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A Householder's Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  255 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Nowadays, “go local,” “organic food,” and “sustainability” are on the tip of everyone's tongue. Harriet Fasenfest's A Householder's Guide to the Universe takes up the banner of progressive homemaking and urban farming as a way to confront the political, social, and environmental issues facing the world. While offering plenty of useful advice on how to do common household c ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Tin House Books
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3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  255 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2010, reviews
Well. What to say about this book ... I won this in a Good Reads give away & I really wanted to love it. While this book is packed with tons & tons of good tips, the tone is very off putting to me. I loved "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" -- it made me want to run right out & start digging in the dirt. This book doesn't fill me with the same excitement -- after reading it, I just feel annoyed. So I'm giving this three stars -- for good information -- but the author's superior tone preven ...more
May 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
So incredibly disappointed by this book. The practical information seemed good and very useful, but the rest of the book is so laden down with her personal beliefs and anecdotes. MY GOD THE ANECDOTES. It's like you're asking someone about how to can peaches and she keeps going, "Let me tell you about this time I had dinner with my son's girlfriend... well! They met at the methadone clinic and..." OMG STFU I BEG YOU JUST TELL ME ABOUT THE FREAKING PEACHES. I couldn't read more than a chapter or t ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Great title. But totally inappropriate for this hodgepodge of home/garden/kitchen info organized by what needs to be done every month of the year by a householder - not a homesteader - in Portland, Oregon. In addition to a lot of political opinions that don't belong in a householder guide book, there's also too much personal family info that belongs in her private diary, to be shared only with her closest confidants, and not the general public.

I did find the author's suggestion of dedicating a
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kathleen
Let me be perfectly frank and say that I am a member of the choir to whom Fasenfest is preaching. We grow about 70% of our own produce. We have brought home live pigs & geese which later made an appearance on the dinner table. My husband is an unreconstructed back-to-the-lander, farming not only our own land, but the neighbor's plot as well. We buy whole foods in bulk, we preserve, we compost. In short, we embrace the lifestyle that Fasenfest is promoting. She takes it further in this book t ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. It has information, plenty of inspiration, as well as witty comments on managing your household. Any book that takes what could be a dry subject and manages to make me laugh out loud is worth delving into. This book gives me hope for my little garden and helps me express my happiness by being the caretaker of my own home and family. Householder's of the world unite! No need to hide in the closet! We ARE valuable. In fact, this world is sorely lacking the tender care of a true ...more
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it
For such a thick book, I had hoped that this would offer more than what I consider to be basic information on householding. Instead, it reads more like a personal journal, which is fine, just not what I wanted. I did like the month by month aspect of it, and sometimes her humor appealed to me, like all the nap taking she recommends.
Nov 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
2.5 stars

This book didn't really grab me, but for purely logistical purposes. If I'm going to read a narrative I want a book I can hold in one or two hands easily, not a huge hulking textbook. I figured this was going to be a more nuts-and-bolts type of work but that is not the case.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about Fasenfest's book. It's part memoir, part gardening how-to, part preserving guide, and dotted with useful recipes. Fasenfest's tone is somewhere out in the field where self-deprecation, auto-horn-tooting, and grumps at the younger generation collide in Venn diagram. In fact, while I agree deeply with her grim predictions about the state of the world and how commodification has turned our natural world into one big Monopoly game where we are not the players but the piec ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
I really enjoyed this book. There are tons of great tips. And even though we come from very different backgrounds (the author is a city kid, where I grew up on a family farm, left, miss it and am trying to recreate it my suburban setting), i felt like I’d met a real kindred spirit. A fun read especially for the Winter months while waiting for The Spring planting season to begin.
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Most people aren't householders like the author, for the simple reason that it really is a full-time job (and then some). It's inspiring whilst not ignoring the very hard work. But I know I'm not the only one who wants to do a little bit more. Maybe you already can in-season produce for later, and want to grow your own. Or maybe you've discovered a good local farmer's market and want to know what to do with your find. This book tells you how to plan a garden for your needs, what to plant (and wh ...more
This book was full of a lot of the info I was looking for: planning a garden, succession gardening, various preserving methods, and how to best plan out your year. I especially love the canning yield chart and the preserving game plan worksheet. I can see myself referring to this throughout the year.

So, why only three stars? I found the author to often be condescending and judgmental. For example, she took a jab at runners for not being in their garden working up a sweat. Apparently gardening an
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really really liked this book. It was written as if the author was a good friend sharing her know how with you. A neighbor whom you are very envious of not for their perfect landscaping but for all the money they are saving by farming their land. The book inspired me to put in some berry bushes In the spring and possibly get a raised bed going to put garlic and other veggies we don't ever seem to get enough of in our CSA shares.

