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Book Review: Self-Sufficiency, Edited by Abigail R. Gehring

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If you were to peruse the bookshelf of your average homesteader, you would most likely find quite a variety of texts. From the general to the specific, companion planting to pig-slaughtering, barn-raising to beekeeping, many topics will be represented there.

Self-Sufficiency (2010), edited by Abigail R. Gehring, covers this full range of topics. This reference volume is divided into six parts (The Family Garden, The Country Kitchen, Canning and Preserving, Country Crafts, The Barnyard, and The Workshop) and each page is full of information, illustrations, and photographs. There is enough here to get you started, but additional reading will be necessary for true self-sufficiency.

What sets this title apart is that it targets the whole family. Scattered throughout are fun projects for the “junior homesteader” and tips for incorporating homesteading skills in a homeschooling curriculum. This holistic approach makes homesteading seem doable for someone who is just starting out and gives them adequate information to acquire a basic set of skills and to achieve enough success with them in order to gain the confidence necessary to start on the road to true self-sufficiency.

While it is fully illustrated, the photos and illustrations are not necessarily helpful. It often feels as if every available stock photo on each topic was inserted, sometimes more than once, just to fill up space that could have been better used to convey a greater depth of information. A majority of the diagrams are either too vague or too specific to be of much use. The subtitle claims this to be a complete guide to “baking, carpentry, crafts, organic gardening, preserving your harvest, raising animals, and more” and while all of these topics are indeed covered, they are done so with only an introductory level of depth.

If I were truly trying to survive by my own two hands, this is not the resource that I would choose to guide me. This book is best used as a collection of ideas and if taken as such, is a success. Paging through it on a Sunday afternoon in order to find some inspiration, you might get motivated to do some “old time” crafts with the kids while dreaming of starting your sustainable farm.

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