Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition

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"Voluntary simplicity" has become a catch phrase for what seems to be a yearning for a simpler, more self-sufficient and economical way of living in the late 20th century. This book, first published in 1981 and recently updated, was probably many folks' first in-depth exposure to the idea of a simpler life, making things by hand, and enjoying a stronger sense of control over personal budgets, home projects, and lifestyles. Hundreds of projects are listed, illustrated in step-by-step diagrams and instructions: growing and preserving your own food, converting trees to lumber and building a home from it, traditional crafts and homesteading skills, and having fun with recreational activities like camping, fishing, and folk dancing without spending a lot of money. This book will have you dreaming and planning from the first page! -- Mark A. Hetts

Over 100,000 sold! Now newly revised and up to date, with over 2,000 color photographs and illustrations. Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills—the kind employed by our forefathers—and adapt them for a better life in the twenty-first century need look no further than this eminently useful, full-color guide. Countless readers have turned to Back to Basics for inspiration and instruction, escaping to an era before power saws and fast food restaurants and rediscovering the pleasures and challenges of a healthier, greener, and more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Now newly updated, the hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, photographs, charts, and illustrations in Back to Basics will help you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. The truly ambitious will find instructions on how to build a log cabin or an adobe brick homestead. More than just practical advice, this is also a book for dreamers—even if you live in a city apartment you will find your imagination sparked, and there's no reason why you can't, for example, make a loom and weave a rag rug. Complete with tips for old-fashioned fun (square dancing calls, homemade toys, and kayaking tips), this may be the most thorough book on voluntary simplicity available. 2,000 color photos; 200 b/w illustrations

Customer Reviews:

    This book is getting us back to where we need to be when things weren't so busy and we had time to spend on the important things of our day. As I look through the book I remember things from my child hood and my grand parents. This book is filled with lots of great ideas for many different things....more info
  • First Edition is worth it if you can find it!
    I have one of the older 1980 RD's Back to Basics and I have to say it is completely worth having if you can find it. I have referred to it many times as I build up my urban homestead. It is a healthy size book for anyone interest in growing their own foods, raising chickens, building a stone wall or using a dutch oven in the fireplace (wood only). I highly recommend it for both beginners, experienced and the curious. I am interested in this 3rd edition just to see what updated information is in there-perhaps having both to bounce off would work for any focused, eager beginner like myself. ...more info
  • Very Timely
    This book gives practical advice and how-to info that is and will continue to be of the utmost value in these troubled social and economic times ahead. I've listed it as a must read on my Catholic Rural Solutions Yahoo Group.

    Richard of Danbury...more info
  • Great read
    There is a lot of things to study, in this book I would recommend this for anyone who would like to live a simple life; and to know what to do in a given situation. I like it very much....more info
  • Good Product - Damage Prior To Shipping However
    The book cover was damaged before being shipped (no damage to box but there was a big indentation in the book). It looked like someone hit the book on the corner of a table etc. very hard. Not sure why Amazon would ship me a pre-damaged product. The hard bound cover protected the interior from too much damage. It is still usable.

