The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency by Anna Hess
As a fan of Anna and Mark Hess's blog, The Walden Effect, I knew this book would be full of interesting projects and useful information. When she wrote that she was offering free copies to bloggers who would write a review, of course I signed up right away!
I was giddy when the book arrived in the mail in October (happy birthday to me!) The publisher asked that we try to time the review to coincide with the book's release in mid-November, and since the book didn't look too thick (about 400 pages) I figured I'd be done in plenty of time.
Although October and November were very busy for our family, the real reason I couldn't get through this book as quickly as I'd thought was because I wanted to try all of the projects! The book is set up with a chapter for every weekend through a whole year (for example, the project for the first week of August is "Seed Saving"). Each project lists its goal ("Save seeds from the easiest vegetables in your garden"), cost ("$0 to $10), time ("1 hour to 4 hours"), difficulty ("Easy to medium"), and kid-friendly rating (generally yes, no, or maybe). After a short section on the reasons each project is worth trying, she dives right into the meaty how-to.
This book is great for the raw beginner, eager to get her hands dirty but not sure where to start, as well as for a homesteader who's been working at it for a few years (we all have something to learn!) I know I, for one, get excited reading about ideas in books or online, but balk at actually starting projects because I'm not sure exactly how to get going. This book lays everything out so clearly I feel like I could just jump up and get started as soon as I finish the chapter (although some of my bookmarked projects, like "Growing edible mushrooms" will require a little more waiting - I have to order the spawn plugs, after all . . .)
So, you ask, what were the projects I was so excited about? The first one that really caught my interest (only because the previous three chapters (Find room to homestead, Survey your site, and Plan your summer garden) were projects I had already done) was the chapter entitled "Kill Mulch", which included a section on Hugelkultur - creating raised beds by burying rotting wood and compost (I actually just tried this in my garden this week!)
The book isn't just gardening ideas, either. She includes projects like making your own seasonings, soups, and breads, storing vegetables on the shelf, canning, drying, and other kitchen-related tasks, as well as more abstract assignments like figuring your real hourly wage, budgeting, thinking about voluntary simplicity, and realistic goal setting. There's a chapter on building a chicken coop or tractor and one on staying warm without electricity. Really, they're as varied as a homestead life can often be!
I love that this book is obviously made up of projects the author has personally done, featuring her own experiences and research. She knows these things work because she's done them herself, and she tells you about the problems and pitfalls along the way. It's like standing alongside your neighbor, listening to her tell you what she's tried and seen, and encouraging you to try it for yourself.
Note: I was not payed to review this book (other than the free review copy), I just really love it! But if you click on the link above and buy the book at amazon.com, I will receive a small commission from the sale. Thank you for your support!