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Making Home

Making HomeI reviewed Sharon Astyk's book Depletion and Abundance a couple of years ago, and since then I've fallen a bit out of love with her blog.  This often happens to me when a blogger becomes repetitive, rehashing the same information over and over --- it's interesting the first time, but not thereafter.  Still, I thought it was worth a shot to read her newest book, Making Home

Astyk's thesis is that Peak Oil will result in a very different world from the one we now know.  The book revolves around the idea of adapting in place --- choosing a spot where you want to put down roots, then making changes immediately so you won't be so hard hit when the consequences of Peak Oil begin to be felt more widely.  As you might expect, the book gets a bit Doomy, especially in the second half, but if you don't mind wading through that, you'll find some handy information on emergency preparedness and homesteading, especially from a social perspective.

On the other hand, much of the information would be hard for us to put into practice.  Astyk is part of a relatively tightly-knit Jewish community, and she and her husband have four kids plus an ever-shifting number of foster kids.  If you don't have a faith-based community to fall back on, and don't have children, you might as well skip about a third of the book and likely won't find any community-building information that will appeal to you.

AstykOn the other hand, Astyk's housing advice is more spot-on from our Trailersteading perspective.  When she and her husband were house-hunting, Astyk considered moving into an Amish-built house (with the lack of electricity and other facilities that you'd expect).  She felt (as I do) that it's much easier to start with nothing and slowly built more sustainable workarounds than to move into a modern American house and try to go backward.  Her husband rebelled against the Amish house, but they both seem content with living in what Astyk calls a "working home" instead of a "show home," one that produces rather than consumes.  "[American] standards of cleanliness and perfection can be so high," she wrote, "precisely because homes are expensive spaces in which we do not ordinarily live."

Astyk's take on finances was also interesting.  Of course, she recommended that you prioritize getting out of debt, hypothesizing that debt will be harder to deal with in the future than it is now.  But what if you have money to invest for retirement?  Astyk believes that gold and silver will actually lose value, and she (not entirely tongue-in-cheek) recommends investing in alcohol, prescription sedatives, porn, and escapist videos instead.  More seriously, she recommends that we try not to look at money as the only means to an end, and to focus on the end itself.  What will we need in the future, and what can we spend time or money on now to prepare for that?

In the end, I felt Making Home was a thought-provoking read, but I was thrown off by the internetisms that popped up (smileys in a print book?) and by the word-for-word reprints of articles I'd already seen on her blog.  I'm also a bit leery of the whole premise of the book --- yes, I believe in Peak Oil, but I don't really believe we can predict what the future looks like, and I also don't like the idea of planning your life out of fear.  Why not focus on being more sustainable and self-sufficient for the joys it brings now, rather than because it may or may not make your future easier than your neighbors'?  Despite my complaints, though, the book is well worth a read, and is light enough to make fast summer reading.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I found her previous works to be much more practically useful in the sense of ideas of how to adapt your lifestyle now instead of later.

I also found her blog more useful, the older stuff, than any of her books. That said, her blog is now off-line and has been for half a year. Her blog at national geographic has been sparse.

And yes, the fear based stuff gets to me. The "goal based" challenge yourself to see how little you can use and how you can enrich your life now is much more practically valuable and fun.

Comment by c. Sun Jul 14 11:49:43 2013

Worrying about Peak Oil is so yesterday. Natural gas, of which we now have 1000 yrs worth, can be used as fuel just as easily & efficiently (actually cheaper) than liquid petroleum fuel.

OTOH- there's still the real risk of a great chaos to come when nobody will loan the govt any more money and the welfare checks will stop coming in the mail. The self-reliant will have a greater chance of surviving in the New Dark Ages.

Comment by doc Sun Jul 14 20:37:14 2013

"I don't really believe we can predict what the future looks like" +1

Comment by Jeff Sun Jul 14 21:02:40 2013

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