    The book itself (outside the damage) was very good. I would recommend the Back to Basics book. ...more info
  • Awesome for do it your selfers
    I own this book and was sent to buy it also for someone else. This book is awsome for anyone who is a do it yourselfer. anything from picking land, building a home, growing gardens, making soaps, quilting, hunting, outdoor life, canning, smoking and processing food, composting tips, building of different things like furniture and more. this book is loaded with the way to do things like early settlers had to and even to recent times. It is also loaded with recipes too. It is great, It is in great demand, and I have had others have to get thier own because I won't get off of mine. This book is a treasure!...more info
  • this is one of the best books ever
    i had got this about five years ago, then came across one at a garage sale for $2 so i bought another one for a gift< well i lost my copy in a house fire and am getting ready to buy another one, it covers almost every aspect of country life you can think of. buildin houses, cooking canning, soap making, wine making, baskets, musical inst. etc, etc, etc. just buy the book!!!! ...more info
  • a childs dream book
    When I was growing up, my brothers and sisters and I would sit and read this book and look at the awesome pictures. We learned some good things by just looking at the vegetables and fruits. Godd stuff, all of it. Asan adult, this is best used as a gateway to understanding the "back to basics" "grassroots" movement. It has a list of other books to read at the end of each section that go further in depth. I still like to look at the pictures :)...more info
  • Back to Basics
    My husband has done nothing but talk of this book "Back to Basics" that he used to have and can not find. When I came online and put in the title of this book in "Search", it was to my greatest pleasure to find out that this book was still in production and that I was able to go to Borders to purchase it for him. I now realize why he enjoys this book so much. It has everything you need to know to survive in the "wilderness". We do a lot of camping and hiking with our two younger boys and grandchildren. The two boys love the idea of being able to build their own shelters out of woods and leaves. It is not a book that most parents would get for their children, but I feel that with the world in so much turmoil, that getting "back to basics" is just what our children need. Thank you "Reader Digest" for such a magnificent book....more info
  • The best how-to book...
    This book covers everything you need to know if you were to start from the beginning, hence Back to Basics. A great book to read and understand so you feel good that you know a little about all thats around you. If preparing survival-wise, this would be the book that you would want to hold on afterwards. I highly recommend that you get this book, even if it's just for reference....more info
  • The best how-to book...
    This book covers everything you need to know if you were to start from the beginning, hence Back to Basics. A great book to read and understand so you feel good that you know a little about all thats around you. If preparing survival-wise, this would be the book that you would want to hold on afterwards. I highly recommend that you get this book, even if it's just for reference....more info
  • Excellent book on country living!
    I purchased several books on country living, this one is the best of the lot. I wanted a good reference book for a story I am writing. This book covers everything I was interested in, and more, providing me with a wealth of information and ideas. Along with being well written, the book is also filled with detailed illustrations and photos....more info
  • I Just Bought This Book After Viewing My Neighbor's Copy
    Really, all independent-minded Americans should purchase this book. It's got simple and easy to follow directions for literaly EVERYTHING related to self-sufficiency or just the old ways. My neighbor brought out and old 1981 printing of this very book and I borrowed it for a few weeks. After returning it I searched for it...until it was located. It's a great buy considering it's packed with important information......more info
  • Truly the Basics!
    I love this book. I own an earlier edition which was passed to me by my parents. I read and re-read this book as a child, in awe at the self-sufficiency possible. Some day I hope to live sustainably, and I think this book started it for me! From this book you can learn the basics of everything from home and hearth crafts to home building. This is a wonderful place to start if one later wants to go in depth into a subject (such as earth homes or passive solar design)....more info
  • Skills of yesterday brought back in a fun, practical way.
    Back-to-Basics is a book filled with the old-fashioned way to do things. Its about living simple, and not always easy way. It shows you how to do things the self-reliant, independent way, the way our grandparents, and great-grandparents did. Everything doesnt have to come in a packaged, processed way. We forget these things. This book is sectioned into six parts. It deals with shelter, land, energy, and alot more. It gives basic, or more detailed, and picture, information for each instruction. It also gives sources and resourse for further, more indepth reading. Its a book to help you break out of cycle, if you want. Or just read it for fun. You never know when you may need it!...more info
  • I'm old fashioned and love this book!
    I borrowed this book from a friend and became so attached I had to buy a copy for myself. If my home burns down tonight this would be one of the first books I would replace, the first being my Bible. I have put this book to use many times and plan to build a slipform stone house....more info
