Homesteading and self-sufficient living are easier than ever, thanks to a wide range of modern low-tech tools and techniques. While our ancestors cut sod to build their house, today's modern homesteaders look for the best energy-efficient building materials. Pioneers used buckets to haul water from the creek, but now homeowners can choose solar irrigation pumps or rainwater catchment systems to irrigate their gardens and yards.
You don't have to live on 40 acres to experience the joy and satisfaction of self-reliance and working with your hands, whether it's growing food, raising chickens or undertaking DIY projects. Whether you are a city, suburban or rural 'homesteader,' there are still some basic skills and techniques, ones your great grandparents would have practiced, that will make your sustainable living experience successful and enjoyable. Here are some of our top recommendations for books to inform and inspire you.
The most informative books on all things related to modern homesteading are Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living and The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour.
Choose any homesteading question and Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living will almost always provide your answer. What sets this homesteading bible apart from other homesteading books are the stories of Emery's personal successes, failures, joys and sorrows as she wrote the book while raising a family on her Idaho farm.
Our other favorite comprehensive homesteading book is The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. First published in the United Kingdom in 1975, the updated version is filled with marvelous illustrations and drawings that give you step-by-step instructions on making butter, brewing rose hip wine, sharpening a scythe, building a fence, shearing a sheep, laying out a garden and much, much more.
There also are many books that each focus on individual homesteading topics.
If 'putting up' the produce from your garden is a priority, check out Keeping the Harvest. This book details how to preserve fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing, pickling, drying, curing and using cold storage.
The Woodburner's Companion offers the pros and cons of heating with wood using woodstoves, fireplaces, wood furnaces and boilers, masonry heaters and pellet stoves. It includes advice on installing stoves, troubleshooting chimney problems and how to store firewood.
If you're planning to design your own water or septic system, read Wells and Septic Systems. You will learn where your water supply comes from, how to find it and the best way to get it to the surface. The section on septic tanks explains how to build a tank, lay the leach fields and connect the system to your house.
For inspiration, read the experiences of other back-to-the-landers, such as the 20th century homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing. We highly recommend their classic book, The Good Life,which documents their homesteading experiences in Vermont and Maine, where they built their own stone houses and grew almost all of their own food.
To find books that compliment whatever stage of modern homesteading you are in, spend some time at your library or peruse the offerings at Mother Earth Shopping. (Order $50 or more of books and you'll get free shipping.)
You can share your favorite modern homesteading books by posting a comment below.