I’m going to get this out of the way. This article is not a compiled list of books about homesteading, but rather books that will inspire you to live that kind of lifestyle.
Homesteading isn’t about you saving money on electricity bills. It’s about the relationship between you and nature. Humans are not separate from nature, and homesteading is a way to repair that divide.
These books are wonderful examples of people who have succeeded in making that reparation. You’ll hear from a Potawatomi botanist, a chef, an explorer, and someone hell-bent on saving the trees.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This book came to me at a very opportune moment in my life. I first opened this book at the end of a day of hunting for oysters, shucking them at a campsite and swigging whiskey from a bottle. Sitting down around the fire at the end of an already gorgeous day, I began reading aloud to my friends the first passage of this book.
Little did I know, that Braiding Sweetgrass would become one of the most meaningful books of my life. It puts words to the feeling of kinship when you encounter an old-growth forest. The words enlighten a sense of childlike wonder, that encourage you to reconnect with nature in a way you may have left behind.
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist, but first and foremost she lives in harmony with nature. A Potawatomi woman who lives in a reciprocal relationship with the earth, Robin is eager to share this knowledge through overwhelmingly beautiful poetic prose — with all the expansive knowledge of a botanist.
Braiding Sweetgrass is a book I recommend to almost everyone I meet. Each chapter is more delicious than the last, and leaves you feeling nourished, heartened, and eager to get outside and hug a tree. Kimmerer is intent on awakening people to living in harmony with nature but taking you along her relationships with walnuts, strawberries, swamps, moss, and so much more.
“The land knows you, even when you are lost”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
As you may have already guessed, I am a huge huge HUGE fan of Robin Wall Kimmerer, and her book Gathering Moss will bring just as much joy to you. Whereas Braiding Sweetgrass is speaking of the inextricable connection that humans have to nature, Gathering Moss is observing all of the connections within the natural world.
Kimmerer is taking a microscope and observing all of the goings on beneath our feet. Moss is an organism that many people would not look twice at, but she is intent on showing us the interconnectedness of it all. Get ready to understand the relationship between moss and hummingbirds, redwoods, rednecks, salmon, and so much else.
It is impossible to take a walk in the same way again, once Robin sheds a light on all of the wonderment we usually walk by without taking notice. The more you learn about nature, the more you understand how inextricably linked you are to it, and the more it becomes impossible to live out of alignment.
“We poor myopic humans, with neither the raptor’s gift of long-distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand.”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
Cooked by Michael Pollan
Pollan is published a many number of inspiring books, but Cooked is one that will bring back the romance of cooking if you’ve lost it. He’s on a mission to rediscover traditional methods of cooking using fire, water, air, and earth. By attempting to reacquaint with traditional food preparation methods, Michael discovers that he also creating a much deeper understanding and connection with the ingredients themselves.
Taking lessons from the first cultures of cuisine, he helps us understand that cooking food brings you to this wonderful realm in-between nature and culture. At the same time that we are transforming ingredients into meals, we too are transformed by this process.
“Our society assigns us a tiny number of roles: We’re producers of one thing at work, consumers of a great many things all the rest of the time, and then, once a year or so, we take on the temporary role of citizen and cast a vote. Virtually all our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another – our meals to the food industry, our health to the medical profession, entertainment to Hollywood and the media, mental health to the therapist or the drug company, caring for nature to the environmentalist, political action to the politician, and on and on it goes. Before long it becomes hard to imagine doing much of anything for ourselves – anything, that is, except the work we do “to make a living.” For everything else, we feel like we’ve lost the skills, or that there’s someone who can do it better… it seems as though we can no longer imagine anyone but a professional or an institution or a product supplying our daily needs or solving our problems.”
– Michael Pollan
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllebhen
Peter Wohllebhen is another person with a deep relationship with his natural surroundings. Part one of a 3 part series titled The Mysteries of Nature Trilogy, The Hidden Life of Trees will open your eyes to the complex, incomprehensibly long, and fascinating existence of our giant leafy friends.
Peter actually started out his career in the logging industry. After years of witnessing the devastating way that tree populations are decimated, he was unable to continue his career. He didn’t leave the forest however, and instead dedicated his life to learning about trees, and trying to save them.
He shares the way in which trees have families, just like humans do. Trees communicate, they support one another when they are ill or injured, and they warn one another of danger. This book will absolutely blow your mind wide open and fill it with things you didn’t know about trees.
“There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet. A mere teaspoonful contains many miles of fungal filaments. All these work the soil, transform it, and make it so valuable for the trees.”
– Peter Wohllebhen
Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
Well of course I had to include a cookbook in here. Homesteading pretty much has everything to do with food and the way you source it. Joshua McFadden’s cookbook is overflowing with useful information about living in coordination with the seasons.
McFadden tells you how to make your own butters, provides amazing recipes for fermenting (and of course, why food preservation is important) and teaches you how to grocery shop in season. The cookbook is separated into six parts, and when you reach late summer, you’ll suddenly find yourself at farmers markets, scouring for zucchini blossoms (yes, these will be deep fried).
He uses nostalgia in an extremely effective way, and the love affair he has with cooking is apparent on the page. It’s so passionate in fact, much t of that passion is spilled all over the readers.
“Green Bean, Tuna, and Mushroom Casserole. One of my favorite things from my Midwestern upbringing is the green bean and mushroom casserole at Thanksgiving—probably the same one that was on your holiday table, thanks to the canned-mushroom-soup marketing campaign. This is my grown-up version of that casserole, which has all the comfort appeal of the childhood dish, but way better flavor and nutritional value.”
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
Tristan Gooley is an adventure man. He’s the type of person who can look up at the sun and immediately know what time it is, but times a thousand. This is a book that will take some time to read, and a book that you’ll find yourself bringing with you every time you go on an adventure.
One the cover page, it reads “Use outdoor clues to find your way, predict the weather, locate water, track animals, — and other forgotten skills”. The use of the word forgotten is significant here. Gooley is determined to reconnect people with their ancestors’ way of living: off of the land, living by the moons and the tides.
He’ll explain to you how you can tell where south is because budding flowers are pointed in that direction, how you can tell the time by the location of the big dipper (as if telling time by the sun wasn’t impressive enough), and how butterflies can give you hints about weather to come.
“As I discovered a few years ago, once you learn that you can measure the size of raindrops by looking at the colors in a rainbow—the more red, the bigger the drops”