In my younger days, I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books and was entranced by the image of general stores, packed from floor to ceiling with everything that couldn't be produced on the farm. Shelves were filled with bolts of material, candle molds and cast iron ware, barrels of nails hugged the wall, and glass jars of penny candy sat on the counter. Today's 'general stores' are Target and Home Depot. But modern homesteaders still have need of many of the same products their great grandparents used. And there are, in a few locations around the country, stores that carry these self-sufficiency wares.
The three companies I'm most familiar with, Lehman's, Cumberland General Store and The Vermont Country Store, all offer print catalogs, online shopping and actual stores filled with simple-living products. Lehman's, which bills itself as 'the worlds' largest purveyor of historical technology,' is located in Kidron, Ohio; The Cumberland General Store is in Alpheretta, Ga., and The Vermont Country Store, which offers classic clothing designs and natural body care products, has shops in Weston and Rockingham, Vt.
It is just amazing the range of products these stores offer, and it's great fun to peruse their catalogs, dreaming of a simpler, handmade life. You can find kerosene and propane lanterns, cultivators, garden carts, wood cookstoves, milking pails, crosscut saws and peavey poles, pitcher pumps, cotton sleepwear, soap flakes, sorghum and even penny candy.
If you are looking for old fashioned, hand operated or classic 'Americana' products, request a catalog, brew a pot of coffee and spend a quiet rainy afternoon exploring the pages of these wonderful publications. You'll recognize all kinds of things that your grandfather and grandmother used on the farm and in the kitchen. But these products are all shiny new and ready to perform well on your 21st century homestead.