During winter, there are fewer demands on my time as opposed to when the weather is warmer. One of the things I really enjoy is reading about homesteading type projects. I cannot even begin to count the number of articles, magazines, books, and blogs I have consumed over the years relating to this topic. As the practice of returning to some of the simpler ways of life becomes a more popular topic, it seems the field is crowded with many players. It is sometimes difficult to filter through some of the content so I thought I would share some of the magazines and books that I have found to be good quality sources of information
Mother Earth News
The first magazine I began reading related to the topic of simple living/homesteading/self-sufficiency would be Mother Earth News. This magazine has been around for many years and has evolved since its beginning in the 1970’s. They offer a CD containing a digital collection of articles dating back to the first issues which is when I believe the magazine was at its best. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a good periodical, I just find the information contained in the earlier versions more to my liking. The current publication tends to lean toward environmentalism and political correctness a little more than I might care for, but if you can get past that, there are some articles that might provide inspiration for projects. Mother Earth News does tend to lack a little in the depth and detail for some of its projects, but sometimes, I find a quick easy read article on a subject enough to get me interested in researching it further. Despite the lack of detail in the current articles, the archives are so vast you should be able to do an online search of past articles to find what you want.
Grit is a sister publication to Mother Earth News. The articles in Grit seem to be geared toward the hobby farmer a little more, with less emphasis on environmentalism and politics. The topics are similar to Mother Earth News, in detail, but again it is a good publication to inspire you in pursuing new projects.
Countryside and Small Stock Journal
Countryside has been one of my favorite magazines for several years. Recently the publication changed hands and subsequently has changed format to some extent. Countryside was a magazine full of wonderfully concise articles of simple projects and old-timey wisdom. I would compare reading Countryside to sitting down with your granddad on the front porch and listening to him tell how they did things when he was younger. The pages of the old Countryside were devoid of glossy print and pictures, and it was as simple as the lifestyle it was promoting. The new Countryside seems to be evolving, and to me it seems as though it has not settled down and developed any particular identity as of yet. I am hopeful that it will remain as good as it had been in the past.
I would rank this magazine as my personal favorite. The history of the magazine and its origin are as interesting as the articles it contains. The tone of this magazine tends to lean more toward preparedness, but I find that there is still much content relating to simple living contained within its pages. Dave Duffy, the founder of Backwoods Home, decided to seek out a more simple life, leaving behind a career in the aerospace industry. He began documenting some of his experiences, and was able to begin a second career publishing a magazine. Articles include diverse topics such as politics, gardening, canning, firearms, and DIY. There is rarely a time that I cannot find something within the pages that do not interest me. As with Mother Earth News, I do not always agree with all of the content but these deference in opinions are easily looked past. Backwoods Home also offers digital as well as print anthologies dating back to the beginning of publication. These make for a very useful reference library for most every topic relating to homesteading. They also offer an online article index that will allow you to locate the information you need.
Encyclopedia of Country Living
This is a classic book in the living off the land genre written by Carla Emery. I would classify this more of a resource manual. Something that you get out when you need to research a topic. I have found that it does not, for me, lend itself well to being a book that is read cover to cover, although I don’t think it was intended as such.
The “Have-More” Plan
This is another classic that has been around for many years, from Ed and Carolyn Robinson. The current version is a quick read, and from what I have heard, this version has been truncated from the original. There are various topics covered, from buying your home to raising pigs. Some of the information is a little dated but I have read and re-read this several times. This is a very inspirational read for someone looking to live a back to the land/simple life that is integrated with the 9-5 work week.
Storey’s Basic Country Skills.
John and Martha Storey have put together a very comprehensive resource for all things homesteading. This book contains a wealth of information that I refer to many times. There are several DIY projects with just the right amount of detail as to not be too tedious to read, and yet still providing enough information to be able to complete the project on your own. Where the Robinsons “The Have-More” plane is a quick read, John and Martha Storey have put together a comprehensive collection of very well written articles.
Reader’s Digest Back to Basics
This is an older book that was given to me when I first purchased my home. I credit this book with fueling my desire to live a simpler lifestyle. This book contains a wide variety of articles that will spark the imagination. Although the detail in some of the articles is a little lacking, I still find it to be quite adequate. I find myself picking this book up and reading just for inspiration. It makes me want to take on new projects and explore new interests. An online search shows that there are currently used versions of this book available as well as a newer book with the same name. I am not sure whether this new book contains the same content as the one that I have
The Self Reliant Homestead
I do not own a copy of this particular book but it is one that I have checked out many times from the library. I first became aware of Charles Sanders, the author of this book, through his articles that he wrote for Backwoods Home Magazine. The book contains various topics that seem to me, to be written in a magazine article format. In reading through his book I became aware that the author was a Conservation Officer in Indiana, and then later I read an article in our local newspaper that was announcing his retirement. For a long time I never knew that he lived so close. This is a very good book that, some day, I will add to my library.
I am sure that there are many other good resources out there; these just represent some of my favorites. I hope that by compiling this list you will be able to find something that you enjoy and that you can find useful. If you have any favorites not listed here please leave them in the comments for others to see.