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The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It (1976)

by John Seymour

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661835,809 (4.42)1
"Describes how to live in harmony with the planet independently, and presents information on raising crops and livestock, making homemade food staples and household items, and using natural forms of energy."--
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Great book for everyone aspiring to be a little more self sufficient, whether you want a homestead or not. Everything is laid out in an easy to follow manner and has great step by step instructions on so many important projects and subjects ( )
  Crystal199 | Jan 4, 2023 |
Wow, this book is so full of information! I didn't get through all of it, but will revisit. Really like Seymour's writing.
( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Reviewing this is as dicey as reviewing the Bible. The late John Seymour is considered, at least in his native England, the father of self-sufficiency. This is a truly beloved tome to back-to-the-landers young and old.

One of the really inspiring aspects of the book is the explanation of how knowledge of natural cycles and ecological interrelationships allows us to get the most out of a plot – garden and livestock – with an economy of effort. This is the 19th century concept of “High Farming”: “a carefully worked out balance between animals and plants, so that each feeds the other: the plants feeding the animals directly, the animals feeding the soil with their manure, and the land feeding the plants.” Essentially, the good old-fashioned closed-loop farm. In practice, like the natural systems that it echoes, High Farming is more complicated than that, with each crop and livestock animal fitting in like a cog or gear, but once in place it works almost like a perpetual motion machine, with the farmer acting as husbandman, greasing the bearings of the great machine and keeping down the weeds.

As do most self-sufficiency books, this one contains chapters on gardening, livestock, wild food, cooking and food preservation, energy/waste, and crafts/skills. Seymour covers all topics on several levels – urban, suburban, small (1-5 acre) farm, and large scale, explaining, from experience, what is feasible and what isn't.

He also takes things a step further than many SS books we've read. In dealing with waste he covers composting, feeding to livestock, reusing, and recycling options – and then discusses in two illustrated pages (including a hilarious and foul-mouthed poem) the viability of the thunderbox. Not a polite, plastic, indoor composting toilet, but a full-on pit biffy (or outhouse, as they are known outside our region). You can see where Tom Good got his inspiration for the methane digester in his basement (in my edition, it's on page 349). In his section on pottery, a topic not found in all SS books, he does not suggest merely buying some clay and throwing some pots to take to a friend's kiln, but digging and testing your own clay, building your own potting wheel, and even mixing your own glazes. Wool spinning is included in most SS books, but Seymour also explains how to spin cotton and – brace yourself – flax. This is impressive because despite the high price of linen (on par with and sometimes above real silk at my local fabric store) and its very desirable properties, the process of converting flax into linen (which includes allowing it to rot in water for 2-3 weeks) is generally considered too involved for the homesteader. (I dare you to tell that to generations of Irish crofters!)

Most importantly – even more crucial than all the valuable information Seymour imparts on “how-to”s galore – is his guidance. This man had decades of experience all over the globe, on all sizes of plots. He has worked alone, with African tribesmen, with a single helper, with children, with families, and with friends. You feel immediately that you can trust his friendly, humorous, practical, and sometimes blunt advice. You're left with the feeling that you arrived at your grandfather's house and caught him at his lunch (or tea, in this case) and asked him point-blank, “How can I do it?” He'd look out over his fields, think over years of successes and failures, cough, and start, with a growing twinkle in his eye, “Well, if I were you, but knew what I know . . .” ( )
  uhhhhmanda | Sep 5, 2019 |
The complete back-to-basics guide
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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INTRODUCTION
In the lives we lead today, we take much for granted, and few of us remember why so many "advanced" civilizations of the past simply disappeared.
Chapter 1: The Way to Self-Sufficiency
The first questions we must answer are: What is this book about? What is self-sufficiency, and why do it?
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"Describes how to live in harmony with the planet independently, and presents information on raising crops and livestock, making homemade food staples and household items, and using natural forms of energy."--

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