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Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills (Second Edition) Hardcover – March 17, 1997
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"Voluntary simplicity" has become a catch phrase for what seems to be a yearning for a simpler, more self-sufficient and economical way of living in the late 20th century. This book, first published in 1981 and recently updated, was probably many folks' first in-depth exposure to the idea of a simpler life, making things by hand, and enjoying a stronger sense of control over personal budgets, home projects, and lifestyles. Hundreds of projects are listed, illustrated in step-by-step diagrams and instructions: growing and preserving your own food, converting trees to lumber and building a home from it, traditional crafts and homesteading skills, and having fun with recreational activities like camping, fishing, and folk dancing without spending a lot of money. This book will have you dreaming and planning from the first page! -- Mark A. Hetts
From the Back Cover
"Open the book at any page and there's something of interest." -Chicago Sun-Times
"...it would be an asset to anyone's personal library at home. We recommend it highly." -Kansas City Times
"It is a superb reference book, better than any number of those that pretend to teach you survival skills by concentrating on just a few crafts." -Survival Tomorrow
"This is really an encyclopedia and, like a good encyclopedia, the narrative is clear and complete, the illustrations are plentiful and the whole thing is thoroughly indexed. You can spend a fortune on a library of neo-pioneer books or you can buy BACK TO BASICS." -Times & World News, Roanoke, VA
"If you're going to go back to the good old days you'll need something the good old days didn't have...an instruction manual." -Cincinnati Enquirer
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Probably of most immediate use and value to readers would be the section on land acquisition and value. If you're planning to build or buy a home, the sage advice in this section is of immense value. Using natural features to cool in the summer and maintain heat in the winter - for example planting windscreens of conifers and deciduous, the latter of which direct air during their leafing season and allow it to pass when bare of leaves - was novel, and pulled me even further into the other nuggets of wisdom in the later parts of the book.
There's a ton of stuff in here - and, while the book is by no means small, it still amazes me how much is crammed in its 450 pages. Everything from building a log cabin, setting up a root cellar, beekeeping, kitchen gardening vs. full gardening, drying and smoking fish and meats, basket-weaving, stocking a lake with fish to how to ski and use snowshoes is covered. While the passages for each are brief and not comprehensive, the gist of the book is to get you to START - and there's more than enough data here to ensure you do that successfully. As you add these habits and pastimes to your lifestyle, there's further reading you can do.
One of my favorite reference texts and one I refer to often even living in a flat.