The New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency
I have been a fan and a follower of John
Seymour’s writing for many years. He has long
been an inspiration to anyone seeking a more
sustainable way of life, and although he died in
2004, his work remains relevant and important
– not to mention incredibly useful.
This iconic book is at the heart of it all. Part
manual, part manifesto, full of vigour, energy
and sanity, it is a brisk but joyful declaration that
the good life is not just possible but necessary.
He didn’t expect everyone to up sticks and start
tilling an acre in the country. But he did believe
that, faced by the ever-encroaching influence of
industrial food and farming, we could all find a
simpler but much richer path, rediscovering our
own strengths and skills, and growing and eating
better, fresher food.
Before you even put to the test the practical
worth of John’s words – his sound advice on the
growing of strawberries or the brining of hams
– there is the sheer pleasure of reading them. He
writes with a verve and clarity, and a wry and
self-deprecating wit, that keep you glued to the
page far beyond the pragmatic paragraph you
originally sought out. Look up “bread” and you’ll
be on to “bottling” and “brewing” before you
Having said that, you may also wonder, on
first perusal, if the book is really for you.
Seymour sees no limits to the resourcefulness
of human beings and is happy to discuss the
construction of quickthorn hedges or compost
toilets as projects no less feasible than planting
a row of peas. If your deepest foray into
self-sufficiency so far has been growing a few
radishes, such ideas seem impossibly daunting.
But don’t worry about the long-drop loo for now.
This book isn’t only for those who are determined
to go off-grid (although it will be invaluable if
you are). It’s for anyone who shares Seymour’s
view that the current tides of industrialisation,
globalisation and monoculture are dangerous,
alarming and foolish. The principles he espouses
here have meaning for all of us and can be
applied at many levels: nurturing the land,
personal responsibility, the value of simplicity,
the concept of having enough.
Dip into this book and it will soon start
to influence the way you shop and cook, grow
and live. You might simply decide to start
growing your own herbs instead of buying
weedy, forced specimens from the supermarket.
But even such small gestures are significant.
Seymour both encourages us and enables us to
do more, of course: to plant a veg patch, some
fruit trees, to keep a few hens, even a pair of
pigs. With his guidance, I have managed to do
these things and they have brought me and my
family great joy.
However we decide to cherry-pick the
wisdom laid out in these pages, we can all be
part of the exciting journey towards greater
self-sufficiency. This, Seymour explains, does not
represent “going back to some idealised past”
but going forward, towards “a new and better
sort of life.”
Seymour lived the life himself. He put in the
graft and the sweat and enjoyed the sweet
rewards, and that’s why this book is as
authoritative as it is accessible. I am absolutely
delighted that this new edition will introduce it
to a fresh crop of readers. And I’m sure they will
be smudging its pages with blackberry juice and
good soil, as I have done, for many years to come.