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The newbie guide to off-grid living

Debra Robinson explains why this book is the one to take with on your off-grid quest.

“Back to Basics” is an old book, but it can still be purchased. If you are looking for a starting point on your off-grid journey this is the book you will refer to over and again. The full title is “Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills” Amazon still carries it – I got it for a gift, maybe fifteen years ago, and I use it all the time. This book is always the perfect place to start a new project.

The author is Readers Digest, second edition, it’s a book about everything an off gridder needs. It tells you how to pick land, what to look for, how to lay it out, and how to build on it. It tell you how to power it, how and what will grow on it. It’s an all around book about everything you need to know.

Special sections are listed on woodworking, farming, butchering, gardening, how to raise animals, sewing, old fashioned crafts, and best step by step for doing yourself.

As stated, the sub caption under the title is “How to learn and enjoy Traditional American Skills”. There is a section in this book about energy from wood, water, wind and sun. It talks about underground houses and their benefits, also how to cut wood for heat. It shows you how to use streams and rivers to provide energy. Part of that section also shows you how to set up and use a windmill, whether it is to pump water or make electricity to store in batteries. The book shows diagrams for solar water heating and using solar for electricity.

One of the sections I find useful are the recipes. Of course, there are many food recipes, but I seem drawn to the textile recipes for natural dyes. I enjoy the soap and lotion recipes too. The old fashioned crafts are diagramed for candle making, baskets, weaving, quilting, metal works and wood skills.

Just a couple of weeks ago I got the book out and taught myself the basics for laying a foundation for a sidewalk. Now that the weather is getting warmer I can take my design to the lumber store and get supplies and put the sidewalk in.

I find this book to be enjoyable for a newbie which we all are in the beginning. If nothing else, it gives you a starting place to begin and enough information to tell you if you need to know more. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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9 Responses to “Back to Basics: book review”

  1. julee

    This book is goodness, maybe 25 years old! I remember it in my parents house when I was little. Its a great book!!!

  2. Orange Jeep Dad

    Again, great book. I purchased the original about six months ago after a friend brought it to work. He loaned it to me and I couldn’t put it down for three days. Highly recommend.


  3. hazel klein

    I would like the recipe for tamale pie in the back to basics book. I have the book but I moved recently and can’t remember which box the book is in. thanks

  4. momuphigh

    Ah, glad this was posted. It is ‘the’ book to go to! It came w/the current house I live in and it’s coming w/me when I move!

  5. Sara

    I used this book MANY years ago. I loved it!!

  6. R.WOOD

    I got this book 15 years ago,gave it to my daughter.I got the newest book for myself. little to no differance in the two. love the books, my family does also. thank you!

  7. diamongirl76

    Thank you!

  8. Nick Rosen

    Those who have it say “the one with the yellow cover” is the one to go for

  9. diamongirl76

    Hi! I am going to purchase this book and saw Amazon also carries a 3rd edition, from 2008, are you by chance familiar with it? Sometimes, I’m well aware, the more updated versions aren’t always better and frequently cut out stuff they don’t find relevant anymore. I’m not sure which one to get.