  • This may well be the only book you ever need.
    Back to Basics is the single best resource book I've ever seen. All you need is this book, an axe, a saw, and a few acres of land to build a life. A simple, productive, self sufficient life....more info
  • This book is a great overview & foundation to simple living
    This is my favorite book for simple living. I purchased it new in 1981 and proceeded to live by it for the last 18 years. Excellent articles on gardening, canning, food storage, early american hobbies....more info
  • I'be had this book for probably...about 20 years....
    Not really a review but...if I were shipwrecked on the proverbial desert island...with only ten books, references, etc., this would be near the top of the list. I have referred to it countless times for everything from home-made ice cream recipes to orienteering....often the first place I go for "arcane" information. It's kind of like having country old-timers to answer your questions...mostly the basics...but generally that's enough...I havn't seen the new edition...but if it's half the is a must have...gar...more info
  • Best book I've read on self reliance
    This is a wonderful book. It answered some questions that I had and gave me ideas for new living. I hope that Reader's Digest does a reprint because I'd love to own a copy....more info
  • Far and away the most thorough primer on sef-sufficiency!!
    This book covers it all...canning, energy,gardening, structures, recipes, tanning...the list goes on and on! All accompanied by easy to follow diagrams and illustrations. For anybody seeking a simpler life, or any family trying to prepare for Y2K, I cannot imagine a better text. Get it now!!...more info
  • This Encyclopedia has Something for Everyone!
    This book is extremely intresting and varied with directions for building your own house, growing your own food, and all areas of crafts and recreation. A must-have!...more info
  • Would you survive a serious crunch in today's society?
    This book does an excellent job of giving you an overview of the basic skills that previous generations took for granted, and the current generation has pretty much forgotten. This book is a great starting point for learning how to be more self-sufficient and able to survive even under the looming threat of Y2K, politicians slowly killing our nation for personal gain, and overall greed and laziness that has been sapping our pioneer spirit over the last 100 years....more info
  • A thorough guide to self-sufficiency
    This book has practically everything the serious Y2K preparer will need...information on everything from building your own home to supplying your own power and growing your own crops. And each article comes with references to other works where you can find more details. It's like having a self-sufficiency encyclopedia in one volume. A must-have, whether you believe in Y2K or just want to get back to a more rural way of life....more info
  • A Good Starting Point for Simplifying Your Life
    This is definitely a good starting point, whether you are simplifying for enjoyment or because of the impending y2k (Millenium Bug) Computer crisis. This is definitely a survival tool that WILL be needed then........more info
  • The most USEFUL book I've ever owned
    I bought my copy when this was a "new book" offered by Reeder's Digest book club. That was almost thirty years ago and I still pull it out for reference on a regular basis. The information contained in it is not step-by-step "how to" type instruction but rather just enough for the independent minded with a bit of machanical ability, common sense and willingness to be able to florish with the minimum of modern "necesities." While not leading you every step of the way it will instead get you to think in a way that allows you to succeed in the best way for your own situation.
    If you have a desire to re-discover the old ways that sustained our ancestors for centuries, to be able to provide for your family even under adverse conditions or simply to get the satisfaction of doing it yourself, this is THE book. While mine was much cheaper in 1982, the present price - while unbeleivable when I saw it - is worth every penny, particularly in the present economic times when many things are uncertian and a fast food sandwhich can cost five dollars!
    I have a lot of books on the same type material. Some are more detailed but less broad. Others try to cover more ground but lack enough instruction. Back To Basics is the perfect combination. This is my "go to" reference even after more than twenty-six years. All of this and more is available today on the internet, but the internet is not always there for us! Something as simple as a thunder storm or possibly something more severe can cut you off from that source at anytime. This book can sustain you and your family. ...more info
  • Back to Basics: A complete guide to traditional skills
    Very informative, covers a lot of areas, answers a lot of questions. Well put together and easy to comprehend. I would recommend this book to anyone, expert or novice. I only wish they would include even more....more info
  • Mariamante
    Excellent book with lots of facts. This is all you need to survive & get back to the basics....more info
  • Everything you ever wanted to know...
    My parents had the first of edition of this book when we were kids. I remember being bored to tears and finding neat things to do from this book, like steeping rosemary to make a wonderful hair rinse for darker hair that added lots of luster to the hair and smelled wonderful.

