I have never once regretter purchasing 'The New Self-sufficient Gardener' by John Seymour. Of all the gardening books in a very large stack that I have, this one has the honor of being my favorite.
I wrote a review on Amazon.com a couple years ago, and I think it's pretty cool that my review is the highest rated for this book right now!
Soaring oil, food, utility and energy and general cost of living prices are enough to make you wonder if there is anything you can do to make yourself more self sufficient. As someone who has always loved to play in the dirt and see the flowers grow, I knew I was going to appreciate this book immediately.
Written from the point of view of a man who grew up in England in the 50's, John Seymour is practical, friendly and unpolitical. Completely unconcerned with things like global warming and inflation, he recognized that the human condition has simply lost it roots - pun intended. Back in his day, he reminisced, every English country home had a kitchen garden and the produce of the family diet came from that garden. There was a pig in the sty (and one in the larder), and a henhouse in the yard. And what you couldn't grow, you went without, or possibly traded with a neighbor. Why can't people live like this today?
I could argue on and on about the laziness and the commercialism of the day, but it's pretty redundant. Instead, I decided to put a little elbow grease into my garden and see how long it will take us to be as self-reliant as possible.
I think I appreciate Seymour's book simply because it is unpolitical. No references to global climate change, or carbon footprints, or wars in the Middle East. I was recently flipping through a book on urban homesteading, which was written by some folks in Los Angeles and has won numerous awards because it gives simple advice on how to become self-sufficient while living in the city. "Do your part to reduce your carbon footprint!" My humble and honest opinion to those on the West Coast is this - stop 'playing house' with your high rise apartment balcony container gardens and your smug "we're saving the planet" attitudes and get your asses out to the Midwest sometime. We'd be happy to show you REAL homesteading, real farming, and real self-sufficiency. Anyway, that's a tangent saved for a better day. There are NO POLITICAL AMBITIONS in The New Self-Sufficient Gardener! Hooray!
I started my gardening adventures with a couple tomato plants and some herbs. That was in 2006. This year in 2010, I more than doubled my crops and harvest. I was even able to grow pumpkins this year, and it was a lot of fun. Bell and cayenne peppers, four varieties of tomato, 10 herbs, russet potatoes, leeks, broccoli, lettuce, beets, pumpkins and 2 types of winter squash. It was a great year with a really good harvest! And I owe it all to John Seymour's great book full of practical advice!
No urging to find a way to purchase a $13000 wind turbine, no pleadings to replace your furnace with a geo-thermal heating and cooling system, no blaming the American presidents for not doing enough to stop the inevitable changing of the climate, INSTEAD when and how to plant deep beds, proper propogation of seeds, watering techniques to improve efficiency, how to raise the most out of your soil and how to avoid certain diseases and pests.
Best of all, I have come to realize that self-sufficiency is a process realized over time. Every year something new - another step closer. We live in the city. Not the big city, but the city nonetheless. Our yard is small and we are stuck with city utilities. And I still managed to decrease our grocery costs by $10 per week. I'm trying to do even better this coming year. Today we're heading out to a real butcher shop (!) and stocking the freezer for the next 3 months worth of meals. I'm excited about it. We may not have to tread inside a big chain grocery store for weeks! That's the ultimate goal.
So if you LOVE the idea of self-sufficiency, put down the books written by hippies and activists in California, and reach for the New Self-Sufficient Gardener instead. Start practically and patiently instead of hoping to stop global climate change overnight. Self-sufficiency takes time, baby steps and research!