John Seymour shares decades of experience with readers in this impressive guide to living a more frugal and self-sufficient lifestyle. This updated version from the 1976 edition includes more information than ever, as well as modern equipment and information relevant for today’s homesteaders. Is it, however, the “complete back-to-basics guide” as it claims to be?
About The Self-Sufficient Life
The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it is published by DK and is a hard cover book with over 300 pages of informative reading. It is written by John Seymour with Will Sutherland and gives not only practical experiences with homesteading, but also covers a great deal of the philosophical reasonings behind land management, self-sufficiency and having a diverse holding. I appreciated the mindset of why people choose to live a self-sufficient life and found those portions of the book very interesting.
Philosophy of Living Self-Sufficiently
The first few sections deal with the philosophy of living a self-sufficient lifestyle, how to take your first steps towards self-sufficiency, our interaction with the environment, and various types of gardens or small holding homesteads that are possible. Beautiful pictures show what can be done with a small urban garden, a larger community plot, a one-acre farm and a five-acre farm.
Types of Food for Homesteaders
The next few chapters of the book cover tips and suggestions for how to provide food for a family while living on a homestead. These include food from the garden, from animals, from the fields, and from the wild. Some of the information is surprisingly detailed, for example the section on grafting fruit tree branches is something I would consider an advanced gardening skill. Other sections, like the three pages about bees and honey, leave me desiring more.
Areas Around the Homestead and Old-Fashioned Skills
The next two sections talk about different areas of the homestead and go into a bit more detail about how to set up an organize each area. These are “In the Dairy” and “In the Kitchen”. A beginner would want additional information about things like making cheese or canning, but the recipes, tips and little suggestions are fantastic.
The remainder of the book is spent introducing several of the crafts and skills many homesteaders find themselves wanting to try their hand at. Things like spinning, weaving, brewing wine, making baskets, building outbuildings, fences and shed or even creating a more eco-friendly home are all discussed.
What Readers Will Love About The Sufficient Life
The pictures in The Self-Sufficient Life, while old-fashioned and nicely done, are full color and rather detailed. Oftentimes a particular technique is shown in step-by-step fashion through illustrations and text both, making it easier to learn or follow along. New homesteaders will also appreciate the “been there, done that”, common sense attitude that Seymour takes. His experience is evident as you read the book.
What Readers Need to Know Before Buying The Self-Sufficient Life
While Mr. Seymour does a good job of introducing readers to almost ever aspect of a small holding lifestyle, nothing is covered in exact detail. If you are the type who must have exact diagrams and measurements, you would need more information beyond what is provided in this book. If you are able to see something and then visualize how it fits together though you may be able to do a lot of improvements around your homestead just using the book and illustrations as a guide.
American readers will want to be aware that Mr. Seymour is writing of his experiences in Europe so some seasonal and climate concerns, as well as a few of the odd terms used, may seem different. The glossary in back explains most, but not all, the non-American terminology.
Overall The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it is a great introduction to anyone beginning, or even considering a more sustainable style of living. More experienced homesteaders will find the alternate methods presented interesting to consider. The sheer amount of topics covered is amazing – from a dry toilet, to energy efficient home considerations, to crop rotation and land management. Readers will find their interest piqued by various topics and likely develop a desire to learn more.
- Title: The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it
- Written by: John Seymour with Will Sutherland
- Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc 2004
- Format: Large Hard-Cover
- ISBN 10: 0-7894-9332-2