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The Encyclopedia of Country Living – Book Review

Part memoir, part reference, The Encyclopedia of Country Living is a labor of love written and rewritten for over 30 years by Carla Emery. The subtitle on the front cover states:

Practical advice, invaluable information, and collected wisdom for folks and farmers in the country, city, and anywhere in between. Includes how to cultivate a garden, buy land, bake bread, raise farm animals, make sausage, can peaches, milk a goat, grow herbs, churn butter, build a chicken coop, catch a pig, cook on a wood stove, and much, much more.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living Review - Homesteading DIY, How-to's, recipes, tips, stories - everything you need to get started being more self-reliant.

This is a great book to snuggle up with on long winter evenings. Carla’s stories resonate with the wisdom of someone who has lived what they write. While she was alive, she updated and added on to the book as her life changed.

There are heartwarming personal stories interlaced with tons of practical information. When she realized that time spent promoting the book kept her from living the lifestyle she was promoting, she stepped back from the limelight.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living Review

Chapters include:

  1. Oddments
  2. Introduction to Plants
  3. Grasses, Grains & Canes
  4. Garden Vegetables
  5. Herbs & Flavorings
  6. Tree, Vine, Bush & Bramble
  7. Food Preservation
  8. Introduction to Animals
  9. Poultry
  10. Goats, Cows & Home Dairying
  11. Bee, Rabbit, Sheep & Pig
  12. Appendix

There are over 2000 recipes, from herbal sachets to raspberry shrub to canning just about anything. You could try a recipe per day and be at it for years.

The Garden Vegetable section includes planting, harvesting, preservation, cooking and sometimes seed saving. (I had no idea there were so many ways to eat radishes.)

The Food Preservation section has a lot of great recipes – that’s where I got my favorite spaghetti sauce recipe for canning. There are also old fashioned techniques such as preserving with vinegar, salt and fat.

The animal sections give a broad overview of what’s required for critter raising, as well as what to do with the critters when it’s time for harvest, whether it be eggs, milk, meat, fat, hide or anything else you could think of using.

Order “The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition” here

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Don’t try to read The Encyclopedia of Country Living in one sitting!

It’s not that kind of book. At close to a thousand pages, there’s a ton of information. Better to snuggle up with a section and peruse at leisure, or simply  look up the specific information you need.

Are there better books for specific topics?  Yes, but this is the most comprehensive homesteading book I’ve seen that gives enough details to be useful.

I really like this book. It’s like taking a peek into Carla’s life as her homesteading skills evolved. She makes you feel like you’re talking to an old friend. I remember being saddened when I heard she passed away back in 2005. She will be greatly missed, but she left one heck of a legacy.

About Carla Emery

(From Carla’s author page)

Carla Emery lived on a farm in Idaho for more than thirty years as a wife, mother of seven, home-schooler, goat-keeper, garden-grower, writer, and country-living instructor. She wrote and self-published the first editions of The Encyclopedia of Country Living during the early 1970s and also ran her “School of Country Living.”

Carla sold nearly 90,000 copies of her self-published editions, traveling the country to promote it and appearing on such shows as The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Phil Donahue Show, and Good Morning America, where she demonstrated country-living skills such as goat-milking, bread-making, and butter-churning.

When Sasquatch Books published the 9th Edition of Encyclopedia in 1994, Carla continued to travel the country promoting and selling the book, and teaching the timeless skills of country living. Carla cultivated a large and loyal following across the country. Carla passed away in 2005.

You may also enjoy these homesteading books:

See the Homestead Library for a wide range of book reviews, and “Homesteading – What the Modern Homesteader Needs to Know” and “How to Homestead (Not Quite Like Grandma Used to Do)” for more homesteading ideas.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living Review - Homesteading DIY, How-to's, recipes, tips, stories - everything you need to get started being more self-reliant.

Originally posted in 2012, updated in 2017.

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  1. As well as being very informative, it’s very well-written, so fun to read. I found the canning information in the earlier edition worth xeroxing as it was pre-modern standards, so dangerous I suppose, but what my mom did… latest edition uses the new standards so probably to be recommended. Sigh. There are charming bits, like the diagram of where to shoot the pig/cow so it dies instantly… and the instruction to run towards it when it drops as fast as possible, but carefully because you’re holding a sharp knife (“don’t run with scissors” I heat my mother say) for the exsanguination. Oh yes, quite a thorough book considering the breadth of topics. I love this book.

  2. I have the mimeographed book, too. My grandmother lived just “down the road apiece” and bought Carla’s book chapter by chapter. This is probably the one (of about 10) books I would save in a fire.

  3. I tried to find this book about 30 years ago and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I wrote to Carla. She sent me a note back that I could buy the book from here, so I sent her the money and she sent me the book, but the book was actually a photocopy, she had photocopied the whole book! With the book she sent me a nice note explaining that was the only way to get the book new at that time.

