I’d like to introduce you to the Bible of homesteading and rural life, Carla Emery’s incomparable “The Encyclopedia of Country Living.” Carla Emery is something of a hero of mine because she encompassed so many of the achievements I strive for: pride in being a wife and mother, writer, speaker, and homesteader.
This phenomenal book is probably THE single best reference you could ever own on all things rural. It’s about two inches thick with densely-printed pages. It covers just about anything you could ever want to know about country life, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Table of Contents (besides all the usual “Intros” and “Who This Book is For” and stuff like that) reads as follows:
• Introduction to Plants
• Grasses, Grains, and Canes
• Garden Vegetables
• Herbs and Flavorings
• Tree, Vine, Bush, and Bramble
• Food Preservation
• Introduction to Animals
• Goats, Cows, and Home Dairying
• Bee, Rabbit, Sheep, and Pig
The Index in the back is exhaustively complete and can direct you to just about every page in the book.
There is a very interesting page way toward the back which has “Your Achievement Checklist” and “A Final Exam for You.” (We aren’t doing too badly.)
I have consulted this book over and over and over throughout the years. Very seldom do I need to look elsewhere for answers to my questions, though there has been an occasion or two (can’t remember what they are, though). How to scald and pluck a freshly-killed chicken? It’s right here. At what temperature should cream be before churning it to butter? You’ll find the answer within these pages. How to prune a pear tree? Ditto. You name it, you’ll find it.
Just to brag for a moment: Carla Emery gave a talk in Medford, Oregon (near where we used to live) back in 1999, when we were preparing for Y2K. I went to hear her speak and she was fabulous – funny, witty, homey, very unprepossessing. Naturally I toted my copy of her book, which she kindly autographed.
She did more than that, too. When she learned that I had something of a small consulting service to help folks prepare for Y2K, she gave me a whole bunch of tapes and literature that normally cost a lot of money, to help me in my consulting. She wouldn't accept a penny. Truly a kind and gracious woman.
Sadly, Carla Emery died in 2005 from complications from low blood pressure. My signed copy of her book is therefore all the more valued.
If you want one of the single best books you’ll ever own that will help you in your efforts to learn country life, this is it.