#1 - Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen
(Ok, technically, this book was published in 2010, but I didn't discover it until last year, and it's still new enough that I thought I could include it.)
I have to admit, I'm pretty cheap. I rarely buy books; generally, I check them out of the library and glean from them as much as I can. Some books, however, are so chock-full of useful information that I decide it's worth the cash to save myself the trouble of copying out the entire book and just buy it. This was definitely one of them.
Honestly, this book had me from Hello. The first sentence on the back cover reads: "If you have ever wondered how to grow vegetables in an apartment, build a chicken coop, homebrew beer, or make your own soap from scratch - this book is for you." Yes, yes, yes, and yes! This book IS for me!
Making It, in my opinion, is basically a recipe book for how to cut the Walmart umbilical and live a more self-sufficient life. The first section focuses on things you'll use every day, such as "Thinking around the Toothbrush" "Minimalist Mouthwash" "Giving Up the Bottle: Four Natural Shampoo Alternatives" "Homegrown Medicine" and many other directions for making your own personal care products.
The second section moves to the kitchen, covering basic stock making, cooking beans, cooking whole grains, baking "Serious Bread", homemade condiments, and (my favorite, because it was the most new to me) Old Fashioned Vinegar-Based Drinks (I LOVE Oxymel!)
Next, we move on to Making Your Own Cleaning Products, Laundry Day, and Basic Mending. Most of this ideas I already use, so I didn't glean too much from this section (although it's all very good information).
Section Three included instructions for making sauerkraut and other fermented foods, growing microgreens and sweet potatoes indoors (for the edible greens, not the roots), and more on herbal medicine (including drying, infusing, and tincturing herbs, making salves, medicinal honey, deodorants, bug repellents, and even homemade peppermints).
Then comes Section Four. Easily my favorite part, it starts out with "Making Soap the Easy Way". It actually shows you how to make real, old-fashioned soap in small batches, using only three ingredients (coconut or olive oil, lye, and water). I have made both castille (olive oil) and coconut oil soap twice now, and I love how simple it is. It makes soapmaking easy and approachable (and doesn't assume that everyone wants super-scented colored fancy soap - although you can certainly add scents and colors if you want to; I just prefer mine plain and simple). It even has recipes (if you really want to go all-out) for how to make your own lye out of wood ashes (although the author states that it's a pain in the neck, and hard to be sure of the exact strength of the lye you end up with).
The next part was mostly things I already knew: How to Slaughter a Chicken, Starting Seeds and Planting a Garden, How to Prepare a Bed for Planting, Saving Seed, etc. followed by The Magic of Fermentation: Making Vinegar, Mead, and Home Brew.
The final section was on infrastructure: drip irrigation, seedling flats, compost bins, worm farming, solar cookers, and even a chicken coop. And to finish it off (and make me smile, since I want to try this myself this summer) "Backward Beekeeping", ending with instructions on how to Make a Native Pollinator Habitat.
It almost felt as if this book was written with me in mind! Of course I realize it's not, which in turn makes me smile, realizing that there are others like me out there, eager to try new things and learn to make things for ourselves. Here's to modern homesteaders!