Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Realists and Dreamers

For the last few months I've been perusing a book that a friend lent to me: The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The classic guide for realists and dreamers by John Seymour. Seymour established the School of Self-Sufficiency in Ireland and has written numerous books on living off the land. This particular book is a heavy one, good for decorating the coffee table.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is not only for people with five acres and a farmhouse but for anyone, even an apartment dweller, who desires to be more self-sufficient. You could be a full-fledged self-supporter, earning what little money you need by selling your own produce, or you might simply grow your own food and mend your own clothes. Inside the book, you'll find lots of inspiration for any degree of self-sufficiency, with plenty of illustrations to enhance the vast range of interesting topics. To name just a handful:
  • Which garden tools are used for which task
  • Methods of protecting your garden from pests
  • When to plant and harvest each vegetable/fruit and what it's good for
  • To-dos for each season to maintain your year-round self-sufficient lifestyle
  • How to buy, feed, milk, and slaughter a cow (not to mention pigs, goats, sheep, ducks...)
  • Keeping bees
  • Making beer, wine, cider, and vinegar
  • Composting
  • Building your own toilet
  • Drying produce in a solar dryer
  • Baking bread and preserving produce
  • Basketry, pottery, spinning wool
  • Building an all-purpose furnace/oven/water heater
  • The importance of chatting with other self-supporters in the local pub
  • Making the break!
And boy, it sure is tempting to make the break. I occasionally read a blog by someone who did just that and find myself green with envy.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the section on what you can do with however much land you have. These pages describe and even map out what can be done with a five-acre holding (pastures, animals, wheat, an orchard, farm buildings, everything), a one-acre holding (fruit trees, well-organized crops, and, surprisingly, hay and several animals), an allotment in an urban community garden (veggies and berries, making use of poles and strings for vertical growth), or an urban micro-garden (raised beds, more vertical supports—even for apples or plums!—and a beehive). Our yard most closely resembles this micro-garden, and I've taken Seymour's advice to use a combination of ground-level plants, raised beds, and vertically trained plants to maximize the three-dimensional space. Wonder if my neighbors would mind if I added a beehive?

All right, all you dreamers and realists. What kind of self-sufficient things do you dream of? What things do you already do?

Re-posted to linked up with Frugally Sustainable's Blog Hop!  
Also shared at Preparedness Fair #3.

1 comment:

  1. What a great-sounding book! This is going on my wish list. The different levels described sound like a great realistic help. I really like that it's from Ireland too, which gives it a different flavour from the ones we usually see. Thank you for sharing this at the Preparedness Fair! :)