  4. Im trying to build a homestead. Becoming less confident… 3 young ones we’re trying to raise well and teach well. Chose to homeschool. Getting overwhelmed. Everyday 24-7, the work never ends, just piles up on you if you don’t stay consistent. Gets stressful when you know you can do it but your mood us just bringing you down. Meanwhile your work is still piling up, not waiting for you to snap back into gear. Really bummed that I can’t just be super women. Time will tell… Wish my donut dough will double already. It’s 9:30 at night :'( thought I could just whip it together for a “bedtime treat” Should of known better, can’t just whip things together and expect it to turn out how you expected (the first time your doing it) This momma needs a boost of inspiration and motivation. Or just a “happy pill” lol I don’t take pills though πŸ˜‰

    1. Oh honey, you’re not alone! That seems like the story of my life far too often. Everything takes way longer than it should, and the to do list only gets longer. You just need to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Start with one thing, then tackle the next, and so on. The most important stuff gets done, some things don’t. Something needs to give, and it’s generally either “the list” or your health and/or sanity. As a matter of fact, i think I’m going to schedule some social media stuff and get my tail to bed instead of finishing the post I should be finishing, because it’s late and it’s cold and I’m too tired to think straight.

      An occasional glass of wine doesn’t hurt, either. πŸ˜‰

      1. Your absolutely right. I really think i’m going to the store to get one if those BOXed wines with a spout. For days like today! Thank you so much.

          1. I was realllly blessed by this exchange. Thanks for the honesty! And thanks a thousand times for the book recommend! Blessings to you both. And Cheers!

  5. Do they have a vegetarian version of this? I do not want to catch and kill a pig nor do I have any desire to make sausage! I really do not want to partake in any animal killing!

    1. The book is huge, with the majority of content related to a wide variety of subject areas. I’m not aware of a vegan/vegetarian homesteading book, but it would be very easy to skip the sections that are not relevant to you. The book is about 2 inches thick, so there is plenty to choose from.

  6. I just came across this post about the book, Country Living. You may be interested to know that in the mid 70’s my parents took their family out of the city and moved to a 10-acre farm (i.e. unimproved land). Carla Emery’s book was our homesteading bible. We were city dwellers and didn’t know a thing about homesteading. We learned almost everything we needed to know from her book. Back then, the book consisted of mimeographed pages that were put in a big three-ring binder. This book was seriously instrumental in changing the lives of our family through our homesteading experience. I don’t think we could have done it without the book.

    1. I remember reading about Carla’s early editions. Of course, back in the mid 70’s, I was just starting grade school. I’m so glad that Carla took the time to share all her knowledge. It really is an amazing book. Thanks for sharing your family’s story.

  7. Hi – thanks for this recommendation. I have just purchased it online and eagerly waiting for it to arrive. It will be interesting to see how it suits us here in Australia. My husband and I are wannabe homesteaders currently living in a suburban house with our veggies, chickens, rabbits and our hearts are screaming to be free. I am loving reading through your site. Best of luck for 2013 – may this be a good year for everyone.

    1. I’m in Australia (VIC) and considering buying it too – adding it to my list of books to buy next time I get some overtime paid out!

  8. That’s the book that I’ve lost track of~! What an amazing woman and fantastic book. I learned so much from reading it~we had a lamb strangle himself, so we butchered him and I tanned the hide,,,she taught us so much about small farming…thanks so much for featuring it on your website~

  9. I need sooo much help in some of these areas, but it really looks like the option of us living in the country is not going to happen – like animals and all that goes w/ them. I also won’t be growing a fruit tree, I don’t think. So my question is – is this still a “keeper” book for us? I think the areas I need the most help in are gardening and preserving (canning) but I think I am doing pretty well w/ drying. I think this looks great but I prefer not buying books to just add to my clutter. Thank you!

    1. Hmmm…there is so much information in the book that I would lean towards “yes”, even in an urban setting. Each section is self-contained, so if you only need information on XYZ, you just go to the relevant bit. If you find it overwhelming to page through a large volume, let me know which specific topics you’d like to know more about, and I can tell you which books I’ve read on the subject that I like the most.

  10. I have had this book for 13 years and I love it. I was sad when I heard that Carla had passed away. This is absolutely *the* guide to homesteading.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly! It’s a great book and one of my favorites. Another really terrific book that I use a lot is “The Basics and More Cookbook ” by
    Elsie Hoover. So much info on everything you can think of: canning, freezing, preserving, breads, soups, salads, meats and TVP, old pioneer recipes, and stand-bys, etc.etc.etc. Even a recipe for MIRACLE WHIP!

  12. Yes, this is my all time favourite homesteading book. I was so sad a few years ago to hear that Carla had passed away.

  13. I have a ragged, tattered copy of this book that I bought from Carla a few years before she died, back when she was doing the “circuit”. While it can’t possibly go into all of the details on everything, it sure does a good job of covering a huge variety of topics. I wouldn’t part with mine for the world!

  14. We have this book too. Our local farm supply store carries a selection of books, must be a vendor pack because they often change. This was one of them and it covers just about everything!

  15. I agree, I love this book. I first purchased this book when I moved to a country property about 12 years ago, and it helped with so many things like gardening and chickens. I love reading it, I agree you do feel like you know Carla when you are done reading it. Must have for anyone who loves the idea homesteading! πŸ™‚

  16. I’ve heard of this book before…and it always comes highly recommended. When you are looking up a particular topic, do you feel that the explanations are sufficient? This is definitely on my list of books to buy someday πŸ™‚ Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather πŸ˜‰

    1. Heather – it really depends upon the topic and your level of knowledge. Everything I’ve tried has been pretty straightforward easy to understand, but I haven’t delved into the animal parts too much. I think the majority of people would find it helpful and easy to use. I tend to consult several sources when I’ve got a really big project, but I think this would get you through almost anything on it’s own.