A book called Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail Gehring was first published by the Reader’s Digest back in 1981. This book turned out to have time-tested appeal and was recently republished. It is a great reference for those who aspire to a more independent, self-reliant way of life. The book is organized into sections featuring shelter, energy sources, raising and preserving food, home crafts, and recreational activities. You can make cheese or soap, and butcher a hen, using the instructions provided. There are 65 major subjects. The beekeeping section, for example, covers choosing a site for your hive, how to configure and build the hive, identifying the drones, workers, and queen, the bees' favorite flowers, tools and equipment needed, how to avoid getting stung, and methods for harvesting and storing honey.
This book has over 2,000 color photographs, drawings, charts and diagrams that enhance understanding. Other features include short interviews with folks who practice some of the “lost arts” in the book, as well as relevant historical background for some skills. Did you know that the New England colonists created patchwork quilts because they needed warmer blankets than the coverlets they brought with them from the Old World?
Kids and adults who want to understand how their own gardens can supply us with our daily needs will find Back to Basics absorbing. Some readers will be inspired to start their own kitchen gardens. Others may decide to raise a few chickens, pigs or goats. Many will simply find it interesting to know how the hide of an animal is transformed into tennis shoes or a leather jacket through the arts of tanning and leatherwork. Families will find projects they can do together, like making candles or homemade ice cream. Kids will enjoy playing the six varieties of “tag” and making a kite. The book called Back to Basics has something for everyone.
Listen to this commentary: