The Weekend Homesteader:
A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency

by Anna Hess

Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-616-08882-8.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 12/13/2012

Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

Anna Hess believes in the values of living off the land. This guide to homesteading is divided into months (12) and weekends (48) to take you one step at a time through the homesteading year. I was pleased to see that it had prepared for those who are not in this country (for instance, those "down under"), by mentioning that December in USA is the June growing season in Australia. Since this reviewer has gardening friends worldwide, it is nice to see what they are up to now (when it is December here) and how their gardens grow.

The book starts with April, the beginning of a gardener's year. As a homesteader, gardening is one of the key elements to a homesteading life. Hess says, quite tongue-in-cheek, "To folks over the age of fifty, I usually describe homesteading this way: 'Remember the back-to-the-land movement of the sixties and seventies? Homesteading is the same thing...without the drugs and free love.'" Each of these weekend sub-chapters has five sections: Goal, Cost, Time, Difficulty and Kid-Friendly. In the very first section, for example, she also covers urban homesteading and rooftops. So, wherever you are on your homesteading journey, Hess will provide you with some good basics for exploring the nature and meaning of homesteading.

Interested in voluntary simplicity? Hess has a section for that. Interested in an apprenticeship, to learn a new homesteading skill (bee-keeping, for example) Hess can give you some guidelines—all within the parameters of the sub-chapter sections, so you will know how much time it might take, or how much it might cost. If you are a total novice at animal husbandry, there are good examples and ideas in this manual of homesteading concepts. If you are experimenting with some different gardening layouts and plans, you can look up Square Foot Gardening in the extensive index, or browse the May guide for planting techniques.

Soil-testing, chicken housing, mushroom culture, recipes for using herbs, and a some brief thoughts on vegetarianism versus organic meat growth—all of these are touched on; some in depth, and some with a casual touch that allows you to explore further if you'd like, depending on your own interests and goals. Hess advocates the homesteading life but is not arbitrary about the way things should be done, and thinks a little bit of homesteading in your life is better than none at all! She wants her readers to espouse the lifestyle however it works for them; her goal in this book, and with her website, is to encourage exploration, curiosity and universal care of the planet's resources. Excellent color pictures throughout help with understanding techniques, and charts help you plan crops and locations.

More important than any one element, Hess wants you to get out there and try homesteading for yourself. She encourages you to maintain your enthusiasm, and embrace the adventure on whatever level works for you. There are many of us on the same journey, and this book will be a great beginning.

Anna Hess is a homesteader who started her professional career as a field biologist and non-profit organizer, before going back to the land. She lives on 50+ acres with her husband in South-west Virginia, where they constantly experiment and live the homesteading life with enthusiasm. Visit Anna's website.

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