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The Self Sufficiency Handbook

self sufficiency handbookSelf sufficiency is a topic near and dear to me. I don’t know why really but it has always been something that fascinated me…that and survivalism. I LOVE reading stories about families that live in octagonal houses in the middle of a nowhere, using solar power, growing their own food, and making all their home furnishings by hand. I am not quite sure if that life would be right for me but I can live vicariously right? This is why I can’t live without my Mother Earth News subscription.

I just finished reading The Self-Sufficiency Handbook – A Complete Guide to Greener Living by Alan and Gill Bridgwater who began their own self  sufficient life in the 1960s. Being self sufficient and living off the grid was once considered something pursued by “hairy hippies”. Now though, self sufficiency is trendy and cool. If you can unplug from the energy grid then you are envied. If you can feed your family all year with nary a trip to the grocery store you are model of frugality and practicality. To me self sufficiency means something very simple…it means being able to care for yourself and your family and this is an admirable goal. How many of us can say that we would be just peachy if tomorrow we didn’t have the option to run to Wal-Mart or Kroger? Could we grow our food if we had to? Could we make our own clothes? What would we do if we didn’t have garbage pickup? I think a great number of people in society today would be peeing in their pants if they suddenly had to take care of themselves.  Personally I like to pursue self sufficiency because I like to know that if I needed to…I could take care of my own. I imagine that doing so must bring a great sense of freedom.

The book starts off by addressing how you can choose the right plot of land for your self sufficient life. How much space you need, how to pick the right location, making sure you have access to water, etc. It is great information for those that are in the planning stages.

The next section addresses the self sufficient house which was of greater interest to me than the land part because I am pretty settled…for now anyway. ;) You can learn to be more self sufficient in the house or space you already have. Four different house types of varying degrees of self sufficiency were discussed at length. One of the houses had me chuckling a bit with solar powered, motorized drapes and an intercom system. I guess it just shows that self sufficiency doesn’t mean you have to give up creature comforts.

The book also addresses heating and cooking options, wood-burning stoves, lighting, water, toilets (loved the gray water flushing info), solar power, wind power, geothermal heating, recycling, and insulation. I have so many ideas for ways to increase my own self sufficiency in these areas it is exciting.

The second half of the book discusses feeding yourself with an organic garden….how much space you need, how to care for your soil, how to compost, how to rotate crops, how to control weeds, and how to grow just about every fruit and veggie common to your area. This book will be totally dog eared come spring. ;)

It also goes into raising animals for food or their byproducts…cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, bees, etc. And going a step further it gives instructions for things like curing your own bacon, making butter, canning and preserving, making beer and cider, and making soap and candles. It is a very helpful book.

For anyone that wants a great intro into self sufficiency and how to incorporate bits and pieces of it into their existing life and home this is the book for you. If you want to go for broke and go completely off grid and be 100% self sufficient I would chase this book with a few others from my personal library:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour

Just the Greatest Life by David Schafer

  • I’ll be looking for that book- it sounds great. I also like to “live vicariously” through books like these :P

    Dawn’s last blog post..Freestyle

    • Holly

      I love to read, and have always thought I could and would survive, in the wild if I had too. Loving to camp and cooking outside is a trait I learned very young in my life. I think I will also, keep an eye out for this book, sound like something I could benefit from.

  • Cynthia

    Just wanted to recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s:
    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
    It’s pretty wonderful to see how difficult it would be to eat only locally and mostly from your own stuff. Of course, I tell myself that I could not do it in the desert, so that’s my excuse. The book is pretty realistic which makes it a little less fun to read than all her other ones, but is pretty fab!

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  • I have that one Cynthia…I can’t seem to make it past the third chapter…one of these days. ;)

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  • Heather

    2 more mags to try–both much better than MEN has been in a long time.
    Backwoods Home ( )
    Countryside, written by it’s readers. There’s a discussion forum but not really a website.