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Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition Hardcover – April 17, 2008
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For people living in the city, starting from the "ground up", this makes for an excellent "companion" book, giving practical advice and commentary about what to look for, and most importantly, why. Starting with just land selection and working your way through housing, development, agriculture and husbandry, aspects homemaking, and eventually recreation, you will end up with a broad spectrum of "what to look for and what to do". (Recreation is included at the back of the book because play is a necessary part of a healthy life, just as much as work or home life; learning to appreciate your surroundings and participate through kayaking, hiking, etc. helps to give such an outlet.)
I know there are other reviewers on here that poo-poo such a book, because it doesn't give exact instructions (it's not an instruction manual, it says "guide" folks) or because "it's obvious to someone who knows" (well, yeah, your right that it's "obvious to you", but not everyone has lived in your shoes, or has had the opportunity to have your experiences, and for someone in the city, this is an eye-opener). Ignore those reviews; if you want a "broad-spectrum guide", with an emphasis on "guide" and nothing else, then this book works. If you need a "how to" then you need to find a different book.
"Back to Basics" is a colorful, easy-to-understand encyclopedia of basic skills. There are hundreds of color photos, and most lessons are laid out step-by-step, making the concepts very easy to learn. The book is divided into six basic parts:
I. Land: Buying It - Building on it (how to choose land, build a home, develop a water supply, create a sauna, etc)
II. Energy from Wood, Water, Wind, and Sun (making your home more efficient, how to use wind energy, setting up a solar-powered house, etc)
III. Raising Your Own Vegetables, Fruit, and Livestock (how to properly grow all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and grains, how to farm fish, beekeeping, butchering an animal, etc)
IV. Enjoying Your Harvest Year Round (canning, preserving all kinds of foods, making cheese and wine, etc)
V. Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead (making natural dyes, weaving, woodworking, stenciling, soapmaking, making homemade perfumes, etc)
VI. Recreation at Home and in the Wild (camping, canoeing, kayaking, celebrating holidays, etc)
This book definitely has the potential to help all of us live more self-sufficiently, learning to do the things that our grandparents probably learned growing up. However, one possible drawback is that becoming self-sufficient takes a lot of work, and in the case of switching your home over to some type of alternative energy, a lot of money as well. Most readers are probably not going to have the land, time, and money to make some of the more significant changes suggested. However, the book still offers a lot for the rest of us, and at the least, educates us as to what it takes to live in a self-sufficient manner. Another possible drawback is that the book tries to squeeze a lot of information into 456 pages. This means that while you are getting a very concise, and surprisingly detailed, overview, you may need to consult more detailed sources if you need more help than what the book offers.
Overall, this is an interesting and useful book that offers practical ways to become more self-sufficient, something that is highly relevant in these times of rising energy and food prices. My family has already used some of the ideas, starting our first garden this year.
The hardback version of this book was well worth the price as it is more durable (of course). It has good photos throughout. I have enjoy reading it. The hands-on illustrations could be a little more descriptive but all-in-all it's pretty well-written. The shape of the book is a little odd. It doesn't fit in my bookshelf well as the spine is short but the book itself is long and tends to stick out further than most books. It works best if I lay it down & stack other small books atop. Not really much of a complaint, but I thought I'd mention it anyways.