by Carla Emery
This book is Carla Emery’s life work. Its nearly one thousand pages contain a million words, more than two thousand recipes, and over fifteen hundred web and mail-order sources. For everything she tells you how to do, she also tells you where to get the supplies to do it. This book truly lives up to its "Encyclopedia" name. The information it contains is basic, thorough and reliable.
Carla began writing this book in 1969, and continually added, refined, updated and promoted it until her death in 2005. In the early 1970s she wrote and self published the first editions of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, selling 90,000 copies of her self published editions by appearing on popular television shows of the time. This 40th Anniversary Edition contains the most up-to-date resource information and is the original manual of basic country skills that are essential and necessary not only for people living in the country, but also for those living anywhere in the world!
As Carla says in the Introduction, "This book is about real country living - growing your family's food, both plant and animal." (Emphasis mine.) But growing your family's food is not all this book is about. It's about choosing it, growing it, preserving it, and cooking it. You'll learn how to find and buy the land that you need for your "country living". You'll also learn lots of other neat and necessary skills like cultivating your garden; making sausage; canning fruits, vegetables and meats; catching a pig, milking a goat;cooking on a wood stove; and lots more!
Carla lists 10 Helpful Habits that help her accomplish all the work she must do. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Number 7 is :"...get somebody else to do as many ... as possible." The book contains some light-hearted, sometimes self deprecating tales of life in the country, as well as some heart wrenching stories. The tone of the book can best be described as "If it needs to be done, I can get it done."
Resources in this book have been updated to be of use in today's digital world. For example, in the following quote (from her discussion on buying land), she refers to an agency that no longer exists, but the Web link is to its current equivalent (the Farm Service Agency):
Ask the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS); it's a government agency that gives free advice; www.fsa.usda.gov
- Introduction To Plants - 78 pages
- Garden Vegetables - 128 pages
- Herbs and Flavorings - 56 pages
- Goats, Cows and Home Dairying - 68 pages
- Bee, Rabbit, Sheep and Pig - 76 pages
- Index - 10 pages with three columns of tiny (think: telephone book) type
The details in this book are, well...encyclopedic. Want to know how to capture, butcher, gut and clean a chicken? All the [gory!!] details are there. Afraid of home canning? There is detailed information on how not to poison your family with botulism or other food borne pathogens. Want to build a house out of straw bales? This book tells you how. Want to know how to keep warm when you have no source of heat? It's there. Want to know how to bake bread in a pressure cooker? Yep...details on how to brown both top and bottom.
A review by Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians, asks ‘Is there anything this book doesn’t tell you how to do?’
The book is 930 pages and is only available in paperback. It is well bound and being paperback, it will pretty much lay flat. This makes it easy, for example, to use the recipes while in the kitchen. Even though the Index is thorough, I wish that it was available in searchable electronic form on a CD or DVD. But... there is also a Kindle version, and I assume that all of Kindle's search, annotation and text selection capabilities are available to the reader.
If this book cost $100 or more, it would be a bargain. But check out the actual price.
This book would make an excellent gift for your city OR country friends. I promise that it will not lay unread on the coffee table! This book will be dog-eared in no time and your friends will think of you every time they open it and they will thank you.