The book left me with many things to think about. I had to renew
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crunchy-life
I started the book with a lot of energy and excitement and as the chapters passed, I found myself, much like the author, becoming less enthusiastic and tired, even though I'd not even put in the work of a good harvest. A few things I really liked: the layout of the chapters by month and tasks, the author's snarky humor, and the interesting tidbits she shares about gardening/gleaning in general. I wish more recipes had been included. Also of note, a lot of the information is Pacific Northwest-spe ...more
Marguarite Markley
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
What I really love about this book is organization by month. Each chapter was dedicated to a month is Harriet's householding life. For example, she writes about how she spends regards to gardening and maintaining her home...and so on...for each month. I loved the personal stories she threw in because they added character and often humor. It is part story...part how-to. My only gripe is that she lives in Oregon, so the gardening season is different from mine. Hey Harriet...if you're ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Finally finished! Well, I agree with several of the other reviews; this book is great when it's explaining how to do things around the kitchen and garden, but I don't really want to hear about some of the author's crazy ideas on life. Giving it a fairly high rating because it contains good advice about things like canning and processing your own meat.

There were times where I had to force myself to sit and read a few pages, just so I could comfort myself that I would one day be done with it. The
Mousy Brown
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book- not to sit and read cover to cover in one sitting but to dip into month by month, as a little reminder of the important things in life.
Obviously, living in another part of the world under very different circumstances, not everything was useful or appropriate to my life but the issues and inspiration work wherever or whoever you are...
I love the diary like dialogue and the seasonality seems absolutely appropriate to the content...
Perhaps one for the dreamers as much as
I wasn't as thrilled by this book as I was hoping to be, though it did have a lot of good gardening information and recipes from this Portland, Oregon author.

In a lot of ways, it seemed like a pale imitation of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but there didn't seem to be a lot of 'new' information within this book.

As other readers have mentioned, the overall tone of the book was very off-putting and didn't leave me really all that anxious to go on to the next chapter..let alone
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I didn't read this book because I was interested in householding; I read it because I was interested in the type of people who choose to do it. Fasenfest knows what she's doing is a hard sell to the average--or even very liberal--American. While her tone can sometimes be didactic, the bottom line is that supporting a family on a garden smaller than a city plot is a difficult enterprise, and she knows what she's doing. An interesting diary and detailed manual for any modern American looking to tr ...more
Jul 06, 2010 rated it liked it
The main problem I have with these types of books is that they are almost always very location specific. While this book contains lots of great information, it is obviously written for a climate that experiences distinct seasons, i.e. not Texas! Unfortunately, the way it is organized (by what the author does each month) makes it very hard to find the information that you want. All in all, it was too much work to be very helpful for me.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-read
Though this book is not what I expected, it is an enjoyable read. Titled "Householders Guide..." I expected tips about running a home, from kitchen & cleaning to decor to finances. That it is not.

Part how to, mostly journal, part philosophical discussion centered around food and growing your own. A section here and there will touch on other householding topics, but I would call this a gardening book - but different. And I like most gardening books.
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
I won this book through Good Reads and was so excited to get it in the mail. I love the way the author mixed personal essays and anecdotes with practical advise that we can all use. It's set up as a calendar with month by month advise. I will use this as a go to book for years to come. Whatever month is is you can look up practical things you can do around your house in the garden, kitchen and rest of your house. I will recommend this to other friends interested living a simple lifestyle.
Juli Anna
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
not finishing this one--the author's voice is very affected and at times condescending, and it is more autobiography than it is useful handbook. anyone intrigued by the title might actually enjoy Making It, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, which actually does what this book fails to--give real, practical advice about DIY living without all the overly personal crap.
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Glad I read this book. It's full of useful information for anyone wanting to be a "householder" and I have been considering the possibility of putting a garden in my yard so it was perfect timing. I wish it contained more recipes but the information that was there was extremely interesting.
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Month by month approach used by one family trying to make life at home simpler. Fasenfest does the topic justice, though I was hoping for a little more how-to, rather than the philosophy behind her decision-making.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A logical, straightforward approach to supplying your family with food. Not only does she have relevant and funny anecdotes peppered throughout the pages, but she also provides a realistic view of what it takes to show-up to the garden every day and live in harmony with the seasons.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: homesteading
part memoir, part garden/ kitchen book. Not as thorough as I was hoping, but a good read encouraging those to start taking care of feeding themselves rather then relying on current food distribution systems.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love reading books by opinionated women!

ETA: I recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Harriet, so of course I had to re-read this book. It was even better than I remembered! And she said she's working on another book. Yeah!
Reads more as a memoir (with bits of political treatise) than I expected. Some useful tidbits, but not one I'd invest in keeping on my bookshelf as I would with some other "homesteading" type books.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Although extremely comprehensive, I was not floored by the design of this book. Useful information with a monthly breakdown for gardening, canning, and home care.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: unfinished
Pretty, but inside is all text and quite bloggish. If you're in the mood for a blog in a book, maybe this will hit the spot. I couldn't seem to get into it!
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