Modern homesteading is all about greater self-sufficiency and sustainability, whether that means living off the grid and raising chickens, or making your own cleaning products and container gardening in your urban apartment. New books reach out to readers who fall along all points on the DIY spectrum.
Ditch the City and Go Country by Alissa Hessler (Page Street, July) offers urbanites a detailed guide on how to transition to rural life. Hessler knows the territory well: she moved from Seattle to small-town Maine and discovered challenges that weren’t covered in the New York Times lifestyle section. To connect with other urbanites feeling lost in the woods, Hessler launched the blog Urban Exodus, where she profiles people who’ve made the move. Her book covers various aspects of rural life, including how to make friends in a small community and how to earn a living far from a bustling metropolis.
One of the fantasies associated with country life is the notion of living off of the land. At the Elliott Homestead blog, Shaye Elliott writes about life on her family’s five-acre property in rural Washington State, where they grow organic produce and keep a dairy cow, hens, hogs, and other livestock. In Welcome to the Farm (Lyons, Apr.), she provides a primer on farm-to-table living, taking readers from seed-saving through composting and offering details on the (egg-laying) birds and the (honey) bees.
Ashley English has covered similar ground for Lark Crafts, which has published her books on keeping chickens and bees, on canning and preserving, and on making cheese, yogurt, and butter; together they’ve sold more than 40,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan. With The Essential Book of Homesteading (Apr.), she provides a comprehensive guide to all of these topics, offering a glimpse of her life in Candler, N.C.
For off-the-grid, survivalist types, Weldon Owen’s backlist includes several titles from the editors of Outdoor Life and Field & Stream: 2012’s The Ultimate Survival Manual by Rich Johnson and the editors of Outdoor Life, for example, has sold 123,000 print copies, per BookScan. The publisher’s July release, Modern Homesteading, by the editors of Living the Country Life (420,000 Facebook followers), could be seen as more of an entry-level guide, with tips that even a Brooklyn brownstone dweller can embrace.
“The book has takeaways for people who aren’t able or wiling to fully commit to an off-the-grid life, but are enthusiastic about being more self-sufficient,” says Mariah Bear, associate publisher at Weldon Owen. If keeping a backyard menagerie, for instance, is out of reach, then planting a window-box herb garden would be a nice start.