If you’re one of those people tempted by the privacy and sense of accomplishment that comes with living a self-sufficient lifestyle, these books have what you need to start an education into the popular movement. The genre is booming with how-tos and DIY projects, but these can seem daunting when you’re used to a more urban environment. Give these a read to feel more comfortable and confident taking the next step, or if you’re already well-versed in the field, these books can provide new ideas to problems faced by those participating in more natural movements.
1. Prefabulous Small Houses by Sheri Koones
Small homes are old news by now: everyone knows they’re cheap, energy efficient, and adorable. Koones takes a different turn and shows the reader how to make a small home even better. Prefab homes have a long history, even being traced back to medieval times with premade castle kits. If you’re someone that knows next to nothing about building your home (but desperately wants to) the prefab method might just tickle your fancy. Prefabulous Small Houses takes a look at the methods in use today and the advantages of each one. Koones educates the reader while offering beautiful photographs that will make you nostalgic for that vacation house you never had.
2. Cabin Porn by Zach Klein and Steven Leckart
Alright, I admit, this one is just for the pictures. Cabin Porn was originally a Tumblr blog that garnered some major attention. Klein, the original creator as well as the co-founder of Vimeo, takes the site to a whole new dimension by providing not just photography of the outside of the cabins, but also providing views of the internal structures as well. Think of this as inspiration for the cabin you’ve wanted your entire life. These homes are handmade and feature some idyllic settings that feel like they’re straight out of a fiction novel.
3. Food Storage For Self-Sufficiency And Survival by Angela Paskett
Let’s switch gears for a second from dream homes and eye-catching architecture, to a much more basic necessity of life: food. Food preserving is as old as history, but it hasn’t always tasted good. Can you imagine a hunk of beef buried in salt for weeks? My mouth squinches up just thinking about it. Paskett describes not only the basics of preserving your food for emergencies or saving money, but she does it with the food you love. Full of information, this isn’t simply a how-to guide; you will learn something, like what gleaning is. (It’s the act of picking up what’s left of the harvest after the machines have gone through the fields, btw). And the book is neatly sectioned off by storage time frames, so you can cut to whatever you need without having to read tens of pages.
4. Food Storage: Preserving Meat, Dairy, And Eggs by Susan Gregersen and David Armstrong
Sorry to those of you who are vegan or vegetarian, but this one is not for you. (However, there are two others on their way out that deal with beans, veggies, fruits, grains, and the like!) Protein is important for those who live self-sufficient lives. Most are avid hunters and fishers, some even have their own farms, and it’s vitally important to know how to preserve your protein for lean months. A wonderful reference guide, this book has its sections split so that you can look at the index and turn right to where you need to be. The variety of proteins covered is astounding: everything from our normal beef to the more archaic meats like bear and elk. If you live off the land and need a refresher from time to time on how to cure a rabbit, this is your handy-dandy-reference.
5. Let It Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide To Composting by Stu Campbell
We talked about homes and food, but have you given thought as to the problem of waste in a self-sufficient household? It’s an important concern that Campbell addresses using humor and wit with a wealth of information. You don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate this book. He describes both traditional and modern approaches that will aid in saving money and minimizing waste. As Campbell is quick to point out early on: composting can lower the weight of trash in your house by 35 percent. That’s significant when you realize that the two-thirds of your waste on average is compostable (as found by the Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce).
6. The Organically Clean Home: 150 Everyday Organic Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself–The Natural, Chemical-Free Way by Becky Rapinchuk
Chances are that if you’re interested in the self-sufficiency movement, you’re at least a little earth conscious. Unfortunately, a necessary evil of living is making sure that your space is clean, but that usually involves some pretty hefty chemicals that aren’t earth-friendly. Rapinchuk masters the art of living a clean life with cheap and natural ingredients. Not only are the ingredients easy to pronounce, but they are non-toxic, lifting a weight from moms who worry about their kids getting into the cabinets.
Self-sustainability takes time and research. There is a ton of literature out there that can be hard to weed through. With so much information, it can overwhelming and a little discouraging. These Amazon bestsellers are a wonderful place to start. Even if you don’t have that ideal cabin in the woods quite yet, these books can help you become more familiar with the process while you’re still renting an apartment or paying off a mortgage.
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