Review: The Self Sufficient-ish Bible

Another Christmas book for me last year, this time purchased by my husband, was The Self Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton.  The book itself is quite hefty and boasts a whopping 399 pgs. including the index, all Forestry Stewardship Council paper according to the authors.  It is comprised of an introduction and appendix in addition to four lengthy sections, each of which is then divided into smaller sub-sections:

Introduction

Home

The Eco-Friendly Home
The Kitchen
The Bathroom

Outdoors

The Soil
The Allotment
The Vegetable Patch
The Fruit Garden
Growing Herbs
Small-space Kitchen Gardens

Food

Seasonal Cooking
Wild Food
Livestock
Preserving
Making Beer, Wine & Cider
Nature’s Medicines

Lifestyle

Travel & Holidays
Renewable Energy
The Working Day
The Self-sufficientish Consumer
The Self-sufficientish Parent

Useful Addresses & Further Reading

Just a quick peek into the book will reveal that the pages are quite heavy-duty – though not glossy – and nearly every page sports a beautiful color picture or informative line drawing of some sort.

The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible is meant to cover a broad swath of information
suitable to the urban and suburban homesteader.  It is not, however, designed to be encyclopedic in nature and will not tell you everything you need to know about each of its proposed subjects.    More than once I found myself getting excited about this or that subject and thinking, “I’m going to have to find out more about this.”  I do not consider that a limitation of the book but an asset.

Books of this subject and heft can oftentimes be a bit dry, however, I did not find that to be the case here.  The Hamiltons include much humor and many personal stories into their writing.  Additionally, there is just enough open space on each page to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye and the sections are broken up into bite-size chunks that are easily readable in short spurts of time.

I was particularly fond of the fact that the authors do not play the superiority card.  They never come across as holier-than-thou-super-environmentalists, nor do they patronize the reader.  I found them to be very down-to-earth and likable.

Between the front and back covers you will find a plethora of information – everything from seasonal cooking to foraging, bee-keeping to alternative energy and solar cooking to child-rearing.  I really don’t think there’s much that they failed to touch on.  Each section gave me just enough information without being overwhelming.  I especially liked all of the line drawings for projects, none of which appear to be terribly difficult.  I’m definitely going to make the Bird Table and Insect Hotel.  There are plenty of recipes to be had, most of which are arranged seasonally, which is very handy.  I wish there had been more dishes utilizing strictly raw ingredients straight from the garden, however, that is not an unusual trait amongst garden recipes.  Something I would like to see, perhaps in a supplementary travelogue type book, is more detailed information on their overland trip from Bristol to Marrakech.  Most of it was very stark and informational regarding transportation.  I do understand that the purpose of including the itinerary in the first place was to illustrate the possibility of overland travel as opposed to air travel, however, I would love to know more personal information.  Did they forage?  What and where?  Where did they stay and how does that fit into their self-sufficientish lifestyle?  Etc.

While I would recommend The Self Sufficient-Ish Bible to anyone interested in urban or sub-urban homesteading, there are a few caveats to consider.  First, this was written for an English audience.  This makes the wild food calendar, addresses, supply companies, planting guides and other such information virtually useless to those living outside of Europe.  In my opinion, however, there is not enough England specific information to make the book obsolete to those living elsewhere.  Second, because the book is paperback and so large, it is quite awkward to hold and to read.  The pages do not lay flat enough to read comfortably and I found myself putting the book away at times simply because I was tired of using so much force to hold it open.  One slip and the book snaps shut on you.

In addition to the book, I would highly recommend the author’s supplementary website and forum, Self Sufficientish.

Pros

A wealth of information without being overwhelming.
Lots of color pictures.
Lots of line drawings, projects and informative charts.
Recipes arranged seasonally.
An online community with even more information.

Cons

The book is so large that it is awkward and uncomfortable to hold and read.
The planting tables, charts and resources are all useless outside of Europe.
Because the authors are both child-less, the section on raising green children is quite sparse.

I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

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