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When you are an aspiring homesteader, or someone who has begun heading down the road toward homesteading, it can be easy to dream big but hard to imagine how you will get there. It was no surprise, then, that the Homesteaders’ Book Group chose Jenna Woginrich’s Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life (2010) as their book choice for Fall 2018. This book group is full of people who are taking steps toward a more self-sufficient life and many of them wanted to read testimony from someone who had been down that road.

Made from Scratch is one of a handful of memoirs that Jenna Woginrich has written about aspiring toward and achieving the farming or homesteading life. Our book club chose it because it documents her adventures at the beginning – when she had moved from aspiration to implementation, but was still a new learner.

Covering topics from chickens and bees to gardening and cooking your own food, plus some fun chapters on making mountain music and buying old stuff, this book seamlessly combines memoir with how-to. Jenna tells engaging stories about her first forays into homesteading and farming tasks.  She pairs those stories with basic information about those tasks.  Her information is appropriate for the beginning homesteader or even the homesteader who experienced in a few of these topics.

Most members agreed that this book was most appropriate for beginners or those not too far along in the journey, but even the more experienced among the group found the book to be a fun read.

For example, I’m someone who has been gardening for quite some time. I found myself laughing at (and relating to!) Woginrich’s recollections of trying to dig out her first big garden space. But I also learned a few new strategies I might not have come across before. Likewise, I appreciated her chapter on buying “old stuff” and grew interested in seeking out high quality antique tools and kitchen implements.

The Homesteaders’ Book Club raved about Woginrich’s friendly and humorous style of writing.  They appreciated her ability to draw in the reader and relate to them on a personal level. As one member, Jamell said, “I liked how she relayed the info through stories and made it interesting instead of a “do it this way” format.”

Honesty and realism also played a role in our discussions about the book among homesteading readers. As one reader, Gina, commented, ”I loved her authenticity in sharing her trials and triumphs along with great storytelling along the way. So many suggestions and resources offered but also a clear note to keep things simple, start small and expand with experience.”

Woginrich is not afraid to share the stories of when her projects or endeavors failed, and what she learned from those failures. She reminds us, in an authentic way, that failure is something we will encounter along the way when farming or homesteading.  We should be prepared for it, and not devastated by it.

Overall, members of this book group highly recommend this book for beginning or newer homesteaders, and encourage you to add it to your library, as do I.

Note: We were also lucky enough to be able to pose questions to Jenna Woginrich; I will update this article soon with a link to a summary of her responses.

Huge thanks to Storey Publishing for sponsoring the Fall Book Club by providing a free copy of the selected book to one lucky book club member, and to Jenna Woginrich for offering a giveaway of homemade goat’s milk soap and a signed copy of her book, “One Woman Farm”.

For more of our recommended books for homesteaders, check out our book list in our Amazon Storefront.

Summer book club
If you are interested in learning about homesteading, consider joining the Homesteaders’ Book Club through our Facebook Group!

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Carrie Williams Howe is an educational leader by day and an aspiring homesteader by night and weekend. She lives on a small homestead in Vermont with her husband, two children, and a rambunctious border collie. She blogs about her family's homestead life at The Happy Hive.

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