Solutions for Self-Reliance

5 Classic Books on Self-Reliance & Homesteading for Under $25


The world is desperately searching for answers to the variety of problems we’re facing as a species on this planet. But what if we already have all the answers we need?

According to some, we do…

“We know how to solve every food, clean energy, and sensible shelter problem in every climate; we have already invented and tested every necessary technique and technical device, and have access to all the biological material that we could ever use.”
Bill Mollison, the ‘father of permaculture’ and founder of The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, as well as Tagari Publications.

If you’ve followed Walden Labs for any amount of time you might have seen this quote by Bill Mollison before, from his book Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, the “bible” of permaculture.

So if we already have all the answers we need to live peacefully and happily in harmony with nature, why aren’t we doing it? According to Bill, the tragic reality is this:

…very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy, and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them.

Bill’s solution to this problem is just as obvious and simple. He says that “we should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.”

I.e. instead of continuing down the path of top-down centralization that we’re on we should decentralize, from the bottom and up.

Now, I’d like to take this opportunity and share five classic books on a topic that I, and Bill, think contains a lot of the answers needed to build that better world for ourselves and for future generations. That topic is self-reliance, which is the knowledge of how to help yourself.

All of these books are less than $25 a piece, and considering the wealth of knowledge that each of them contain they’re easily worth ten times that price.

Here they are: (don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom!)

The Encyclopedia of Country Living: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself

A bestselling resource for modern homesteading, growing and preserving foods, and raising chickens, The Encyclopedia of Country Living includes how to cultivate a garden, buy land, bake bread, raise farm animals, make sausage, can peaches, milk a goat, grow herbs, churn butter, build a chicken coop, catch a pig, cook on a wood stove, and much, much more.

This comprehensive resource is one of the most authoritative guide available to a sustainable lifestyle and living off of the land, and it’s actually the first book of the five classics mentioned in this article that I added to my bookshelf many years ago.

Carla Emery started writing The Encyclopedia of Country Living in 1969 during the back-to-the-land movement of that time. She continued to add content and refine the information over the years, and the book went from a self-published mimeographed document to a book of 928 pages.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden, written by Toby Hemenway, sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

This revised and updated edition also features a new chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It

The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It teaches all the skills needed to live independently in harmony with the land harnessing natural forms of energy, raising crops and keeping livestock, preserving foodstuffs, making beer and wine, basketry, carpentry, weaving, and much more.

John Seymour, by many seen as the father of the back to basics movement, explains the philosophy of self-sufficiency and its power to transform lives and create communities.

More relevant than ever in our high-tech world, The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It is the ultimate practical guide for realists and dreamers alike.

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Countless readers have turned to Back to Basics for inspiration and instruction, escaping to an era before power saws and fast-food restaurants and rediscovering the pleasures and challenges of a healthier, greener, and more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Now newly updated, the hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, photographs, charts, and illustrations in Back to Basics will help you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. The truly ambitious will find instructions on how to build a log cabin or an adobe brick homestead.

All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space

Rapidly increasing in popularity, square foot gardening is one of the most practical, foolproof ways to grow a home garden.

That explains why author and gardening innovator Mel Bartholomew has sold more than two million copies of Square Foot Gardening describing how to become a successful DIY square foot gardener.

Mel developed his techniques back in the early 1980s and has been teaching them throughout the world ever since. In the process, he has made improvements and refinements and continually adapted his practices to keep pace with modern times.

In this new edition, Bartholomew furthers his discussion on one of the most popular gardening trends today: vertical gardening. He also explains how you can make gardening fun for kids by teaching them the square foot method. Finally, an expanded section on pest control helps you protect your precious produce.


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