Back to Basics by Abigail R. Gehring is a Self Sufficiency book done right. While it is targeted at being about getting back to basics (which could be argued is partially the goal of being self-sufficient), it has such a wealth of information that it should give you a foundation to build upon. The book starts with finding the right piece of land on which to design your life style. It explains how to read a map and what to be conscious of when examining property. This is a great addition to those people who are new to the topic and I believe it is an important addition.
The land section is closely followed by the home section… and this is a basic, yet very welcome read. The instructions for building a log cabin and adobe house are provided in very simple instructions, so someone could (with some experience or tenacity) recreate the plans for shelter. I think that the knowledge developed from these pages alone make the book worth owning, with many useful diagrams and tips that make me feel that I could build my own cabin.
The sections on gardening are light on content, yet I believe this to be an attractive point about the book. It provides a very basic introduction to produce, yet trusts that there are other (better targeted) sources for that information. This is something that impressed me greatly… yes, gardening is a very important part of getting “back to basics”, yet without spending hundreds of pages on the topic, they could not really do it any justice. I respected the editors decision to provide the basics on the topic of gardening and trust the reader to find more in depth information elsewhere. The pages covering preserving your produce were a much better presented topic than the other book made by this company, Homesteading. The instructions here are very simple, yet they are able to be done without complicated equipment. They really took the “basic” part of the title to heart here and I really appreciate it.
Waste management and the collection of water are some of the most basic requirements of our life, and this book covers those topics. Instructions are provided on how to build a well with hand tools, and how to create your own long drop toilet. The sections in this book which cover powering a house are much more realistic and reliable, with many pages on hydro and wind power and a few pages on the topic of using solar. I was much more impressed with this information than was presented in the Homesteading book by the same author.
The topics of animal management, both the care and butchering, are included in brief yet useful sections. Bees, Fish (Aquaponics), Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Cows and Horse (obviously it doesn’t cover butchering these fine animals). The sections on Pig butchering were very useful to me the first time I slaughtered pigs on my old homestead. I had the pages open next to me as I worked and they were very helpful.
Some of the most interesting pages were the handy crafts sections. Over 100 pages cover the topics of fabrics (weaving, dying and other projects), leatherwork (with instructions on how to make moccasins), metal work, wood work and even basketry. There is even information on wild foods which sound like something I will try. While the information is not deep, it is sufficient to understand the concept and use the knowledge.
I feel that the book really excels at its subject matter… that it provides the basics on getting back to basics. With this book you could do much that is required on a small farm or homestead… you may not do them perfectly, yet you will have the knowledge to do them. With that knowledge you will gain experience to do better next time. This book is in my library due to both the useful knowledge it provides now, it also could be used in the future if it was really needed.