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The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living
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The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  46 reviews
This is the inspirational story of how one couple ditched their careers and high-pressure life in New York City to move to rural New Mexico, where they made, built, invented, foraged, and grew all they needed to live self-sufficiently, discovering a new sense of value and abundance in the process. Alongside their personal story are tips and tutorials to guide readers in th...more
ebook, 250 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Storey Publishing
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Amanda
I should get my politics out of the way up front.

Most homesteaders fall into one of two camps -- those into self-sustainability and those into sustainability. I fall into the second camp. Ms. Tremayne falls into the first.

The book is divided into thirds -- the first is the most interesting. Ms. Tremayne figures out that our consumer culture is toxic and has a series of revelations as she realizes she wants to do something about that. It's a little preachy, but that's just par for the course on...more
Christina Wilder
Here's the thing - I have the utmost respect for ultimate DIYers, those who can cultivate the land and make their own food, shelter, clothes, etc. every time they need it.

But it's not me.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not one to never try something. I've made chicken mole from scratch, a dish so complicated I once saw it described as "a recipe that only a few people have probably actually made" in a cookbook. I made a huge majority of the favors as well as the invitations and thank you cards for my o...more
Lauren
I bought this book at a small museum gift shop in Truth or Consequences, NM -- the very same small town where it was written. It seemed apt. At first I was a little disappointed that it was more memoir than lab, but it still stirred something deep in me about the life I am living and the one I long for.

The story was well written and inspiring, if not always for the faint of heart or those who are put-off by spiritual quests. There were a few places where I thought, "really?" but just because I...more
Sarah
Not what I was looking for. There were only about 50 pages of actual project instructions, and even they are vague and largely Southwest-focused. I was hoping it would be more of a "we tried this stuff and optimized it like this; here's how you can do the same!" Nothing wrong with giving people the motivation and general ideas to work out their own stuff, I was just hoping for something different.

Instead it's primarily a philosophical discussion of why we should live differently, make stuff ours...more
Tommy Carlson
The Good Life Lab is about a couple who had meaningless jobs that contributed nothing to society, so they moved to a rural area and made a homestead that provides minimally more value to society. Being unduly proud of themselves, they wrote a book about it. I haven't officially abandoned this book yet, but I have set it aside for awhile. I never got to the actual homesteading part. I couldn't wade through all the self-congratulatory build-up to it.

Maybe it's because my job is both meaningful and...more
Bekah Porter-Sandy
Wendy Tremayne is a big personality with big ideas and big actions to back up her big worldview.
She's just not a writer.
And that's ok. This book still conveyed her concepts and thoughts, but it felt more like a compilation of blog posts than it did a cohesive manifesto of what it's like to live outside the mainstream and be happy while doing so.
I'll recommend the book for the actual content, but not so much for the presentation.
Latasha
Couldn't get into this. I don't think it's fair to write a book on homesteading and radical life changes/anti-consumerism ways when you were a hedge fund operator NYC prior to this life change. They have a lot of really neat projects, but I just couldn't really get into it since it is very unrealistic without the huge retirement fund/savings account that they obviously had.
Katie
One of the books I received as a gift over the holidays was The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living by Wendy Jehanara Tremayne. Tremayne is a former round-the-clock New York career woman who realized that her job was impeding on her life, and not making it any better. The cycle of needing the job to have the lifestyle necessary to keep up with the In Crowd, and to have to work even more to afford said lifestyle, didn’t appeal to Tremayne. Rather than stay in the loop of work in...more
Norm Deplume
I'd have given this 3.5 stars if that were an option. I didn't love the first third of the book; it felt mostly like an explanation of why Burning Man is great. But as I kept reading on, the book grew on me. I can't really use any of the concrete suggestions from the book, as I live in a much different climate, but I like the emphasis on the tradeoffs we all make between time and money. If one spends all her time making money, there isn't enough time to make things that don't cost any money. It...more
Anne
If you're reading this review there's a good chance you don't already know Wendy Jehanara Tremayne's work and you're attracted by the topic. You should know the title is a little misleading. It's the story of how a New York marketing pro encountered Burning Man and was challenged by it to get back in touch with people, art, and nature. It ties together her moments of fame in the maker community -- swap-a-Rama-Rama, makers' faires, writing for Craft and Make magazines, profiles of their paper cre...more
Sandy
This book is my new go to guide! Lots of great tips, recipes, how to's, and what not to's etc I will admit all the information was a bit overwhelming the first read through. It is very well written and engaging. It had me laughing out loud on several occasions. If you live in the southwest / desert this book is a must read BEFORE you buy land, but I would advise anyone looking to go off grid to read first then buy. Great tips for everyday lifestyles to cut back on your carbon footprint, lower ex...more
Jaylia3
If what you're looking for is some inspiration or how-to advice for using your hands and wits to learn homesteading skills so you can buy less stuff and maybe even adopt a back to basics lifestyle by giving up your nine-to-five, then this is the book for you.

