Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create
by Renee Wilkinson

Fulcrum Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1-555-91748-7.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 01/15/2012

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

This reviewer can readily be classified as an "old hippie" so that much of the homesteading advice out there today is stuff I practiced in the 1970s. But Renee Wilkinson is one of the new lights in town; focusing on modern (aka "urban") homesteading, she brings the ideas of homesteading, do-it-yourself, and creating a life you will love to people who never thought of raising a chicken or of the fascination of bees. Whether you are in an apartment or a suburban tract home, whether you are a novice or a seasoned gardener, you will find enrichment and encouragement in Modern Homestead.

Wilkinson warns you to check your local laws and befriend your neighbors; it is essential to make modern, urban homesteading viable and happy. There are only four chapters to this book, each embracing a homesteading concept and breaking it down into bite-sized chunks for your consumption. She discusses rented homesteads, small spaces (patios? balconies?) and sprawling spreads. She encourages her readers to cultivate community, to create a group of neighbors and friends who share and appreciate the "hip homesteader" idea.

I very much enjoyed her page in Chapter One that is basically just a collection of ideas on sustainable living practices. We know them, in our hearts, but having them on one page rattles our cages and helps us embrace what we know is the right thing to do for the planet. The mantras Eat Local, BYOB (bag,) Alternative transportation and the classic Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are solid reinforcement for all of us.

Wilkinson avoids giving advice without backing it up with ideas and plans. Her duck coop is on my list of things to build this Spring. The beautiful pictures of her in action, throughout the book, give life and beauty to her concepts and ideas, all of which she practices herself.

Interested in ideas on preserving your harvest? Chapter four in this book has as much solid information and recipes as those books dedicated to the subject. Zucchini Parmigiana sounds divine, and a chart on blanching makes a great starting point for freezing your own munificence. Make and freeze pesto, create yummy fruit popsicles, can a saucy marinara and find ideas for a canning party that will make want to start right now. Wilkinson wraps up her book with ideas for homemade cleansers.

This is a one-stop book for those interested in creating a homesteading life. If you are not sure that this is the life for you, or even if you are curious about how others make it happen, add this book to your bookshelf. You will find it useful, even if you just have a backyard garden. And you will find it inspiring if you are wondering just how to go about living on the land. Enjoy!

Wilkinson has a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, and is focused on a graduate degree in landscape architecture. She lives in Portland Oregon, and practices what she preaches—she has but a 10th of an acre of land. Visit her website.

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