Back to Basics – A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, 4th Edition
Back to Basics has been inspiring people to live a simpler life since 1981, two years before I was born. As a little girl, I thought everything my big brother did was genius, and so when he pulled the heavy, tancovered first edition of Back to Basics off the shelf and started poring over the pages, I decided it must be a very important book. I tagged along as he dug up cattail rushes from around the pond, soaked them, and wove them into baskets—I remember sitting on the lawn as he wove, holding open the pages of the book for him so they wouldn’t flap in the breeze. When we were a little older, I helped him dig a foundation and peel bark off felled trees for his high school project, a one-room log cabin in the woods. I was thrilled when he made me a wooden loom for my eleventh birthday. It seemed there was no end to the large and small projects that old book inspired. And so it was with surprise and excitement when, many years later, I was given the opportunity to edit that very book, refreshing the pages for a whole new generation of readers. When I got through with the third edition, the same intriguing projects were illustrated with new photographs, and outdated information was brought up to the twenty-first century. Now, later still, I’m happy to introduce the shiny, new, Fourth Edition, newly formatted and ready to aid and inspire farmers, gardeners, crafters, preppers, and dreamers anew.
The look is new, but Back to Basics is still about old-fashioned ways of doing things, and old-fashioned craftsmanship, and oldfashioned food, and old-fashioned fun. It is also about independence—learning how to rely on the land rather than food manufacturers, and your neighbors more than the government. At its heart Back to Basics is a how-to book packed with hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, charts, tables, diagrams, and illustrations to help you and your family reestablish control over your day-to day lives. The book is organized into six main sections. The first deals with shelter, the second with energy, the third with raising food, the fourth with preserving food, the fifth with home crafts, and the sixth with recreation. The subjects presented lead in logical sequence along all the way stations on the road to self-sufficiency. You will learn how to make your own cheese, raise your own chickens, harvest your own honey, generate your own electricity, and brew your own applejack. You will be able to try your hand at blacksmithing, broom-making, and stone masonry. You will discover how to make soap, tan a hide, build an igloo, heat with wood, smoke a salmon, and create your own cosmetics. Some projects are difficult and demanding—building a log cabin or installing a solar water heating system are tasks for someone with experience, skill, and a strong back. But most of the jobs are well within the capabilities of the average person, and many are suited for family participation, especially for the kids.
As the original editors of this book so astutely noted, no nation has ever moved further from the harsh realities of wilderness existence. Yet, paradoxically, no nation has clung more tenaciously to its early ideals—to the concept of personal independence, to the mystique of the frontier, to the early pioneers’ sense of rugged self-reliance. For our health, for the environment, and for the future of our planet, it is more important than ever to know where our food comes from, to find ways of conserving energy, and to connect with our communities in meaningful, sustainable ways. May Back to Basics help guide and inspire you as you embark on a simpler, more sustainable life.
–Abigail R. Gehring, May 2014
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