about $15.00 but I snagged it with the like new description for $3.00. With the $3.99 shipping charge it was about half the price of a new one. The description was accurate. It looks like new. I still have much left over food to eat in the fridge before trying one of the recipes. As for twelve years in the future, I’ll probably be reading anything that pertains to tenth decade gardening. Hopefully by then all the garden construction will be finished and just planting and harvesting will be the normal thing to do.

    When ever I am invited to eat at some one’s house, they always pack up a bunch of food for me to take home. Some how they got the idea that single guys need to have food sent home with them. It happens quite often for me. This last Sunday it was beef stew. Two quart jars of beef stew are in my fridge sitting right beside the two quart jars of vegetable soup. These jars have been hot pack sealed and will be good to eat for about three to four weeks. It’s the way I store all left overs. Works for me.

    Have a great books in the personal library day.

    Like

    • Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. Took some sleuthing, but the early newsletters had it as part of the masthead – this sort of question is part of my day job.:) I haven’t checked in on ATTRA for years – but I can see how much I’ve been missing. Glad it got put back on my radar. Thanks!

      Like

      • nebraskadave says:

        Thanks for tracking down the acronym. I just finished watching a talk on soil life and how it affects plant growth. Most of the information is for large scale but soil is soil and it can be used in raised garden beds on a smaller scale just the same as a 2000 acre cash crop.

        Have a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      ATTRA is a great resource. And you can call them and get a real live person on the phone to answer questions and if they don’t have the answer readily available they’ll research it for you. I haven’t used them in a while but I was mightily impressed back when I did.

      These days before buying a book I always check our local library. If they don’t have it I try to find a used copy. I’ve bought some great books off Amazon for as little as .01 plus shipping! I guess that’s why authors don’t make money off books these days. 🙂

      Like

  5. My favourite “go-to” book twelve years ago was “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. The most expensive book I had ever bought at that point in my life (about $60 with shipping) – but I’ve earned every penny back on that book. It’s falling apart now, but I still dip into it from time to time. Nowadays, dipping kind of describes my farm reading. Like you, I’ve developed a decent sized shelf of farming/self sufficiency related books, and have subscribed to various periodicals,so that I have a very solid resource base to refer to. Working at the library means that I have access to many more books almost anytime, and have the benefit of test driving new ones before I decide if I want to own them.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s great to live in the Information Age. Like you, I love books and there are some that I come back to over and over. But as long as the internet is alive and functioning it feels like all the information is the world is available. Another reason not to go crazy buying books I suppose. But book-lover that I am, I doubt I’ll ever give them up entirely.

      Like

  6. Dearest Bill,
    Oh, reading is like checking in on the theoretic part of life but in reality it so much depends on the region you live in, the soil, the climate and so on. That cannot be all laid out for EVERYBODY to easily follow and go from there. It is a rough road indeed. If we look back it is amazing how much money we have ‘buried’ in the soil so to speak. Plants and more plants and losing them all. Not because we cannot grow anything but because of the local circumstances that are quite different and unique. We learned to give up on certain dreams and accept the way it is. You also learn how to become more humble and what really matters in life. Others write and talk about their workouts, going to fancy clubs for that etc. Pieter always says, we get our workout by doing what needs to be done at home in and around the home. It makes you feel satisfied and content. And that is a little secret to true happiness. Not following the herds of people that get so disillusioned after each commercial Christmas… Carrying such a wet kid home to the warm barn for shelter is pure happiness and bliss!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I so agree with you Mariette. There is so much happiness and joy to be found in a well-functioning household. We’re constantly bombarded with messages intended to produce discontentment, but if we ignore them we’ll probably conclude that (in the words of Wendell Berry) “what we need is here.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Zambian Lady says:

    I think you may not necessarily have a favorite book in twelve years’ time, rather a favorite website. Would the website count as a ‘book’?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Great point! Will they still even be making books in 2027? Who would’ve predicted the internet 12 years before it happened? Change comes so rapidly now I suppose it is a little silly to wonder about books 12 years in the future. But having said that, I’m both old-fashioned and an old dog (slow to learn new tricks), so I expect to still be hanging out in bookstores in 2027. 🙂

      Like

  8. EllaDee says:

    I like to think of books read during ‘planning the transition’ are part of manifesting not only information but energy, demonstrating to the Universe we are ready, willing and able.
    Not easy to curb my book habit… every day I seem to find wonderful new authors and book. I find adding them to a Wish List reassurance that they won’t slip from my notice.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I like that image. Back when I started reading books about homesteading I definitely was telling the Universe that I was ready, willing and able to chuck the path I was on. I need to think about what signals I’m sending now. 🙂

      I have a LONG list of books I plan to read. Even though I read a lot, it takes me years to get to them sometimes. Plenty of times I’ve reached a book on my list and realized that I’m not even interested in it anymore.

      Like

  9. shoreacres says:

    Obviously, there aren’t as many books on varnishing as on farming. In fact, when I began, there really was only one book that everyone was recommending, by a woman in Seattle named Rebecca Whitman. I bought it, and it was a glorious sight — full of gorgeous boats, and pages and pages of tips and instructions.

    Eventually, I figured out it was useless. If you followed her instructions to the letter, you’d spend so much time on a single job you couldn’t make a living. She was often hired to do restorations, and talked casually of making $5,000 on a job. Uh — that’s not happening around here.

    Beyond that, I found that much of her work was in perfect conditions: that is, in immaculate sheds and such. No pollen, insects, wind, rain, for that gal! So, I learned the shortcuts and the tricks, and gave her book to a new varnisher.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love books and although I do use the internet a lot for research, I like the feel of a book in my hands. I find just knowing it’s on the shelf reassuring. I tried reading eBooks but found it frustrating. If I find a book I am interested in, I check it out from the library first. If it turns out to be a good reference book that I will use over and over, I purchase it for my library.
    One of my favorite pastimes used to be sitting in bed on the weekend with a huge pile of cookbooks or garden books pouring through them for ideas.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s