1,344 of 1,462 people found the following review helpful
A Dissenting Opinion
, June 27, 2003
This review is from: The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book, Updated 9th Edition (Paperback)
This book appears to have a devoted following so I'm sure I'll arouse some ill will with this, but here goes.
There are several things potential readers need to know about this book. The first is that, as the other reviewers suggest, the author comes across as very friendly and sincere. Another is that it has been around in some form or another for a long time, long before many "hobby farm"-type books were available, and for that reason has many devoted fans, at least some of whom appear to be unaware of more modern reference books that have superseded this one in many respects. The next is that if you have a lot of free time, and you like nine hundred page books whose author is in no rush to get to any of its thousands of points, you'll love it.
The most important, though, is that if you would like the best, easiest to understand advice available on raising sheep, keeping chickens, growing a garden, and all the other fun but challenging aspects of hobby farming, you will be far better served by other books out there. I have a hobby farm on seven acres with fruit trees, vegetable garden, livestock, etc., and own many of the hobby farm books available. We have had the opportunity to consult them as we have learned from direct experience, and have found that there is a wide variety in usefulness.
While The Encyclopedia of Country Living contains good advice, this book has features that I believe the average modern, would-be hobby farmers will be put off by. One is its overwhelming, unnecessary, and frustrating length. It wouldn't be so bad if each paragraph was a sparkling, concise gem of practical wisdom, i.e, if it really were written like an actual encyclopedia, but core information is often clouded with anecdotes, nostalgia, sermonizing, etc. If you are the kind of person who likes reading books about country life, but who doesn't actually live in the country and doesn't plan to, this may be something you enjoy, but it made this book difficult to use for me.
Moreover, the author regularly feels obliged to list the many and disparate views on a particular topic held by her friends, or by people who have written her letters over the years. A number of these printed comments are either pointless or really daft, and are liable to confuse more than enlighten the would-be hobby farmer, especially since the author often does not make clear which ideas have most merit, scientifically or from her own personal experience.
I believe the average person who plans on "country living" or hobby farming will find other books far more useful. The updated and revised "Backyard Livestock", by Steven Thomas, is absolutely brilliant for beginning hobby farmers serious about keeping animals for food, eggs, milk, etc. It is concise while still telling you everything you need to know. For those wishing more detailed information on livestock, the various Storey's guides to raising farm animals are also excellent. If you are interested in fruit or berry cultivation, you will find the Stella Otto books far more valuable than this one. For vegetable gardening, "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith is the best. I could go on, but my personal experience is this: if you would like to hobby farm, be successful at it, and have fun doing it, you'll need the best information you can get. For most of us, this means a few A-list, reliable, practical, concise, understandable reference books. Despite its length and sometimes charming autobiographical features, there's no reason why you should buy "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" when so many other books on country living now are superior to it.
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