by Chelsey Simpson
A free book is a good book.
One of the many perks of my job is that strangers often send me fun things in the mail. In the past I have received: pajamas, makeup, bobbleheads, a skunk skull, pomegranates and books. Lots of books. With the exception of the skunk skull -- which I asked for … sort of -- these items are sent unrequested by folks who hope I will review or publicize their product in the magazine I edit. I almost never do.
"Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest and Cook Your Own Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More," by Sara Pitzer. The title pretty much explains the appeal, but it doesn't convey how beautiful and user-friendly this book is thanks to the simple illustrations gracing almost every page and charts and sidebars breaking information down into bite-sized portions. Each section takes a different grain from field to table, and there are even profiles of farmers and bakers to personalize the narrative.
"Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life," by Jenna Woginrich. Jenna is a 25-year-old homesteader by night and office worker by day who mixes personal reflection with helpful instruction in this beginner’s guide to sustainable living. While dog sledding as an alternative means of transportation might not be practical in Oklahoma, sections on raising chickens, beekeeping, gardening and dulcimer playing are useful.
"Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First-time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening," by Ellen Zachos. With the exception of a couple projects, such as making elderflower champagne, this would be great book to work through with kids. The pictures are bold and bright, and the projects — from scarecrows to wild food and winterizing — are simple.
"How to Build Your Own Greenhouse," by Roger Marshall. Like the other Storey publications, the illustrations are what really make this book great. The information is detailed, but easy to digest.
"Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home: 52 Quick Meals to Cook for Family and Friends," by Martha Stewart. As evidenced by multiple dog-ears, this book might be my favorite of the bunch. It has made Martha my go-to recipe guru. The book is divided into seasonal sections, and each section is divided into 13 complete menus. The ingredients are mostly fresh and the recipes are easy. Adding to Martha’s sustainable street cred are references to farmer’s markets and instructions for stock making. It’s like she (and her minions) wrote the book with my weekly menu routine in mind!
"The Donkey Companion," by Sue Weaver. My love for this book is slightly irrational considering I have no plans to raise donkeys. Not many people could put together an exhaustive, 300-page guide to livestock care that manages to be fun and readable. Donkey lore and history, full-color photo sections, and helpful sketches throughout make it a page-turner. I especially love the sketches depicting the birthing process and one of a baby donkey in a tiny harness.
Happy reading! Do you have any sustainably-minded how-to books to recommend?