Many things to like about this book. If you’re already active in living a more sustainable life, this book will present some challenging next steps. If you’re just beginning, you’ll still find a lot of easy and involving projects to try as first steps.
The author was one of a few “self-sufficiency experts” who were profiled in this month’s (Feb/Mar 2012) Mother Earth News. Coyne is the author of a blog called “Root Simple.” Her description: Root Simple is about back to basics, DIY living, encompassing homegrown vegetables, chickens, herbs, hooch, bicycles, cultural alchemy, and common sense.
One thing I really liked was the organization of the book, split up into sections called “Day to Day,” consisting of items to make for daily use, like body care products and herbal medicines; “Week to Week,” containing laundry, cleaning, mending & cooking items; “Month to Month,” including more about herbal preservation, salves, food preservation, reusable menstrual pads, indoor gardening, deodorant, bug spray, etc. The “Season to Season” section focused on larger gardening projects, harvesting chickens, and fermentation. And the last section contained “Infrastructure” projects which require equipment, such as beekeeping, a dry toilet, native plants, solar cooker, worm composting, chicken coop, etc.
I’ve tested some of the projects myself and found them pretty good! I liked the writing style and I’ll definitely be keeping up with Kelly’s blog. I liked the urban focus of the projects: even though most of us live in cities with limited land, there is still so much we can do to make our lives more sustainable and move ourselves into the producer end of the spectrum, rather than the consumer end. Their projects are doable, they invite experimentation and taking control of one’s life & activities, are inexpensive, well-mapped out and described, and use easily obtained materials — plus a lot of reused materials.
I’ve been actively engaged in creating a sustainable community and life for about the past 15 years, so I have looked at A LOT of these kinds of books. I must say this, although I’ve been at it so long, there were a lot of projects in this book that I hadn’t yet tried: like hair products, vinegar based drinks (like “shrub”), like growing sweet potato vines for greens indoors, making soap, and espaliering fruit trees. Kelly’s clear instructions and positive attitude made me feel like I could succeed and I’ll be trying many of them.
My only caveat is that, in terms of a sustainable life, building community and interdependence are key skills to master. Coyne doesn’t really touch on the importance of community and how to build it — though if you look hard, it is there. I would have liked to see that as a section unto itself. We can’t do everything for ourselves — how much better to rely on our neighbors for the stuff that we don’t care to do or aren’t good at. (Like I am not good at jams, so I trade for ’em.)
Usually, it’s important to me to get books out of the library, so they are freely available to all. But this might be one I want to buy.