Although I’m not able to implement many of them in my real life, I love learning about skills of the past. Books that explain how our ancestors made the most of everything around them inspire me even today.
The new classic Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring is for the person who wants to learn how to do things for themselves in the homesteading kind of way or simply is interested in learning more about the past.
Learning New Self-Sufficient Skills
Whether the motivation is the loss of a job, a desire to be more hands-on in daily life, or the simple longing for a more self-sufficient lifestyle, more and more people are looking at the skills of old with increasing interest. While the current culture offers a great deal in the way of technological advances, increasing numbers of people have found that technology doesn’t completely satisfy in the same way as the accomplishment of doing something by hand.
One problem we face is that so many people who knew and used these traditional skills are either long gone or have given them up. People who still practice them are few and far between so it’s become difficult to find a person in real life who knows the skills intimately. Therefore, most people don’t know anyone who can teach them the things they want to do.
Fortunately, you can learn many of those skills from this book. For example, do you want to know how to build a smokehouse? Build a sauna? Erect a stone wall? Use solar or water energy? Handcraft a chair? Make a broom? Play simple old-time games? Make Sally Lunn? Sew a rag doll? Do windowsill farming? Create natural cosmetics in the kitchen? Make cottage cheese?
If these are the kinds of activities that inspire you, this is the book for you. It’s full of useful and step-by-step instructions, covering many skills everyone took for granted only a few generations ago.
Chock full of all kinds of old-fashioned skills, Back to Basics is a veritable treasure trove of helpful information for those who want to do things themselves or simply want to learn how things are done.
The book is divided into six parts:
- Land: Buying It—Building on It
- Energy From Wood, Water, Wind, and Sun
- Raising Your Own Vegetables, Fruit, and Livestock
- Enjoying Your Harvest the Year Round
- Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead
- Recreation at Home and in the Wild
Each part contains several subsections that go into more detail. Each page is illustrated with color and black and white photos as well as both color and black and white illustrations. The book is nicely designed and easy to read.
Research and Practice
Back to Basics is an excellent book for those starting to research simple living, self-sufficiency, off-grid living, or homesteading. While it does not cover every topic exhaustively, at 448 pages it is sure to contain information of interest to anyone and everyone looking to do more themselves and be less dependent on others.