My new book, Homegrown and Handmade, second edition, comes out next month, and I’m incredibly honored that farmer extraordinaire Joel Salatin wrote the Foreword. ~~ Deborah
by Joel Salatin
“What can I do?” The question encompasses both the angst and hope of people touched by personal gravitas in a dysfunctional world. It’s perhaps the most common request I receive in my interaction with people, and it’s certainly demographically eclectic.
From the wide-eyed college sophomore majoring in environmental studies to the remorseful retired executive wanting to invest in some positive chits for the planet before he checks out, the question represents a yearning for anchors and integrity in a time that seems to have neither. Today’s lifestyle pendulum correction that reflects how we interact with resources, relationships, and responsibilities began with the back-to-the-land movement of the early 1970s.
With the beaded, bearded, braless hippie movement came La Leche League, Mother Earth News (MEN) magazine, Woodstock and the cultural seeds of a new path. I always felt like our family was a generation or two ahead of its time. My grandfather (Dad’s dad) was a charter subscriber to Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine when it first came out in 1949, promoting compost over chemicals and the home garden over Jolly Green Giant. He had a massive backyard garden with chickens, honeybees, bramble fruits and vegetables.
My dad, in turn, grabbed onto MEN magazine when it first came out; I was a teenager during the Vietnam war days. I knew our farm and family were different with our portable cow shelters, compost piles, and penchant toward marketing to neighbors. The idea that TV dinners, squeezable cheese, and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations fed the world rammed up against Adelle Davis and Scott and Helen Nearing in our house, even though we were a libertarian, conservative, Christian household. We had no TV–did I mention that?
Did I say I felt like our family was always ahead of the time? It was natural, then, when Teresa and I married in 1980 that we fixed up the farmhouse attic for cheap living quarters, drove a $50 clunker car, had no TV (still don’t), milked a couple of Guernsey cows (by hand), canned and froze nearly all our own food, and stayed warm by a wood stove. Living on $300 a month when everyone else required $2,000 made a statement of lifestyle value and creation stewardship that has carried us well into our senior days.
At that time, the “O” word (organic) had scarcely been invented; today the government owns it so we’ve moved on to local and pastured–still expressing a contrarianism toward cultural norms. When Teresa sends me shopping, it’s with a list of canned goods to fetch from our basement larder. Our farm work and frugality have certainly paid off later in life with an easier financial situation, but in our core, we’re still practically anti-consumerist and I haven’t been in a Wal-Mart in years. It just is who we are.
When people ask the question, “What can I do?” it screams an unspoken list of yearnings. Yearnings to re-connect with our ecological umbilical. Yearnings to escape the grips of consumerism, cheap food, and dependency on dubious multi-national corporations with hidden agendas and Wall-Streetified ethics. Yearnings to change the trajectory of a nutrient-deficient, celebrity-engrossed, pharmaceutically-dependent culture. Yearnings to leave a positive legacy of health, innovation, and stewardship for our children. It’s all in the question.
The pleading, searching eyes that ask the question literally do not know where to start. The sheer overwhelming-ness of doing for yourself, of viscerally participating in a healing trajectory, literally paralyzes folks in its magnitude. Buried in that question are a host of little ones, like “Should I start a garden?” “How do you plant carrots?” “How do you cook eggs?” “Where do you get food if not at the corner supermarket?” “But Grandma died so how can I learn to crochet?” “Who will teach me?”
Into this vortex steps Deborah Niemann with this delightful overview titled Homegrown and Handmade. As an old geezer farmsteader myself, I kept saying “Yup, been there and done that” throughout this fast-paced manuscript. Every topic in this book could be a whole separate book, but I appreciate that Deborah has tried to capture the idea behind all these homestead enterprises. While this is not the most comprehensive how-to guide on any of these subjects, it’s enough to jump in, and for most of us, that’s all we need.
I deeply appreciate her cavalier attitude toward experience versus dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s before ever beginning something new. This is a profoundly empowering and encouraging book because Deborah came from a place in which the vast majority of Americans find themselves: hurried, harried, health-concerned and happiness-compromised. Out of that dysfunction she and her family did what thousands in similar circumstances have done throughout history: take charge.
Her quiet inner revolution reflected a broader cultural revolution. Not everyone can do what Deborah and family did to the extent they did it, but I submit that everyone can do something that her family did. And that’s the point. Offering this spreadsheet of options gives everyone a chance to find something to do. In my view, this book is a perfect answer to “What can I do?” We can all thank Deborah for taking that plunge, vetting the personal responsibility lifestyle for a new seeking generation, and ultimately leaving a trail of advice, back home, for folks feeling lost.
Now, buy this book, read it and then go do something. You are not alone. Mentors to help you along the way are out here. Join the healing tribe, and let’s right the dysfunction together. Thank you.
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Pre-order an autographed copy of the book by June 1 by clicking here, and you’ll also receive two bonuses! I’ll email you a coupon code so you can enroll FREE in my online soapmaking class that will start in June. You’ll also receive a 25-page recipe supplement for more ideas to prepare your homegrown meat, cheese, eggs, and produce. My publisher says I should have books in hand by June 7, so your credit card will not be charged before that.
If you prefer to purchase through Amazon, click here to order.