But you’re also going to love reading this if what you're looking for is a well written, beautifully designed book about living off the land and turning junk into art or useful objects or both, because you’re fascinated by the concepts and...more
Evan
I saw a review for this on BoingBoing and knew immediately I had to read it. I have been straddling a career I find fundamentally challenging, and a deep desire for autonomy. Good Life Lab does an excellent job of pointing many all of the zero-sum tradeoffs most of us make in an effort to participate on the modern age. Undue expenses, debt, a cycle of struggle, and disconnection from the essence of our humanity. Part memoir, part how-to guide, the book and its resources section could serve as a...more
CJ
Ever since reading the Little House books, I've been intrigued with doing everything myself. I thought it was a great trick being able to make your own butter. Tremayne goes way beyond butter making in this nifty little book. It's a quick read, but it stayed with me for several weeks afterward.

The whole concept of living in the waste stream was new for me. Tremayne and her partner live in New Mexico and essentially gather, grow, or make everything they use - from the vegetable oil they power the...more
Grant
Could barely stop reading this, though in retrospect it leaves a slightly hollow aftertaste. It's the story of how a WallSt Tech Highflier and a Mad Ave style Ace Marketer got together through an after hours immersioin in Burning Man/Maker type subcultures, and took the leap in dropping out & constructing a new life in Truth Or Consequences (The real name of a New Mexico town) which in large part involves grabbing back and creatively repurposing tools & materials from Americas' abundant...more
Amin David
I sat down and read THE GOOD LIFE LAB in one day. What a great memoir. If that is the right word for a book that manages to critique what feels what is not working, or nonsensical about life in America in this century and at the same time is so personal that it makes you think about your core values and how you live your own life.

And I might add, has a gentle non-judgmental humor that makes me smile while reading about Wendy and Mikey as they realize New York City is over for them, and somewher...more
Artemisia Hunt
A fascinating book about DIY, homesteading, "living in the waste stream" and living a "decommodified" life. This young couple decided in early 2008 to chuck their Wall Street jobs and start living their own personal dream of creating a life where they were the ones in charge of what that life would be: they would be "makers" of their own life and not "consumers" of lifestyles dictated by media advertising and the expectations of a materialist society. The energy and passion they felt for the sus...more
Sarah
Wendy and her husband Mikey live in a repurposed trailer park in the town of Truth or Consequences, NM. They bought that property after ditching their careers in NYC (Wendy: marketing and design, Mikey: software developer for Wall Street banks). They proceeded to rehab the dubious trailer that came with their property into a functional, attractive home, using only materials they procured from "the waste stream". Along the way, they constructed organic gardens, solar arrays, workshops and sheds o...more
September Michaud
This woman’s lifestyle is a bit extreme for me, but this book offers a lot of good ideas about living as doing. It’s a refreshing look at how we can literally “make” our lives and gain awareness and control over the everyday aspects of what we use and how we use it. Also promotes a hands-on get-it-done attitude that views mistakes as desirable outcomes when learning new skills.
Arianne Goodell
this book is maybe my bible. i learned so many things and was so inspired on every page! i love everything about wendy's philosophy and lifestyle. the idea of sharing mistakes, knowledge, recipes rather than patenting and keeping your ideas to yourself is so up my alley and i hope to live just like her and her husband when i grow up.
Annie
Ugh, so terrible. Great book for anyone who's loaded and able to throw a ton of money to set up an off-grid lifestyle (these two made six figures each and cashed out 401k's before the 2008 crash, so), terrible for the anyone looking for practical tips. Read like a collection of poorly written blog posts, lots of "we love doing/making x, y, z" with no follow-up on how to actual do whatever it was. The super limited collection of recipes in the last fifth of the book were the only interesting bits...more
Andrea
Enjoyable look at one couple's relocation from NYC to a tiny funky town in the southwestern desert where they don't work "conventional" jobs and live off the land to a great degree. If I read 5 more books like this I'm just going to have to try it for myself!
Itai
"At one point the author declares her amazement at being able to live off of less than 30k a year."

