Monday, June 11, 2018

Country Wisdom and Know-How: A Practical Guide to Living Off the Land

Reviewed by Ambrea

Sometime in May, I stumbled across a book called Country Wisdom and Know-How:  A Practical Guide to Living Off the Land, a compendium of knowledge on rural living from Storey Publishing.  I saw it on the online catalog when I was browsing through new books and, of course, I decided I needed to check it out.  I was just preparing to jump into gardening and I figured a complete guide to gardening and agricultural “know-how” would be a big help.

Little did I know how big when I put it on hold.

Country Wisdom and Know-How is a massive book with over 1,800 illustrations, dozens of recipes, hundreds of remedies for everything from garden pests to digestive upsets, and mountains of information on the basics of rural farm living.  Honestly, it was a little overwhelming, because there’s just so much in a single volume.  I flipped through pages of garden tips and suggestions, which offered tried-and-true methods for preparing soil, composting, tilling, planting, winterizing, and even the bare basics of planning the location of your garden.

Although I picked up Country Wisdom and Know-How for its insight into gardening, I was thrilled when I found sections on crafts, health and well-being, cooking, animals, and home.  I was interested in the crafts—which included basket weaving, wreath-making, and so much more—and the classic remedies for minor health problems, and the section on animals was enlightening when it came to the care of chickens.  (I’m also interested in raising chickens, but I decided that’s a project for next year.)

I also liked the section on home life simply because it offered such a breadth of knowledge on planning, building, repairing, and making a home—or, more accurately, a self-sufficient farm.  It contained everything from picking the right location of your house to building or repairing stone walls and fences.  Everything you could want to know about farming and maintaining a homestead is in there, which was fascinating; however, I was completely taken with the chapters on cooking.

I love food and I love cooking, so I was thrilled to see so many classic country recipes all in one place; in particular, I loved the portions that discussed breads.  It had recipes for simple yeast breads, rolls, challah, sourdough, and at least a half-dozen other varieties.  Seeing so many recipes, especially such delicious variations of bread, I had this sudden urge to go home, break out my grandmother’s skillet, and start cooking.

I didn’t, I still had to get back to work.  But I did make copies of my favorite recipes, before I sent Country Wisdom and Know-How back on its way to the Avoca Branch Library.


  1. You should check out Carla Emory's Encyclopedia of Country Living. John Seymour also has The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency.

  2. I'll definitely check those out! Thanks!