Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, by Deborah Niemann – a book review.
I love reading, especially about homesteading and living a more sustainable lifestyle. Homegrown and Handmade is not a new book, it was written in 2011, but it is just as relevant now as it was then. The author writes about the sense of excitement, optimism, and satisfaction of creating a more sustainable lifestyle, and her honesty and willingness to share her mistakes along the way will make you feel all the more encouraged.
This was a fun book to read! At first I was skeptical and wondered if I had made a mistake purchasing this book. The first chapters didn’t offer much specific information and seemed superficial. However, it is impossible for one book to give in-depth information on such a vast array of topics from gardening, poultry, and fiber animals, so I kept reading. And I was glad I did.
First, a little information about Deborah Niemann. In her own words:
In 2002, I decided to start living the adventure that Henry David Thoreau wrote about in Walden, and my husband and I moved our family to 32 acres in the middle of Illinois where we built our own house and learned to grow our own food. Today we produce one hundred percent of our own meat, eggs, dairy products and even maple syrup, as well as the majority of our fruits and vegetables. For more information on our homestead, you can visit our website at Antiquity Oaks.”
This is a woman who in 1987 started her first pregnancy thinking a cheeseburger and french fries was a perfectly healthy meal.
She starts the book with a foreword which speaks about the modern homesteading movement. This in particular speaks to me:
This new wave of homesteading is not just about learning to be content with less. The modern homestead’s most valuable product isn’t a food, beverage or building. The most valuable thing being created on the homestead these days is a new sense of satisfaction, excitement and optimism inherent in creating more sustainable lifestyles.”
A new sense of satisfaction, excitement and optimism. That is exactly how I feel as I continue to learn new self-sufficiency skills.
Back to the book. The introduction gives a general overview of the problems facing our current unsustainable sources of food.
Deborah then goes on to present subjects in parts, and then to break it down. Part one is the sustainable garden. The first chapter covers planning, the second chapter growing, and the third chapter cooking and preserving from the garden.
Each section of the book continues in the same way with chapters on planning, growing/raising, and using what you produce.
Part One: The Sustainable Garden
Part Two: The Backyard Orchard
Part Three: The Backyard Poultry Flock
Part Four: The Home Dairy
Part Five: The Home Fiber Flock
If starting or expanding your homestead is part of your plans, this book will give you a good start in planning. You will still need other resources for more in-depth information, but the strength of Deborah’s Homegrown and Handmade is not so much in the actual information she provides, it’s in the “Can-do” attitude she presents it with.
Interspersed throughout the book, Deborah shares her mistakes with text boxes titled “I wish I had known…” I appreciate this for two reasons – one, I get to learn from someone else’s mistakes, and two, I am reminded that mistakes are OK and a part of the process.
I think the thing I learned most from this book was that it can be done, and no matter how much you try to prepare yourself with books, classes and mentors, you will make mistakes and learn from them.
In Deborah’s afterword, she says this:
…there will be times when you make mistakes and or find yourself wondering what to do in a particular situation. Don’t give up…only you can become the expert on your soil, your garden, your property and your animals. If we can do it, so can you.”
Thank you Deborah.
Enjoy and happy reading!