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Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,430 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Helps you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. This title is suitable for those who want to learn basic living skills - the kind employed by our forefathers - and adapt them for a better life in the 21st century.
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Constable & Robinson (first published November 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Ann Keller
Jul 29, 2009 Ann Keller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hats off to the editors and publisher of this awesome collection of more traditional skills, some of which are fast fading into memory. The book begins with locating and fashioning the home itself, detailing how to dig footers and a well, raise a log home, build a fireplace and moves on to gardening and pruning.

The reader is also instructed in obtaining and maintaining food sources, such as geese, ducks and rabbits, as well as canning, pickling, salting and smoking foods for the coming winter ah
Aug 05, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm taking this book and moving to a farm. It's that awesome.
Apr 21, 2009 Adrienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I wish I could convince my husband to move to the country so I can use more of it. But until then, I'll just dream of a big garden where I can grow all of our wheat and vegetables, some fruit trees...well, that's pretty much it. I can't really get on board with the cow thing because in order to keep a cow lactating it has to have a baby every year and guess what happens to that baby? Sold for veal. So sad. I can't do it. I would want to keep all the babies and then we'd be run ...more
penny shima glanz
May 09, 2010 penny shima glanz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-nypl
I forget how I came across this volume -- probably by browsing various subject headings in my library catalog -- but it doesn't matter. I'm just happy I did and I hope soon to add it permanently to my own bookshelves.

While this book is intended to be for those desiring to go out and survive in a less urban and technologically minded manner I found it quite useful to assist me in building realistic scenes while writing. For example, on page 21 is a nice chart that describes various soil conditio
Mar 15, 2011 Kymberly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this at Cosco and it has taught me so much. So excited to put it to work.

Wish it had more information about chickens.
Jan 30, 2009 Thalia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: how-tos
Excellent book
Dec 14, 2008 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Useful for the back-to-the-lander in all of us.
Oct 20, 2016 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just basic information with great citations for more in depth information.
Nathanael (Boehm) Coyne
A wonderful book, with loads of information, photos and diagrams about making a self-sufficient life for yourself even down to building your own house, raising a barn, choosing horses to work a field, cooking and preserving. It's not a book out of the 17th century and does include all the modern niceties you might want including power generation, combustion toilets and dealing with sewerage, solar hot water, home heating and more. I don't plan on going this hardcore with urban homesteading but i ...more
Mathew Carruthers
I've never sat down and read this book cover-to-cover, but over the years, I imagine I have read it in it's entirety several times. This is an excellent resource if you want to learn traditional skills - from selecting land to building a house on it, from planting a garden to preserving your fruits and vegetables, raising livestock, tanning hides, basket-weaving, looming your own cloth. If it's a traditional skill that a person possessed of pioneering spirit may need - it's probably explained in ...more
Sep 06, 2014 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-sufficiency
didn't read the whole thing, just paged through it. I am looking for a practical guide to how to be self-sufficient when things go bad in the world. This book is a great resource for how things were done in the old days. But, it would not be as helpful as a book that is written for today. Lots of interesting facts, but uses lots of tools that people no longer own. So, a good book, but not for my purposes. Not as easy to read as her other book which is geared towards families/children.
This book is AMAZING. I can't believe how thorough it is, and how much information is packed into one book. It's incredible, and fantastic.
The color illustrations and pictures really take this book higher than some other similar books, as well as the level of detail with which everything is treated (not too much, just enough).
This is something Chris and I decided to buy because it will be endlessly helpful when we build our own house and do the homestead thing.
Susan B
Mar 19, 2015 Susan B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit up-front that I haven't actually tried any of the how-to's for the back-to-basics skills, but I am totally impressed by the variety presented in this book and by the depth of the instructions. For anyone who is seriously interested in learning traditional skills like growing a home garden, raising your own chickens or building your own energy-efficient house, this is the book that covers it all.
Tina Cipolla
Jul 30, 2011 Tina Cipolla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This book is bizzarly facinating. I keep coming back to it and despite the fact that it is something like a manual I am reading it cover to cover. Even the projects that I am not all that interested in, like how to build a foundation for your log cabin, manage to keep my attention. I have actually wondered how a lot of these projects were done and now I know. If you have ever fantasized about going off the grid, put down The Traveler and pick up this book.
Jan 22, 2014 Zora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two pages on having a dairy cow, two pages on windmills, four pages on constructing an adobe house, single paragraph on killing and dressing a pig, so not all that useful. You'd want 250 pages on most of these topics to be able to begin to try them. A more accurate subtitle would be: "A brief overview of some traditional skills." But for dreamers and return-to-the-country wannabes, I'm sure it'd appeal, with its shiny graphics and simplifications.
Mar 12, 2011 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding resource and read for anyone who is interested in farm and home crafts, touching upon everything from vegetable gardening, canning, recipes, raising and butchering livestock, making your own stove and other power sources, blacksmithing, stenciling, and many other topics for the person who really wants to know about going back to basics. Everytime I pick this book up, I learn something new and valuable.
Feb 22, 2016 Cabracrazy18 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: homesteading
This book is a solid reference in our household. I've had it for years and have yet to find a book that rivals the amount of great information provided. It goes into enough depth for each topic to be able to actually use the information. I find myself coming back to it again and again. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who gardens and/or leans toward a homesteading lifestyle.
Dec 08, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gold mine. Wanna plant a garden? Clear land for a homestead? Keep bees? Generate your own sustainable energy? Make cheese? It's ALL here. If the world ever experiences a nuclear fallout, or the like, you will survive with this book. It will be a constant reference on my shelf for the rest of my life.
May 21, 2012 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Excellent and informative how-to "starter" book suggested by a friend who went from little experience to owning and running an small, commercial organic farm. He considers it his favorite book and gave it to us as a Christmas gift.

