by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I think I'm older than most of my fellow writers here. I lack the fervor of the newly reformed too. I've always pretty much lived this lifestyle. I missed most of the greed and acquisitiveness of the 80's because I spent that decade living in a rather remote mountain town. Back when I was wanting to learn more about a self-sufficient lifestyle, there was no Internet and mentors were hard to find. So I turned to books.
And even now, with information so easily available, just a few keyboard clicks away, I'm still apt to look to my self-built reference library for answers. I'll check out new information, but some of my old books have served me well for decades. I've noticed that many of them, unavailable for many years, are now back in print. Others you may be able to find cheap, second-hand, as some old folks start looking to downsize their living space and clean out old clutter. Here are a few of my favorite titles; ones I think are worth snapping up if you happen to come across one, and perhaps even searching out.
Hands-down, the stuck-on-a-desert-island, one-book-only, choice I'd pick would be the Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery. That book covers everything, in an easy to read, amusing style. She's written how-to's about raising animals, gardens and orchards, recipes, preserving food - everything from midwifery to burying your dead are covered in this one amazing book.
For those looking to build up an emergency store of food, I have an old book, finally now available as a reprint. The new Passport to Survival, by Rita Bingham and Esther Dickey, is a step-by-step plan for first figuring out how much of what you'd need for a year (as members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, they are writing from experience), tips on how to acquire and store it, and then recipes for using what you've stored. Parts of the book I read with a critical eye, as they can get a bit preachy about some "miracle-food" items, but overall I consider it a valuable resource.
I just recently wrote about my sourdough starter over on my own blog. My copy of Adventures in Sourdough Cooking & Baking, by Charles Wilford, is so well-used I might have to start looking for another copy. It's a great reference for a beginner, with instructions about the care and feeding of your starter. There are a multitude of various bread and breakfast recipes, but also things like noodles, cookies, and pot pie dough.
I grow my fruits and vegetables in a rather harsh, high-desert, climate. I absolutely love anything written by Eliot Coleman. His Four-Season Harvest has helped me stretch our fresh-eating season to practically year-round. I'm still playing with various season-extender covers, but his writing is helping us to redefine normal in terms of a seasonal diet.
We do have a root cellar for storing winter produce (and the fig trees - a whole 'nother story) - dug and built by hand. Root Cellaring, by Mike & Nancy Bubel, helped with figuring out the design, how to use it, and the best storage varieties of fruits and vegetables. I know this one will appeal to fewer readers out there, but I can't tell you how much I love "shopping" in my cellar during these cold, snowy, winter days.
In finding the links to the above books, I've noticed the covers of most of them don't look like my copies anymore, but I'm sure most of the information hasn't changed. I have lots of cookbooks too, that could be considered "classics," such as the Small Planet, The Farm, or the Moosewood ones. But the recipes they contain, though revolutionary at the time, are now pretty much standard fare. Other books on my kitchen bookshelf, such as the Make Your Own Groceries ones, are no longer in print. I also figure I might have left out your personal favorites, so please, any more suggestions are welcome in the comments.