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.
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
- Introduction to Plants
- Grasses, Grains & Canes
- Garden Vegetables
- Herbs & Flavorings
- Tree, Vine, Bush & Bramble
- Food Preservation
- Introduction to Animals
- Goats, Cows & Home Dairying
- Bee, Rabbit, Sheep & Pig
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.
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 amazon.com 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.
Originally posted in 2012, updated in 2017.