The fact that ours is a wasteful world is common knowledge: even countries with a strong agricultural background such as Britain and Italy have abided by the laws of consumerism with the dreadful results anyone can see in any city. While our economy collapses around us, we buzz around like crazy bees longing for "the latest": the latest fashion, the latest trend, the latest vogue...
But there's good news: this spiral of self destruction is reversible. The solution is explained by the campaigners for British countryside Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott, former protagonists of the TV show Clarissa and the Countryman,
in this colourful book, defined by The Telegraph
as "A beginner's guide to becoming more self-sufficient". From a superficial reading, the whole enterprise would look like an utopian, idealistic "back to basics" dream with a John Seymour's aftertaste, but this is not the case: this is a practical, almost banausic handbook explaining, in three "green" chapters ("The Green Outdoors", "The Green You" and "The Green House") how to gradualy get free from the wasteful ideals of our age and regain the control of our life by providing for ourselves.
The first chapter, "The Green Outdoors", deals with food production, being it grown, gathered, hunted or raised. After a few paragraphs about tools, garden sizes (including urban plots) and soil types, the authors go in depth about food from the land: trees (and fruit trees), fruits, crops and vegetables, after which food from the wild (nuts, mushrooms and game included) is discussed. The second half of this chapter is entirely dedicated to livestock, of which almost every category is covered, with special paragraphs dedicated to plant mating, fish farming, beekeeping and butchering advices such as bird plucking and game paunching. The second chapter, "The Green You", tells us about what to do once whe have produced our food. The main subject of this chapter are the "domestic crafts": beside the more common crafts like knitting, crocheting, quilting and mending, some forgotten arts like candle making, soap making, organic cleaning, spinning and weaving are discussed. Ample space is reserved to food preserving, with explanations about canning, bottling drying and preserving in salt, grease and alcohol. Paragraphs are dedicated to butter, cheese, bread, flower and fruit drinks and, most of all, home brewing. Finally the last chapter, "The Green House", is packed with simple, helpful hints about how to avoid energy waste around your dwelling, together with a paragraph about alternative sources of energy and a very interesting one about natural painting (you can actually paint your house with iron oxide). A seasonal diary, enumerating all the activities to be carried out on the self sufficient estate, closes the book.
Perhaps only one bad thing can be said of this book: it is too economical in its explanations, a flaw partially mended by a good bibliography and address list at the end. Apart from this, it's the kind of book any young couple should receive for its wedding, together with a copy of Mrs. Beeton. Suitable for dreamers too!