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Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a…

Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money

by Dolly Freed

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'Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money' could just as easily be called 'How to Kill Stuff and Eat it' as that's what the lion's share of this survivalism classic is about.

The true life story of the girl behind the pseudonym Dolly Freed is as fascinating as the book itself but you can google that.

I read it cold, knowing nothing much about it, and all I'm sharing here are a handful of my half-assed random impressions of the book.

What struck me like a blow to the head was how startling, forthright and downright funny it is.

The narrator extols the virtues of laziness, lying and tax evasion and makes no bones about killing animals — so long as you're going to eat them.

She describes in graphic detail how to rear, kill and butcher animals for food. And more power to her for having the guts to do it herself.

There's plenty of good, down to earth, common sense advice on homesteading, mixed in with homespun wisdom and the occasional bizarre contradiction.

She laughs at people who are squeamish about, for example, killing rabbits because they're cute (also delicious) but doesn't kill possums 'for totemic reasons.'

In later sections there's antiquated advice on how to buy a cheap property and do it up yourself. And although some of it creaks and groans like a screen door banging in the wind the underlying principles are sound.

Right near the end it gets really nutty and some of the things she says are outrageous. Gotten into a financial dispute with someone who is trying to rip you off? Don't get a lawyer — just intimidate them. And if that doesn't work, kill their dog.

So by all means take it with a giant pinch of salt.

But there's an intelligent message here — an ecology even — that I'd take any day over any number of 'white middle-class people throw out all their shit and feel better about themselves' books that pass for advice on minimalist living.

Own your own property and land. Cut your expenses to the absolute minimum. Learn how to fend for yourself. Become self-sufficient rather than money dependent. And make sure that everything you do supports everything else.

Why throw rotten vegetables on a compost heap for months when you can feed them to rabbits, who shit it out the next day, and fertilise the garden with that instead? Then you raise, breed, kill and eat the rabbits (along with fresh vegetables).

I don't doubt such advice is nothing new if you're any type of survivalist, homesteader or sit on your porch with a shotgun. But it was interesting to read a dated self-help book that was still surprisingly funny and, dare I say it, helpful.

I'll leave you with her closing thoughts:

"Now, then, don't you have a hobby you just don't have time to pursue? Golf? Tennis? Partying? Studying? Music? Painting? Pottery? Hang gliding? Whatever? Even fishing or gardening — wouldn't you like to change these from merely recreation to partly occupation?
Yes? Then why don't you simply do so?
It's feasible. It's easy. It can be done. It should be done.
Do it."

Now get off of my lawn. ( )
  graffiti.living | Oct 22, 2017 |
While it's certainly dated in topics like cost of living and law, Possum Living does still offer insight into the minimalist lifestyle. I skipped the section on how to raise and kill rabbits as well as the lengthy details on moonshine, neither of which resonate with any lifestyle I'd ever want to lead. Rather than information and instruction, I found Dolly's attitude and spirit more inspiring (and entertaining) than anything else. I also appreciated the older Dolly's notes in the revised edition to show how her life evolved after the 70s. If nothing, this book'll make you laugh.

3 stars

"As mentioned in a previous chapter, I'm not in the purpose-of-life business. However, I will say this: I firmly believe that anyone leading a natural, healthy, unharassed life will come to find that life is purposeful and good (192)."

"A clue to the right work for you is what you will do for free (213)." ( )
  flying_monkeys | Aug 30, 2016 |
Undue emphasis on moonshine, says me, but full of interesting tips and tricks for getting by without cash. It's dated (I'd certainly never have the balls to go without health insurance these days) but there's a good deal of sound advice within. It's amusingly written too. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
This book is charming, and it's refreshing to read a book on urban homesteading aimed at poor people rather than middle-class foodies, but it's not particularly helpful. Good for a breezy evening read. ( )
  paperloverevolution | Mar 30, 2013 |
In 1978 an 18-year-old young woman wrote Possum Living to explain and, to a certain degree to teach, about she and her father's life of voluntary simplicity. It made a few waves and then seemed to slip beneath the surface of popular opinion until 2010, when the original publication was found in an attic and subsequently republished. This how-to manual on the simple life was penned by Dolly Freed, a blunt no-nonsense sort who is difficult to ignore. I started the book half-heartedly, expecting to put it down after a few chapters. But the rationale behind the arguments posited in this book are such an amusing mix of naivety and experience I just couldn't stop reading.

Although at the time she had no more than a seventh grade education, Freed is clearly a very intelligent young woman. In her chapter on housing she lays out how to buy foreclosed property with as much precision as any real estate lawyer. She also has quite a background in how to make moonshine. At the same time, her youth and lack of experience smacks you in the face. An excellent example of this being her chapter on how to deal with law, which basically proposes that you break out windows and verbally abuse anyone who isn't playing exactly fair. (Thankfully, Freed does retract that philosophy in this newer edition of the book, stating that age and wisdom have changed her thinking in this particular regard.)

If you're interested in back-to-the-land books I'd recommend Possum Living for you. But not so much as a how-to manual (as it was intended) but for the fascinating insight into the life of a young woman in the 1970s who was doing this "back to the land thing." I'd love to have met the 18-year-old Dolly Freed, I imagine she was a force to reckoned with. ( )
  aleahmarie | Jul 24, 2011 |
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Many people, perhaps you among them, are not temperamentally suited for the 9-to-5 rat race but assume there is no other way to live.
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Freed guides readers on how to buy and maintain a home, dress well, stay healthy, save money, and be lazy, proud, miserly, and honest, all while enjoying leisure and keeping up a middle-class façade. Possum Living instructs on practical matters, including how to grow and can food, raise and slaughter rabbits, catch and cook fish and turtles, and distill your own moonshine.… (more)

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