The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson

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The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson

Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: As the title says - there are hundreds of ways in which you can become more self-sufficient. Try this book for an introduction and for inspiration. You never know where it might end...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
ISBN: 978-1906787684

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The recent financial crises have taken people by surprise and instead of trying to ride the problem out and then get back to our old, profligate ways we've looked at how we can live more sustainably and less expensively. Thrift is the new black and many people are taking pride in not spending money. I might take issue with whether or not Simon Dawson's book should be called a bible which suggests a completeness which is doesn't seem to exhibit, but it's an excellent starting point for those wanting to become more self-sufficient. It also has the recipe for a chocolate sponge which takes just five minutes to make – and that takes a lot of beating.

When anyone mentions self-sufficiency my mind always goes back to The Good Life. It was splendid comedy but as a concept it's rather daunting. I would like to produce more of my own food and clothes, but I'd like the freedom to do otherwise if I wanted or needed to and that's where The Self-Sufficiency Bible comes into its own. You're not expected to abandon Tesco or M&S completely but every small step you take to being self-sufficient should be a source of pride. It reminded me of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook but whereas Hugh concentrates on the production of food Simon branches out into other areas.

Food is, of course, the major area in which we can reduce our dependence on the supermarkets and you'll find excellent basic information on the kitchen garden – I'd regard it as the basis for your first year's crops after which you might like to invest in Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No 4 by Mark Diacono if you have a kitchen garden or The Allotment Experience by Ruth Binney if you have access to a larger area of ground. If you're short of space then have a look at Patio Produce by Paul Peacock. However much space you have you really should have a go at growing your own food. Nothing tastes as good as food which you've grown yourself and food yards are much better than food miles.

Baking your own bread is just about obligatory for those looking to be self-sufficient and the mystique is taken away from the process and the book's not precious about the need to make bread the hard way. Bread machines are covered and the advice is sensible. Do what you're comfortable with and in the time you have available. If the idea appeals to you then you might like to look at Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens or for no-knead bread recipes have a look at My Bread: the Revolutionary No-work, No-knead Method by Jim Lahey.

The section on the home dairy was intriguing not least because it took me back to my school days when we experimented with making butter. I doubt that it's something that I'd choose to do myself, but children will be interested (and it does use up quite a lot of energy on a wet afternoon…) It was good to see a chapter on 'arty crafty bits'. Hand-made cards are always a pleasure to receive and fun to make. Patchwork uses up scraps of material (and particularly the 'good' pieces in clothes which are past their best. Simon Dawson is a fan of Lynne Edwards and we can vouch for her common sense approach and skills. On the subject of 'arty crafty buts' I absolutely refuse to cure small animal fur – but there will doubtless be those without my sensitivities.

The section on keeping livestock is excellent with plenty of emphasis on the welfare of the animals. I was almost tempted into keeping bees and would love to keep hens if the local by-laws were a little more relaxed. Strangely enough I could keep a cow, pig or sheep but I would become too attached to the animal. The chapter on meat preparation and basic butchery was interesting – particularly when you consider that a high proportion of the production of meat lies in the processing. Once again this is an excellent introduction – bringing out the plusses and minuses of rearing livestock and then processing the meat. Some of the recipes for the less common parts of the animal are worth looking at.

Anyone who grows their own food is likely to be faced with a glut at some point and you'll appreciate the chapter on curing and preserving. As a post-war child this was something that I grew up with and is a part of my annual routines (it's April and we've just about finished last summer's tomatoes). It's one of the biggest money-spinners and there's nothing quite like your own ratatouille on a winter's evening when it's snowing outside. Once again regard this as an introduction (brave souls might like to try the hot smoker made from a filing cabinet) and move on to Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No 2 by Pam Corbin if you're taken by the idea.

I think my favourite section was the one on foraging. I'm occasionally frowned on as I salvage food from hedgerows and common land but once you get over this there's some wonderful (and completely free) food to be had. The fact that you get to spend time in the fresh air is just a wonderful bonus.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Give this book a go if you're interested in moving towards self-sufficiency. I'm sure that you won't regret it. For another 'bible' which will take you even further along the road have a look at The Self-sufficientish Bible by Andy Hamilton and Dave Hamilton.

Buy The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Self-Sufficiency Bible: Window Boxes to Smallholdings - Hundreds of Ways to Become Self-Sufficient by Simon Dawson at Amazon.com.


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