BOOK REVIEW: the Self Sufficiency Handbook

The Self-Sufficiency Handbook: A Complete Guide to Greener Living by Alan and Gill Bridgewater

the Self-Sufficiency Handbook

The title of this book is perfect. There are no crazy survival tips here, although I wouldn’t mind having this book along in a pinch. It’s a guide for getting your existing house off the grid, and also for evaluating properties in terms of their sustainability potential. The writers live in the UK, after years stateside, so the companies and tips are both oriented toward those countries. But there is a nice discussion of navigating local laws no matter where you decide to drop your hoe and start gardening.

After a nice discussion of housing, which includes talks about insulation, orientation, ambient heating/cooling, alternative energy sources, and materials, they move on to daily living practicalities. First, getting light. That done, next you need food. This is where the book really shines. There is an in-depth lesson on growing an organic garden, including successful composting and which crops should be planted where and when, what needs rotation (and a sample rotation schedule that will leave you with fresh foods year-round) and what can stay put, and the care profiles for a large variety of different garden plants. They are careful to share wisdom on how much land you need to make your off-grid dreams happen, and also on how to choose property that will lead you to success.

Animal husbandry is covered in detail species by species, along with construction considerations, possible worries and probable successes of owning each type. The sections are not overly in-depth – I thought they were perfect for the off-grid enthusiast with lots of commitment but no experience with husbandry. Of course, one can never emphasize enough the time it will take to properly care for animal on your own property. They cover it nicely, if briefly, by saying this: if you own animals, you will have to feed them EVERY DAY, holiday or not. Yes, that’s EVERY day. Having kept horses growing up, I can relate to the urgency with which they repeat this statement throughout the book. Take heart.

The last section of the book can best be described as a tutorial section of recipes for survival. Not pemmican or Gorp-style recipes, but rather old-fashioned recipes for things like candles, making soap, making chutneys and jams, and brewing beer and making wine. Their recipes are pretty short and look easy to handle. In fact, the whole book was particularly well planned to fit each concept on two facing pages, so you’re never left looking for information in a thick chapter of words. I’m sure this limits the amount of information that can be presented a little, but I didn’t notice.

If you’re even considering moving off-grid, or even just converting a section of your yard to an edible garden, you should pick up this book. It’s fairly new, but with its special emphasis on looking at your actions in terms of an overall lifestyle, I think it will one day be considered a standard text in self-sufficiency. Which, as gas rises toward the $5 mark, is something we could all afford to learn more about.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ray said,

    If you need best Insulation Protection Suggestion…

    The only Radiant Barrier Foil that I found to drastically work so much better than any other insulation product not just the normal 5-star R-15 radiant barrier foils said to work better than R-30 Fiber Glass, is Energy Conservation Specialists =R-53 Radiant Barrier Foils, 97% Reflective. I mocked the one layer around the whole house exterior walls that through Construction Work building an Insulation Model Home hasn’t lost a single yearly Energy Efficiency Contest for best Energy Savings for close to a decade. This is with all the other quality insulation manufacturers having to take their models apart and rebuild them yearly after attempting needed improvement processes.

    All I did was place a single =R-53 Radiant Barrier Foil on every exterior wall behind either Wood Panel, Plywood, or an extra thin layer of Drywall and got my whole house to be on its way for having about 80% Energy Efficiency with 80% Energy Savings. The manufacturer also has R-100 Ceramic Insulating Paints, but both are actually designed to help any building last considerably much longer. (I’ve been studying every insulation product for almost a decade now.)

    The trick not to over look is you need two layers of =R-53 RB Foils at a minimum of ¾” air space gaps to get the =R-53 protection. This works great if you’re insulating only a single wall, but if doing the whole house, one =R-53 RB Foil per exterior wall is actually the needed two layers. Their designed like that and it was found to work that way.

    Best part, the Energy Conservation Specialist Manufacturer has lowered his prices by 3-4 times ever since the Energy Bills have been soaring about a decade ago. =R-53 RB Foils are now found at the lowest Insulation costs on the Internet, but for the Highest R-values. BEST ENERGY STAR PROTECTION. $0.10 Sq. Ft. or $100 per 100 Sq Ft. (R-30 High Density Fiber Glass used on exterior walls easily costs about $225 for 50 Sq. Ft., R-15 RB at $0.25 Sq. Ft.)

    Have fun competing with energy bills.

  2. 2

    Ray said,

    I have to make a URL correction. There is no .com ending needed.

    Here is the two sites with those special price reductions on =R-53 RB Foils, 97% Reflective.
    http://stores.ebay.com/Energy-Conservation-Specialists
    http://www.energyconservationspecialists.com
    (Sends products anywhere in the world.)

    If find http://stores.ebay.com/Energy-Conservation-Specialists .com anywhere – take out the .com. Thank you.


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