"It's a book written by people of privilege who decided to come down from the mountain and slum it with the rest of us."

Christina
I gave up on this. While I generally agree with the foundational ideas (Americans buy too much stuff and work too hard for other people to buy said stuff), I found this difficult to read. While I can't point to a specific part that said, "You should quit your job and move to the desert too!" that message feels very clear. And there's no acknowledgement that desert living isn't for everyone. Or that if everyone in New York moved to the desert, the desert would rapidly cease to have the resources...more
Lisa Whitaker
I usually don't feel the desire to read a book more than once. This book I will likely read more than twice! Loved this book, great food for the mind, and perfect for multiple feasts!
Jessica
I've read a lot over the years about people who have dropped out and tried to live sustainably in one way or another. What I liked about this book was its broad overview of the range of skills that are helpful for this sort of enterprise. I was very interested in their financial estimates. I had never "met" people who work with electronics or welding. It blew my mind that there is a simple way to repair plastics. This book gave me a sense of where to start if I were to become independent. For pe...more
jen
If you live in the Desert Southwest or plan to move there, this book will likely provide some inspiration for DIY projects and moving off the grid. Otherwise only recommended for those really interested in following the modern homesteading movement. The memoir part is not the worst I have read in this genre but still somewhat annoying. The projects are mostly starting points and will require further research and study to complete. And many are very specific to the region, such as processing mesq...more
Marsha
Inspiring and overwhelming all at once.

This is a how-to guide and personal account all rolled into one about how two people left high-paying bank/advertising jobs in NYC just under a decade ago and started homesteading on a one-acre former RV park in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Lots of DIY, dumpster diving, repurposing, wildcrafting in their off-the-grid lifestyle that keeps them very connected with nature and their community.
Matt Heavner
Overall, this was a fun read with some good ideas. At some points, the narrative was too self-congratulatory and just a "story of my awesomeness" But there was still plenty of interesting stories.
to'c
Ms Tremayne paints a compelling portrait of a post-consumer world. Living off the land, living off the waste stream, living with determination and smarts. But this is a not a call to the past, nor is she some sort of future primitive. She and partner Mikey embrace our technological world with joy. More than that they embrace it with understanding and knowledge that most residents of that world don't even attempt. And ode to simplicity, an ode to Making, and an ode to community.
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Wendy Tremayne was a creative director in a marketing firm in New York City before moving to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where she built an off-the-grid oasis in a barren RV park with her partner, Mikey Sklar. She is the founder of the textile repurposing event Swap-O-Rama-Rama, which has spread all over the world; a conceptual artist; a yogi; a gardener; and a writer. She has written for C...more
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“Start even if you don't know how.” 6 likes
“I know that compared to industries, corporations, and governments, an individual is insignificant. In measureable terms my actions hardly matter. But feeling tiny does not have to end at why bother.” 1 likes
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