The other week I read Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. It chronicles Jenna’s experiences as she tries to simplify her life and become more self sufficient. It’s an excellent book for anyone just starting down that path.
The book is broken into subject areas. Each subject area has two sections. The first section describes Jenna’s experiences. The second section gives hints and resources. Topics covered include:
- Chickens – We had chickens when I was growing up. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve been around them though. This was a good refresher course for me.
- Beekeeping – The Man of the House has talked about keeping bees. Jenna makes it seem doable.
- The Country Kitchen – A large part of this section is devoted to baking bread. While I enjoyed the book, I just couldn’t relate to this section. Baking bread without a bread machine? Inconceivable!
- Old Stuff – Jenna advocates buying sturdy used items, instead of disposable new items. In general that’s good advice. I would counter that it’s also possible to buy good new items. It’s all about viewing your purchases as an investment. A good case in point is my beloved bread machine. It’s not the cheapest model around but it does a great job, I use it every week and I use it for making jam as well as bread. I get way more use out of it than I would out of an inexpensive machine.
- Sewing – I own a sewing machine, but it’s been years since I’ve used it. I’d love to sew again, it’s hard finding the time though.
- Sled Dogs
- Rabbits – I grew up in the country. We had chickens, rabbits, horses, Elvis the mule and even a cow or two. It’s a different lifestyle and a paragraph here convinced me that Jenna “gets it.”
How simple was the simple life? Clearly, it’s complex enough to make a Buddhist vegetarian kill a rabbit at point-blank range, then go buy a gun. Your lifestyle preferences are not considered when it comes to caring for the lives of others on a farm. Not everything can be as simple as we’d like.
There are also a couple of chapters worth of country living resources and assorted hints.
I recommend it for anyone just starting to become more self sufficient or for people who are contemplating that lifestyle. More important than the tips and tricks is the spirit of the book. Country living is a lifestyle and a culture. It’s more than making your own bread and keeping a garden. It’s hard to put into words what that difference is, but Jenna has captured the essence of that life in this book.