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A Householder's Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond Paperback – November 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982569157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982569153
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A bible for back-to-the-landers—even if the “land” is only a postage-stamp-sized city lot, Fasenfest’s utilitarian and utopian guide follows in the footsteps of such iconic manuals for rational living as the nineteenth-century’s McGuffey’s Reader and the 1970s’ The Whole Earth Catalog. Destined to be as influential in its time, Fasenfest’s treatise is filled with homespun philosophy and hard-won wisdom as she tackles everything from churning one’s own butter to curing one’s own ham. Month by month, Fasenfest takes her observations of the world around her and translates them into activities for reclaiming home and hearth, garden and psyche from the forces of resource-depleting agribusiness and time-sucking technology. The term she gives this mode of conscientious living is “householding,” a quaint expression for a very contemporary conundrum, and while the changes she advocates can be daunting, the rewards are delectable. Part manifesto, part confessional, yet totally practical and attainable, Fasenfest’s inviting, impassioned guide delineates precise ways homeowners can develop the skill sets necessary for self-sufficiency. --Carol Haggas


"Part manifesto, part confessional, yet totally practical and attainable, Fasenfest's inviting, impassioned guide delineates precise ways homeowners can develop the skill sets necessary for self-sufficiency."

"A Householder’s Guide to the Universe is like a thick slice of rhubarb pie. Tart, saucy, colorful. . . [Fasenfest] charts a month-by-month plan of attack—and make no mistake, she’s a kitchen warrior, picking and preserving her edibles like a many-armed Ganesh—inviting urbanites to harvest and ferment their way to a more tasty, meaningful life."
Willamette Week

“Householding, in Harriet's view, is about a return to the rhythms and traditions of gardening, food storage, cooking and family life, all of which she fervently believes grounds people. . . If you're thinking about really throwing yourself into gardening and home life, this is a good book to get.”

"A Householder’s Guide to the Universe is not quite the typical DIY homemaking manual—it is part autobiography, part reference manual, part garden journal. . . Fasenfest is simultaneously expert and self-depreciating, funny and then deeply personal."

"Whether you choose to read Fasenfest’s tome on a month-by-month basis, turn straight to the planting guide or spend an afternoon gleaning nuggets from the instructional and inspirations gems contained within, be prepared to look at your own universe a little differently."
Cascadia Weekly

"Reading [Fasenfest's] advice, you can't help but get caught up in her urban homesteading revolution and the notion that it will cure what ails our culture."
The Eugene Register-Guard

"Harriet Fasenfast is a skilled urban homesteader with a lot to share. I love the way she weaves together practical gardening tips and food preservation techniques with relevant personal stories and philosophical reflections. A Householder's Guide to the Universe is charming and inviting, sure to be a source of inspiration to anyone aspiring to get closer to the source and produce their own food."—Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

"This is a wonderful book. Harriet Fasenfest is like a wise and kind
Northwestern neighbor who has time for you."
- Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers, The Grassfed Gourmet, and The Farmer and the Grill

"When [Harriet Fasenfest's] book arrived last fall, I gobbled it up like a thriller, because it's so full of good information, and I wanted to see what she was going to do next. A Householder's Guide to the Universe isn't a strict DIY book, nor is it just a memoir, nor is it solely an examination of how corporations have colonized even the most personal corners of our lives—it's all of those and more."—Bookslut

