|Books for the Modern Homesteader
or Heritage Homesteader
There's so much that it's hard to list them all.
Here are a few to get you started.
The Foxfire Books: This classic series contains interviews with residents of Appalacia, and describes
in detail their traditional crafts and skills. Familiarity with this series is critical for anyone interested in
American material culture or traditional skills.
Storey's Guides: If you can raise it (other than water-moccasins or wasps) Storey's probably has a
guide for it. These books are your basic reference for livestock, and most contain information on animal
breeds, housing, feeding, and (where appropriate) butchering and recipes. Storey's also publishes
guides to gardening and compendiums of farming/homesteading skills/county.
Five Acres and Independence - A classic.
Possum Living: Full of laughs and also good advice, Possum Living was first published in the 1970s
and supposedly written by an 18 year old girl. The basic supposition behind this is that a person can live
quite well, under some circumstances, without having to "work" at a job (although she and her father do
plenty of work.) It contains some very good advice about practical living, foraging, and even recipes for
"necessities" like moonshine.
Practical Homesteading: Another c. 1970s "back to the land movement" book. This easy-to-read book
has some great advice and techniques for everything from leather tanning to chickens.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving - contains recipes both for boiling-water and pressure
canning. Some of the old ways of canning are not considered safe, so here's the latest resource. There
are also plenty of approved recipes online.
There are SO many gardening books that it's hard to even list them here. My favorite is The
Garden's Bible, but you might also like Square-Foot Gardening.
RESOURCES FOR DRAFT ANIMALS
Farming with Horses- While this book is slightly mis-named, its a good resource about different types
of harness, harnessing, different hitches, and correct draft for horse-drawn vehicles and equipment. It
DOESN'T really go into how to plow or use equipment, however.
Rural Heritage Magazine- Yes, there are people who still farm/log with horses, mules and even oxen.
Want to know where to buy an ox yoke or a plow? You'll find them advertised here.
Pioneer (Horsedrawn) Equipment- Probably THE source for many horse-drawn implements.
Farmer Brown's Plow Shop (website)- Just like the name says....
Carriages & Vehicles: There are a number of companies that still make carts, wagons, and carriages.
These include Voitures Robert, Justin Carriages, Lone Star Wagon Works...and lots more. Several
companies also make the inexpensive metal easy-entry carts for mini horses up to horse size.
Harness: I bought our harness from Draft Horse Super Store, but there are many companies that
provide either custom-made or standard-size. There are also several companies that make horse &
mule-collars in many different sizes and styles.
FOR THE HISTORIAN
*If you are interested in a particular 19th Century topic, be sure to check out Dover Books and
the free e-books available at sites like Project Gutenberg.*
Forgotten Household Crafts: Although an "English" book, this is a great reference for people wanting
to understand the skills and jobs in the 19th century household.
Edwin Tunis' Frontier Living: Another classic, with wonderful illustrations, about the lives and
material culture of early settlers. He also has Colonial Living and Colonial Craftsmen.
Eric Sloane also has some beautifully-illustrated books.
The Little House Books: If you want a series that will help you teach your children traditional skills and
crafts, then the Little House Books are for you. Don't confuse these with the TV show, which was cute
but not authentic. Laura Ingalls Wilder does an excellent job of describing 19th century skills, crafts, and
Godey's Lady's Books: If you want to learn about 19th Century techniques and life, then go straight to
the source! In Godey's you will find recipes, music, needlework patterns, stories, news, and music. (Be
aware that Godey's was aimed at the middle-class woman, rather than the poorer classes. Some of the
stories are romanticized, and may not reflect real life.)
The White House Cookbook: A primary source that has been conveniently reprinted. This is of
especial interest to those interested in 19th century cooking and dining.
Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management - a 19th century work, you may can get it free at
Gutenberg Project online.
The American Woman's Home by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Serving Women & Seven Days a Week: If you are interested in "help" or servants in the 19th
century, then these are some good books to explore.
The Workwoman's Guide by "A Lady"- Available as a reprint of the original from Piper Publishing.
This is an incredible early-19th century resource with patterns for many types of garments that might
otherwise be unknown. This Guide was written to help women who were sewing for themselves or for the
poor. It contains all types of pattern, although one must be extremely familiar with sewing to be able to
draft these to correct size.
Housekeeping in Old Virginia- the copy I have is a reprint of the original c. 1870s book. Great
recipes for authentic 19th Century cooking.
The Plantation Mistress & Return to Tara- both by Catherine Clinton. The Plantation Mistress is a
classic. Like the later novel, Gone with the Wind, TPM refutes the myth that Southern women were all
ladies of leisure.
Mothers of Invention: Women in the Slave-holding South
Motherhood in the Old South
They Fought Like Demons
Brokenburn: The Diary of Kate Stone - This was of interest to me because of the areas Kate visited
while she and her family were refugees. Kate's point-of-view is that of a young woman from the top level
of Louisiana society who is forced to flee after the Yankee Invasion of Eastern Louisiana.
For any student interested in late 19th Century-20th Century history, the Sears & Roebuck and
Montgomery & Wards catalogs (available in reprints) are a treasure-trove.