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Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Over 200,000 copies sold-fully updated! Dye your own wool, raise chickens, make your own cheddar cheese, build a log cabin, and much much more.

Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills-the kind employed by our forefathers-and adapt them for a better life in the twenty-first century need look no further than this eminently useful, full-color guide.

Countless readers have turned to Back to Basics for inspiration and instruction, escaping to an era before power saws and fast-food restaurants and rediscovering the pleasures and challenges of a healthier, greener, and more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Now newly updated, the hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, photographs, charts, and illustrations in Back to Basics will help you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. The truly ambitious will find instructions on how to build a log cabin or an adobe brick homestead.

More than just practical advice, this is also a book for dreamers-even if you live in a city apartment, you will find your imagination sparked, and there's no reason why you can't, for example, make a loom and weave a rag rug. Complete with tips for old-fashioned fun (square dancing calls, homemade toys, and kayaking tips), this may be the most thorough book on voluntary simplicity available.

Fourth Edition
A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Part One - Land: Buying It—Building on It
Buying Country Property
Planning Your Home
Preparing the Site
Converting Trees Into Lumber
Building a Log Cabin
Building With Adobe
Building a Stone House
Raising a Barn
Developing a Water Supply
Saunas and Hot Tubs
Fireplace Construction and Design
Stone Walls and Brick Pavements

Part Two - Energy From Wood, Water, Wind, and Sun
Making Your House Energy Efficient
Wood as a Fuel
Heating With Wood
Wind Power
Solar Energy
Other Energy Sources

Part Three - Raising Your Own Vegetables, Fruit, And Livestock
The Kitchen Garden
Gardening in Limited Space
Herb Gardens
Fruits and Nuts
Pest Control
Grains and Grasses
Fish Farming
Raising Livestock

Part Four - Enjoying Your Harvest The Year Round
Preserving Produce
Preserving Meat and Fish
Making Your Own Dairy Products
Maple Sugaring
Homemade Beverages
Baking Bread
Regional Cooking
Cooking With Wood

Part Five - Skills And Crafts For House and Homestead
Natural Dyes
Hooked Rugs
Braided Rugs
Patchwork Quilting
Rope and Twine
Tanning and Leatherwork
Household Recipes
Flower Drying and Pressed Flowers
Gourd Craft

Part Six - Recreation at Home And in the Wild
Old-time Good Times
Crafting a Dulcimer
Celebrating Holidays
Canoeing and Kayaking
Wilderness Camping
Outdoors in Winter
Living With Nature
Organized Assistance: The Extension Service and Other Groups

About This Book
Back to Basics has been inspiring people to live a simpler life since 1981, two years before I was born. As a little girl, I thought
everything my big brother did was genius, and so when he pulled the heavy, tancovered first edition of Back to Basics off the
shelf and started poring over the pages, I decided it must be a very important book. I tagged along as he dug up cattail rushes
from around the pond, soaked them, and wove them into baskets—I remember sitting on the lawn as he wove, holding open the
pages of the book for him so they wouldn’t flap in the breeze. When we were a little older, I helped him dig a foundation and
peel bark off felled trees for his high school project, a one-room log cabin in the woods. I was thrilled when he made me a
wooden loom for my eleventh birthday. It seemed there was no end to the large and small projects that old book inspired.
And so it was with surprise and excitement when, many years later, I was given the opportunity to edit that very book,
refreshing the pages for a whole new generation of readers. When I got through with the third edition, the same intriguing
projects were illustrated with new photographs, and outdated information was brought up to the twenty-first century. Now, later
still, I’m happy to introduce the shiny, new, Fourth Edition, newly formatted and ready to aid and inspire farmers, gardeners,
crafters, preppers, and dreamers anew.

The look is new, but Back to Basics is still about old-fashioned ways of doing things, and old-fashioned craftsmanship, and old-
fashioned food, and old-fashioned fun. It is also about independence—learning how to rely on the land rather than food
manufacturers, and your neighbors more than the government. At its heart Back to Basics is a how-to book packed with
hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, charts, tables, diagrams, and illustrations to help you and your family reestablish
control over your day-to day lives. The book is organized into six main sections. The first deals with shelter, the second with
energy, the third with raising food, the fourth with preserving food, the fifth with home crafts, and the sixth with recreation. The
subjects presented lead in logical sequence along all the way stations on the road to self-sufficiency. You will learn how to make
your own cheese, raise your own chickens, harvest your own honey, generate your own electricity, and brew your own
applejack. You will be able to try your hand at blacksmithing, broom-making, and stone masonry. You will discover how to make
soap, tan a hide, build an igloo, heat with wood, smoke a salmon, and create your own cosmetics. Some projects are difficult and
demanding—building a log cabin or installing a solar water heating system are tasks for someone with experience, skill, and a
strong back. But most of the jobs are well within the capabilities of the average person, and many are suited for family
participation, especially for the kids.

As the original editors of this book so astutely noted, no nation has ever moved further from the harsh realities of wilderness
existence. Yet, paradoxically, no nation has clung more tenaciously to its early ideals—to the concept of personal independence,
to the mystique of the frontier, to the early pioneers’ sense of rugged self-reliance. For our health, for the environment, and for
the future of our planet, it is more important than ever to know where our food comes from, to find ways of conserving energy,
and to connect with our communities in meaningful, sustainable ways. May Back to Basics help guide and inspire you as you
embark on a simpler, more sustainable life.

–Abigail R. Gehring, May 2014

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