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Customer Reviews

It's very well written.
Mom of 7
It ended up being hard to follow after the first few pages really and had more to do with philosophy and the author's personal story than really being a guide at all.
Kindle Customer
It is a fantastic book for someone just beginning to research householding, but contains useful information for someone who is more knowledgeable in this area.
Patti A. Dougherty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Hornblower on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very interested in this book after browsing through it at a local bookstore. The author's format of categorizing chores as "Kitchen," "Garden" and "Home" was appealing, as was the "by month" approach to listing the tasks required to keep a well-tended home and garden.
Approximately halfway through this book, however, the wheels seemed to come off as the author began relying more and more on personal anectdotes that have very little to do with the book's premise; she spends quite a bit of space discussing her son, a recovering drug addict, and how her gardening has helped her cope with his issues there and back again. I also found much of her info to be slightly "pie in the sky," as many of the "tips" she offers would work ONLY in the Pacific Northwest where she lives. For instance: She sings the praises of her "summer kitchen" and details how easily a person could construct a similar structure in their own backyard. She simply took an old carport, added a water faucet for a sink and a gas stove ala gas grill, and does all her canning in this set-up in the "heat" of her late summer mornings. Those of us living in areas defined by seed companies and Farmer's Almanacs as "Zones 2-3" can only dream of having an uninsulated "kitchen" set apart from our houses where the pipes don't rupture and freeze during those 8 months of hibernation when we feast on the labors of the produce we've canned in our conventional kitchens on 100-degree days. Also, if you don't have access to a variety of co-ops or whole food stores, you're not going to be able to find many of the "essential" products used to create the "recipes" (canning recipes, household cleaner recipes,etc.) in this book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
For some the title may be a bit misleading, this is not a calendar of chores to do and when, it is getting back to basics as a life style itself. Harriet Fasenfest is anti anything in a package. Householding is her term for responsible housekeeping and living for a better life, especially local use, homegrown, home made, home based economy.
She does give good advice and does not shirk from emphasizing the hard work required. The book is not so much about the house as about the garden and the kitchen. She does have some very good cleaning hints using natural ingredients like vinegar, lemons, baking soda; but the garden is the main concentration .

Again there are not really specific directions and plans. She muses on her philosophy and how she accomplishes her tasks; the common sense of over flowing water barrels and backyard chickens; both not such a completely feasible idea all the time. She thinks about sound fiscal management, preserving, canning. There are some directions and methods given, but a beginner would probably need more help than is given here.
Those who are interested in the usage of local and sustainable economies would be interested in reading her thoughts of a householder's guide
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kasey Mansfield on November 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
It started good, maybe even very good, the chapters succinct, the charts relevent, detailed, nicely laid out, everything you could want. Then shortly before the chapter I was most anticipating, about buying bulk freezer beef, she sort of trails off explaining that certian cuts cancel out other, but not what these are, then it goes of the tracks something awful, lots of talking about her childs addiction, a story about getting trashed for her birthday so said childs girlfriend wouldn't feel embarased, the chapters get longer with less real information. other reviewers have mentioned that the family drama stories just go to prove that people in imperfect situations can household, but of course they can. I don't think it was really necissary to drive the books so off course for that moral to get through. overall I recomend checking it out of the library first to see if it has the information you need in it first because.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Plesiosaur on June 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like this book-- the layout has a lot of promise. However, the subsections of home, garden, and kitchen in each month quickly break down into a meaningless organization for little vignettes. It's really just a journal of a rather ordinary gardener who loves to pontificate. The section on how to choose cuts from purchasing half a steer was really awesome, so was the page on making your own pectin... but that really encapsulates almost all of the pertinent information contained in this book. The *vast* majority of this book is personal anecdotes. Not personal anecdotes about gardening mind you, but personal anecdotes about dressing as a stripper for Halloween, getting drunk at a restaurant, growing up in the Bronx, or having a dysfunctional family...interesting but not particularly useful.

She also spends a lot of time regurgitating birkenstock-isms, granted she often admits how out-of-touch her opinions are, but that doesn't stop her from asserting them. For instance she bad mouths farmers for selecting for hardiness in addition to taste as opposed to strictly growing regional delicacies- and tries to convince you that they could makeup for lost profits by the rest of us paying exorbitant amounts to "do the right thing." She also talks about budget in terms of whats good for the earth without any consideration for financial restraints. It's obvious that her lifestyle is only possible through the substantial income of her husband but she never admits as much. Most of us wanting to grow our own food don't really fit in the category of people with huge amounts of expendable income that can be spent on raw milk, pick your own peaches, and "artisan butchering." I want to make green choices, but that usually coincides with frugality--this is not the case in this book.

Bottom line, buy another book.
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