Friday, September 3, 2010

book review: The Encylopedia of Country Living

I was a little girl growing up in the suburbs, always longing for the country life. I had quit a romantic view of it: large expanses of land with cows, chickens roaming in the yard, maybe rabbits and eventually my dreams included goats. And always, I pictured lots of children playing in the sun and growing strong.

When I was fifteen years old, I met an older young man who said that was the life he wanted too. As the years went by, he asked me to marry him, promising me not diamonds and furs like my own father had promised my mother, but a farm and animals and children.

Time passed. He made good on the promise. We now live on twelve acres in a small Texas town. I have the children running around my yard, in fact, we ended up with ten children that we homeschool. I’ve had the opportunity to milk up to three cows by hand at a time and I sold the milk: that was the best home business I’ve found so far. I have raised and sold chickens, and helped one of my sons with his business of raising and selling rabbits, ducks and geese. I’m older now, and don’t have the strength to do as much, but I still have the chickens, the rabbits and some goats, which are the bane of my husbands life, however he not only tolerates them, but builds fences for them (anything to keep them off the stairs to his office and out of his garage).

How does a city raise girl learn to milk cows and raise and butcher chickens? For me, the best thing I ever found was the book The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery.

This book is a wealth of information on just about every subject you can think of, from birthing your own babies in a tent to helping a cow give birth when there are complications. It covers all aspects of country living. Almost everything you will need to know is in this large book.

Carla Emery started out to write a recipe book, and it evolved from there. Throughout the book are interesting and humorous stories about her own life and the lives of the people she has come into contact with through this book. She writes about the lessons she has learned, including the time she decided to shun the fame of talk shows and come back home to her family.

This book has been invaluable to me as I learned to live the country life. I laid it on the tailgate of a truck as a handy reference as I butchered my first chicken. It taught me how to incubate an egg, and keep the chick alive afterwards.

I learned to milk cows by reading its pages. I learned how to strain and cool the milk. I learned to skim the cream off the top of the milk and use it to make butter and whipped cream. I used it’s recipes to make my first batches of cheese and yogurt.

I’ve used it to learn which goats to buy, how to raise them, and how to use their milk for cheese and soap.

In fact, I learned to make soap from this book. That was another small home business for a while.

This book will teach you how to garden both vegetables and herbs, and how to use what you raise. You will learn how to grow fruit trees, and how to can or freeze your fruit at harvest time.

Just about everything you will need to start out your country life, you will find in this book. It might be the only book you need. I highly recommend it.

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