Touches on various topics and is part of a larger collection of books which delve deeper into the topics.
Gabrielle W.
I love this book!! It's a must for everyone that dreams of or is the process of becoming self sufficient. It's filled with lots of illustrations, tips, and obviously, tons of info. The title explains it all, 'Back to Basics', it'll show you everything from building a home, canning veggies, and old time games!
Mar 03, 2009 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Completely packed with information. Most of it concerning things I don't need to ever know (building your own log cabin) but eternally fascinating. I'm always amazed at the wide range of skills people used to have, but have been lost along the wayside as we move to a more specialized society.
Mar 14, 2011 Dioscita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those great "geeks who love to learn and have great resource information on a wide variety of topics" books. These days that's typically called "the internet," but this book is certainly what could be used in place of Google. Or for those days the power is out/internet is down.
Jun 18, 2012 Mari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dear-friends
This book magically combines encyclopedic breadth of content (from how to buy a plot of land, to making soap and cheese, to using basic water and wind power, to tinsmithery, to laying a foundation, to quilting) with perfect clarity and simplicity of instructions.
Jan 05, 2013 Micahlibris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably one of the best works ever written. It should have a place on the shelf amongst Chaucer, Joyce, Cervantes, and Dante.
Mar 19, 2009 Tamara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: green, non-fiction
Note to self: When apocalypse occurs, find this book.

For now, I will pay special attention to the section on canning. Will save the animal skinning for another life.
Jan 14, 2010 Meryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book I want for armageddon. There's a little bit of everything in here, and the instructions are detailed enough that I think I could actually use them to perform the given task.
Great book if you want to learn about living a sustainable lifestyle. It teaches a wide range of different skills from gardening to canning, and even how to raise farm animals.
Oct 02, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sara Q Thompson
Shelves: skimmed, home
Again, not really our projects but if the apocalypse was coming I'd want this book (or similar) nearby.
Laura Ayers
Good book, but I felt like it was a little advanced for most folks. I don't plan to make my own furniture or build a log cabin. Otherwise, I liked it.
Dec 07, 2011 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While this book covers a good bit of do-it-yourself, living-off-the-land frontier-ism, it doesn't go in depth enough to be useful. Still, an interesting read.
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Abigail R. Gehring is a writer who divides her time between New York City and rural Vermont. She is the editor of Back to Basics, Homesteading, and Self-Sufficiency, and author of Odd Jobs: How to Have Fun and Make Money in a Bad Economy and Dangerous Jobs: The World’s Riskiest Ways to Make an Extra Buck. The Simple Joys of Grandparenting: Stories, Nursery Rhymes, Recipes, Games, Crafts, and More. ...more
More about Abigail R. Gehring...

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