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I have a keen interest in the self sufficient lifestyle, and while I can't claim to live a wholly self sufficient existence I do take a fierce pride from eating my own grown strawberries, having lettuce grown in a plastic storage box on sandwiches and regularily urinating on my compost heap (fellow gardeners - please back me up about the wee thing so that I don't get a hundred comments from non gardeners about being weird!). This book offers a more contemporary, less totalitarian view towards providing for yourself than its rival in the genre, John Seymour's Self Sufficiency.
Here is where the visionary dream / philosophy of the two brother authors is set out, whilst being accepting enough of reality to acknowledge that most of us will only be able to achieve a compromised middle path of self sufficiency - hence the "ish" in the book's title. To be honest, my cynical streak thinks the "ish" is a cheeky reference to the large price tag - £30 hardbacked, and not representative of the type of spend less lifestyle that the authors encourage us to aspire to!
The main "meat" of the book (of course, the "meat" in question has a low food mileage, small carbon footprint and no rare Deepest Darkest Peruvian Love Bears were harmed in it's making) provides a huge amount of useful and interesting information under the following topics of The Home, Outdoors, Food and Lifestyle.
The Home section
The home section covers the materials which are best reccommended for the construction and furnishing of a home, all with a wallet friendly / eco friendly slant (an easy way of saying a cost benefit analysis - but half of the word analysis is anal, so as a result of not trusting my spell check and for politeness, I omitted this term!). Like buying the book itself, the initial cost of some of these house materials may be expensive but your outlay is recovered over time with the savings that extra insulation and lower electrical use etc reap.
I'm all for that, but no matter how hard I try, there is no way I can convince my wife of the benefits of using her hairdryer to melt clingfilm onto the glass of our windows (see the diagrams in this section - and no doubt be the envy of all your neighbours with those clingfilmed windows!).
Specific rooms are detailed in the Home section, for example the kitchen contains info about certain appliances' green credentials and the bathroom section contains recipes for home made beauty treatments and other cleaning products made from natural ingredients / materials.
This predominantly focuses on growing your own fruit and veg, with useful instructions about soil preparation and conditioning and the benefits of making your own compost. All sorts of angles are explored for growing food - from a companion planting compatability table to a crop rotation diagram, and of course, lots of info about the most commonly grown veg, herbs and fruit in the UK with useful and helpful sowing, planting and harvesting guides.
This chapter isn't just a collection of allotment recipes, (pumpkin soup, courgette fritatta etc) there's a lot more thought gone into it than the usual "this isn't strictly speaking a recipe book so make do with these old standard recipes" fare. There are lists for each month of the year which show the in-season produce along with recipes for their use and also a forager's guide for wild food also in season for that particular month.
Various forms of livestock and poultry have a couple of pages each dedicated to them, I don't feel that these are enough as a serious "everything you need to know about...." type guide, but as a quick overview of the main points they are useful enough. The subchapters covering preserving and beer / wine making are fascinating and hopefully should encourage people to prolong the life of their food and cut down on waste.
This is a mixture of idealism and realism, the fanciful and the practical ways in which our daily doings can affect the planet and reduce our impact on it. I feel I should back up my claims of idealism, fanciful etc, so here goes: idealistic example - taking the train rather than flying - surely only a person who has never used and therefore never suffered the British train system would make such a statement! - realistic example - car sharing - for most of us this should be easy enough to organise and implement for lifts into work etc - fanciful example - an 8 day airplane free journey to Marakesh from Bristol would be impossible for anyone with children or those who have only a 7 day holiday - practical example - there are a few pages describing how to complete puncture repairs on a bicycle which are both detailed and useful.
There ends the four main chapters of the book. At the end is a useful addresses and further reading section which I have referred to several times and have found to be a handy collection of further information from related websites etc.
A well meaning guide written comprehensively and with love by two brothers whose passion for "the good life" is infectious and encouraging. Even with the hefty price tag, the book is well worth five stars.
Andy and Dave Hamilton are identical early-thirty-something twins who live in Bristol. These endearing eco hippies attempt to live a self sufficient life - but without sacrificing too much of the fairly comfortable and definitely city orientated life that they enjoy. Think 'The Good Life' for the 21st century (those of you under 35 better look that up on Wikipedia).
From this idea, of living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and green lifestyle, but with acknowledgment that there is only so much we can do, came the Hamiltons' website http://www.selfsufficientish.com/index.php and eventually this book.
As food prices rocket, GM crops are back on the agenda and even the Conservatives are talking about Green issues, more and more of us turn to allotments and recycling - often without the faintest idea where to begin. In this book Andy and Dave take you by the hand and discuss the greener options available in daily life.
Their primary passion is home grown food and they provide lots of advice and suggestions for anyone keen to start or to develop their growing, even those city dwellers with only the smallest windowsill available for produce. The information on allotments, crop growing and crops suitable for small gardens is inspiring and exhaustive. Add to this their advice on seasonal foods and seasonal recipes thrown in too - and you'll be saving your yoghurt pots to start off those lettuces! However, they also delve into the realms of environmentally friendly house construction, fuel efficiency, eco holidays and green consumer issues - to name but a few.
This is an attractive, chunky book (400 pages) which will look great on your coffee table and provide a good talking point even if you never put any of it into practice. However it is also a very useful manual for those ready to dabble their toes in a more sustainable lifestyle. With Andy and Dave beaming happily from the pages you can't fail to be convinced by their alternative lifestyle.
ISBN 978-0-340-95101-9 Hardback £30