Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book review: The Encyclopedia of Country Living

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:

• Oddments
• Introduction to Plants
• Grasses, Grains, and Canes
• Garden Vegetables
• Herbs and Flavorings
• Tree, Vine, Bush, and Bramble
• Food Preservation
• Introduction to Animals
• Poultry
• 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.


  1. We were lucky enough to meet Carla before Y2K and go several different meetings...and get our books signed.Whata lovely lady she was. We actually have an original book done on a copy machine!

    Ask Carla is a frequent phrase here....DEE

  2. I really appreciate your book reviews. While we've added several books to our reference library since acquiring our property, Carla Emery's book is still on my wish list. I hope to get my money's worth out of it like you have!

  3. I got this book years ago, even though I'm a city girl. I'd rather be a country girl if I could. I've read the book a dozen times, and found a lot useful where I am. I learned home canning from Carla. If and when I ever find myself on a few acres of land, a lot of stuff in this book will be put to use.

  4. I want one!

    A. McSp

  5. I have it and heartily agree it is a wonderful book! I cannot recommend it enough. If I could have no other book in my library (besides the Bible) this would be my choice.

  6. i have carlas' book too, and refer to it alot. it is one of the few books that is kept right next to my chair at all times.

  7. Me too! I met Carla down in WA state and she was everything you described her as. I love the book, everyone should have it on their shelves, prepper or not, just as a go-to book. Seriously.

  8. I just ordered Encyclopedia of Country Living and Putting Food By on Amazon! I got them used, of course!!! Can't wait! Thanks!

  9. Yes yes yes! That book is an amazing resource. Whenever I consult it I always say "I'm gonna ask Carla about (whatever)."

  10. I am in Canada and would love this book, but when I go online at Amazon it shows a different book cover than the one you have shown. I was wondering if they are both basically the same book.
    I found one from Chapter's online but it does not show what the cover looks like and would like to be sure if they are both the same before taking the chance at ordering. Amazon and Ebay prices for Canada are pretty expensive, so I might have to jump on the Chapters one.

  11. It is absolutely the same book, just with an updated cover. My book is about 15 years old, and every so often the publishers refresh the look of the cover. But otherwise the contents should be identical. You won't regret this purchase!

    - Patrice

  12. I have had this book for about 3 years now, and have not read it in its entirety. I told hubby that this was something I wanted he and I to both read in full so I started it a week ago...I knew it was full of goodies, but I am SO excited to be reading the whole thing....I can already tell you I'm learning a lot! ;D LOVE IT! Love the blog! Thanks for all the great info! ;D Great job! You're a wonderful writer!

  13. I found this book yesterday at our Sam's Club here in Ohio!!!! Yay!!! I have gotten it from the library a couple of times, but I am so happy to have my own copy!


  14. I have had a copy since 1976 when I found my brother had one. It is the most worn out cookbook I have. I was lucky one day and found 4 copies of her book in a more updated version so I gave one to each of my daughters. I was so sad to hear of her passing. She was an amazing woman. For anyone who has not read her book you must get one it is by far the most informative book out there for everything.!!!!

  15. Heard Carla speak at one of my homeschool meetings many years ago. She did a writing class for my children in my home. Of course, I served her homemade bread with tuna for lunch and noted that she did not waste a crumb! Enjoyed the time spent with her and love her book.

  16. I have her book as well. She autographed it exactly like yours. I don't think I will ever go a day with out looking at some part of it. What a blessing.

  17. My dear aunt just gave me a this book. Copyright 1974? It's old and worn and greatly appreciated.
    Kelly in K'ville

  18. This is one of the first books I bought when I was 16 yrs old. I read, reread, and reread it through my teenage years and fantasized of the day that I would get to live the same way! Still my favorite and most used book I own!