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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading

I recently received a review copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft. This is the second "Idiot's" book I've gotten, having read and reviewed TCIG to Easy Freezer Meals back in June. Despite my philosophical objection to the "Idiot" label, I found that to be a pretty helpful, well written volume, even for non-idiots.
Now urban homesteading is not something I ever expected to be reading or writing about; I'd never even heard of the concept until a few months ago, when we adopted a cat from a self-described homesteader. And now, as fate would have it, my wife has developed a serious interest in homesteading, so this book came along at an opportune time.
In case you're as unfamiliar with it as I was, homesteading, in general, is about self sufficiency, especially where food is concerned. Some people go all in, growing all or nearly all their own food, getting off the grid by producing their own energy, and so on. We haven't gone that far - yet - and personally I don't see myself giving up the pleasures of consumerism, but I'm not averse to eating homegrown produce, especially if it might save us a few bucks.
So while I've looked through Kraft's book, I'm also relying on my wife's opinion of it, and she has had nothing but good things to say about the book. The "Idiot" label notwithstanding, this is not merely a cursory introduction to the topic of homesteading, nor is it narrowly focused on one or two aspects like vegetable gardening. Kraft, who has a decade's worth of experience homesteading in Denver, covers everything from the basics of gardening to raising animals, beekeeping, composting, dealing with neighbors, zoning issues and more. There's also material on solar power, recipes for making everything from cheese (how cool would that be to serve your friends a pizza with homemade cheese?) to eco-friendly cleaning products, and, for those of you who are really serious about keeping your costs down, a brief discussion of the ins and outs of dumpster diving.
As the title suggests, Kraft's focus is on urban homesteading, with special emphasis on how to get the most out of a very small plot of land, or even an apartment. But much of her advice is applicable or easily transferable to suburban and rural settings as well. Also included are some useful suggestions for further (often free) resources.
If your idea of growing your own food is confined to a couple of Topsy Turvy tomato planters on the patio, this book may contain a lot more information than you're looking for. But that doesn't mean that you have to be living a latter-day version of Little House on the Prairie to get something out of it, either. It should appeal to anybody with much interest in home gardening, becoming more self-sufficient, or living a "greener," more sustainable lifestyle. With or without dumpster diving.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft. 353 pages (Alpha 2011).

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