    If nothing else, this book can serve as a survival guide. It even has a section devoted to survival. It is amazing how much information is in this book!

    If you ever wanted to know how to do a little bit of everything, this is the book for you. It permanently resides on my coffee table....more info
  • Wow!!!
    A lot in the beginning about building, but an incredible amount of useful
    information thoughout, a must have in these times......more info
  • For the do-it-yourself person. This is the book for you.
    My husband is a green person. He installed solar panels in our Melbourne Florida home. We seem to be the only ones at the moment. He feels sort of like Noah when no believed him about the floods. We have rain collectors to water our plants. This book gives him great ideas to get back to basics. I recommend this book to everyone....more info
  • Excellent
    This book is jam packed with very useful information and lots of pictures. My son-in-law and his mom love it. She and I grew up on farms where much of this information was common practice. I'm glad to see people trying to regain the natural and healthful ways of farming. This book covers absolutely everything you need to know to survive and thrive....more info
  • good overview
    This book provides a great overview of a lot of things, but doesn't get too much into the weeds. As the daughter of a contractor, I'll tell you that the book leaves a LOT out of building your own home. But I'd like to build a stone cottage some day, so i appreciate the ideas it offers. I'm not all the way through, but I like how they offer other books to read if you are interested in one specific activity, allowing you to gain more knowledge than the general overview the book provides. Good overview, but if you want to do something on your own, you're going to have to purchase a lot of specialty books in each area....more info
  • Very informative
    This book has some interesting things for the diy type of person that I never considered doable on a small scale before....more info
  • Back to Basics
    This particular book is as it's title implies Back To Basics. It is an excellent book which will give you a historic view of how things were done in the past and give you a foundation to build your skills on.

    In the event of a disaster, it will give you guide lines on how to do tasks and build skills to help you come out on top of many situations that can result from a natural disaster, a financial disaster and hone your survival skills. I recommend it for this reason.

    While the book is out of print, it is still available at a reasonable cost through the connections that offers. ...more info
  • Wow
    Not only does this book have a LOT of information about so many things, but it is presented clearly in an organized manner. Many colorful illustrations and pictures add to the pleasure of browsing this book....more info
  • Back to the Land
    Old skills brought to life and shared - provident living - do it yourself - from raising poultry, to making cheese- gardening and storage tips - make ice cream, build a house, all between the covers of one book....more info
  • Back to Basics
    This book is great, in fact every household should have one. If you are interested in a selfsustaining lifestyle, living from the resources in your community, thereby supporting your community, this book show the way. ...more info
  • What a great book
    I have owned this book for 18 yrs and am buying another copy because I wore the 1st one out.It covers Just about everything a tinkering homeowner could want.It has a great amount of info useful to the homesteader or anyone interested in the way things used to be done.I have used it for raising chickens,grapes,gardening and making maple syrup.I also like the firewood section.I would reccomend this book to anyone who likes to tinker....more info
  • Best book ever for diagrams and pictures
    I loved this book. I'd previously read many homesteading style books and had only been happy with one of them (Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living). This book is different in it's own special way. I didn't have as much printed information but the diagrams and pictures were just what we needed to get a few things started that the encyclopedia missed....more info
  • I'm adicted it's brilliant
    I own the book since 1980 or 1981 it's red tried and red again. It's an absolute must for every one enjoying to trial and error and sometimes suceed at skills that where so common once and now seem so difficult....more info
  • Great book
    Not a step-by step guide, but usually has enough info on a particular subject to get you started. Some topic are covered in detail, like making braided rugs, while others understandably are only given a cursory review, such as building construction.

    Tons of topics, with enough info to get you headed in the right direction for most, but you'll obviously want to get more detailed info on any of the more complex tasks they descibe....more info
  • A Wealth of Practical Information

    My grandparents owned the first edition of this book years ago and I read it almost every time I was over at their house. When I saw it was updated, I bought my own copy. This is a how-to tome par excellence! In these pages you can learn to go far toward practical self sufficiency. Just about anything and everything you could ever seek to know regarding hands-on survival skills is explained inside this book. It's useful information for everyday life and a potential lifesaver in times of crisis. In here you can learn how to start fires under any weather conditions, make your own shoes from scratch, build furniture, houses, boats, find out how to raise animals, grow gardens and survive diasters. I feel more confident in my ability to get by in almost any situation than I did before I re-discovered this pragmatic classic. Knowledge, as they say, is power....more info
  • Can't live without this book...
    The true hard-core reference book for those who are committed to getting 'Back to Basics.' A very traditional guide that provides complete instructions in a very user-friendly format relating to the essentials of living in a self-reliant lifestyle. You'll have piece of mind after buying this book.
    ...more info
  • Neat Book
    This was a really interesting book and I got a whole more than I expected. This book covers all kinds of traditional skills from chopping wood, building houses, plowing fields, food preparation, and so on. Just about anything you can imagine on everyday life skills from days long gone.

    The bonus part to this was that it included a lot of modern day adaptations and applications for these skills. It could be a useful how-to manual for those that want to live a more simple life. It also includes a description of alternate eco-friendly fuel sources
    ...more info