Books Are Amazing Tools

Some of this article was originally written on September 20, 2013, only four months after we started this blog and had a very small readership. I thought about doing a whole new article, then I thought about adding some things here and there to the original article, but what I’ve decided to do is use the old one as a base for a new article. We still use the books I talked about then, but now we have quite a few more as well. If you want to read the original unedited version, it is here, You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books.

I have been a reader all of my life and it’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer? What about when the power goes down, and stays down? What if you could never read an electronic version of anything again? We have bought ebooks, and now own a Kindle with a number of books on it. Quite some time ago we bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers, which has provided us a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers charged and running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation and a tool that will prove invaluable when the internet goes down for good. I have to tell you, Frank and I will really, really miss the internet. It is a tremendous wealth of information, right at our fingertips. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’ if it weren’t for the internet. We wouldn’t have ‘met’ you and been able to share information, ideas and experiences if it weren’t for the electronic super highway. And sad as it may seem, I do believe that one day information will be passed by word of mouth again for a long, long time. I wonder how many old type set printing presses will be available to create books if we come to the point of TEOTWAWKI? I would surmise not many. And so I would encourage you to obtain or maintain a print copy of the information you frequently use. 

Here is a glimpse of a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space, not anymore. Back then I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” So we got some, then some more and still some more. After a while, we had to have the floor leveled and  reinforced which was a worthwhile investment. By the way, this is the wall where most people would expect to see the big screen television. Not in our house. You will not find one television here. Computers, yes, televisions, no. An aside. We were listening to someone talking on the local repeater the other day, and this gentleman spoke of his seven televisions. SEVEN? Why in the world would anyone need SEVEN televisions? It’s beyond me to see any value in one, let alone seven. Okay, back to books.

A friend of mine, I have mentioned her several times, I told her the next time I mentioned her [back in 2013] I was going to give her a pseudonym. 

Grace, for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of

topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. We have been trying to stock our library with many useful reference books over the past few years and continue to do so to this day. By the way, you can never have too many Bibles.

These two belonged to my mother when she was a young woman.

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently [September 18, 2013] reminded us in, A project’s that never done, that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is still a great idea.

We would like to share some of the many books we use as resources, and some we have read for knowledge and ideas, as well as entertainment. Here are some of our favorites by category and in no particular order.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control is my favorite bug book and the one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one  from Backwoods Home.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Recently Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream wrote an article about the book One Straw Revolution and how she was trying to increase her food production year round. Frank read this book before we were married. His copy is dated 1978. 


Leigh has also written a book about the adventure she and her husband have had in the process of developing a homestead titled, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book.

There are so many different resources that can be used in many different ways to increase food production. That’s what we’re trying to do with the greenhouse, so I will be revisiting the three books that we have dealing with year round food and greenhouse production, The Winter Harvest Handbook, Backyard Winter Gardening and Gardening in Your Greenhouse.


Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. It has things other books don’t. By the way, all of the recipes use honey, no sugar in this book.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

A book I have had for a while and just started using [now I use it each time] with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Another new adventure we have embarked on is making and eating fermented foods. This, of course, has necessitated a few more books. Do you get the feeling that I really love books? Yep. I really do. Some of the ‘same’ recipes in these books are quite different which I find very interesting. A little confusing sometimes when I’m trying to learn something new, but interesting never the less. Here they are: How to Ferment Vegetables, Real Food Fermentation, Making Sauerkraut, and Wild Fermentation.

Along the same lines of fermenting foods, we have added sourdough to our menu since the first writing of this article. The first few sourdough cookbooks I bought were a disappointment to me since they dealt mostly with fancy, elegant breads. This book, Baking with Natural Yeast has just the recipes and ideas for me.

Two more books that I have not put to good use yet, but I’m glad we have them are Apple Cider Vinegar and Vinegar. I finally found a recipe for simple, plain vinegar.

Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing. I have found recipes that work great for chevre, mozzarella and cheddar in this book and still haven’t tried any of the others. I will be branching out and trying a different cottage cheese recipe before long, though, and I’ll let you know which book it comes out of.



Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is from Backwoods Home

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Here are two new medicinal herb books we have added to our collection, Healing Herbs and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook. I like to compare notes between all of the different books if I am researching a new way to use an herb, or looking for a remedy.



When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has a very different temperament, and has turned out to be an excellent dog.

We have a number of books about goats, which I call my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. I have begun to use the Farm and Stable book a little more, when researching natural solutions to our animals needs.

Now that we’ve added pigs to the homestead, we’ve also added pig books. So far, these are our two references, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs and Free Range Pig Farming, along with another one we have on our Kindle called Raising Pastured Pigs.


Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs [until she got her own chickens]. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer [2012]. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without. There are many books that can help us in our quest to learn how to do things without the help of all of the modern conveniences. I was able to acquire an old set of Cyclopedias. I didn’t even know cyclopedia was a word until I saw these books that were published in 1913. I have looked through some of them, but haven’t sat down and read through any of them.

One thing I ran across dealt with why a war had started. I wonder if the perspective of someone from that time is different from the prevailing opinions of today. Why did I bring these books home? They may be a good resource for how to do things without all of the modern conveniences we are accustomed to these days.



So, to go back to the [original] title I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of our preparations. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

Frank has added a number of books on radio communications, along with some programming discs to our bookcase collections.

We have a small, older collection of children’s readers. As a teacher these books appealed to me. Now I see them as resources when we no longer have schools for children to attend. 

There are several survival/preparedness novel series we have read over the last few years that we have not only enjoyed, but learned from as well. A. American has an interesting series that starts out with an EMP and a long trip home to family. Glen Tate has the 199 Days series that begins with the drive to prepare for the collapse of society and ends with rebuilding a portion of the country. It’s a very interesting series that gives you some things to think about along the way.

We have a number of medical resource books on our shelves. We truly hope there does not come a day when we will need to rely on ourselves, the knowledge we have and the information found in these books. But if we do, I know we will be extremely grateful they are here.

And to top it off, two of these references were a recent gift. You can’t beat that.


The printed word may be a very valuable commodity in the days, weeks, months and years to come. When a society depends upon something as fragile as a bunch of ‘0’s and ‘1’s to maintain  the vast wealth of knowledge we have come to expect to be accessible at our fingertips, they are bound to be disappointed. Sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for up to a minute, or even a few minutes. What will happen when we no longer have access to electronic data? Period? So much knowledge will be lost and probably lost for good. If there is something you truly value and want to insure your accessibility to it in the future, get it in writing. Something you can hold in your hand. Yes, there are some disasters that will even take your books from you, and we can’t insure against all possibilities, but we can at least try. And besides all that, I love books!

Until next time – Fern

29 thoughts on “Books Are Amazing Tools

  1. Frank and Fern,I hope this finds you doing well. In reference to your book selection, I would like to add one that would be very usefull. It is Boston's Gun Bible by Boston Tea Party. It is in its 13th printing of 2008. 7 years later, it is still revelant for someone needing references on firearms. It gives you standards to use today and even in the future to measure by. It is fairly expensive at $29.95 as a paperback, available thru Amazon but well worth it as firearms reference book.Thanks again for you all sharing your knowledge and advice.Harold Sadler (Alfred E. Neuman -\”What me worry?\” From Mad Magazine)

  2. First of all, I would really like to think you both for the time and work you put into this blog. I have several and I know how time consuming it can be. I found your site by chance of another blog. The name of your blog intrigued me to check it out. To say the least, it will take me quite a while to read ALL your posts.Your mentioning of the decline of use of libraries,sadly, is a fact in quite a few cities. However, with more \”withit\” libraries, inovations have really spurred the use of libraries. I live in the central Arkansas area. Our library system is called CALS for the Central Arkansas Library System with 8 branches.A couple of years ago, I worked at one of the smaller units. You wouldn't believe how many books, videos, cassette books and fishing rods we checked out monthly. We consistently checked out over 19,000 books a month in a small town with a population of 29,000. If you worked there, there was no rest for the weary. haha….Just saying,, there is hope for libraries. People still like to read and HOLD the material. Yes, we had wi-fi and computers/laptops for use. Our customer were from youngsters to oldsters.

  3. Hi Chris. Congratulations on the move. I love YouTube instructional videos. I have found new ways to break and destroy things that I never could before. I've even watched a video on how to plow and disc. Fern and I don't miss TV at all. I can't imagine spending 30 minutes of my day. Imagine 30 minutes a day, 3.5 hours per week, 14 hours a month, 168 hours a year. I can use 168 hours, not to mention if I sat on my hiney and watched TV three hours a day. People don't realize how useless and worthless TV really is. It is the unseen drug of the masses. That's all they talk about outside of church, it's what they saw on TV. Enjoy your new place.Frank

  4. Grammy, they're listening and they're learning. You may not see the fruits of your labor today, but they hear you. Sometimes you expect the least, will absorb the most. We like that Little House series. Check out Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawles. He also has another book called Summer of the Monkey, most kids love it. Older kids also like the Jack London books, make sure they're older kids, though. Thanks for taking the time to read.Frank

  5. SFG, if people can store water under their beds, how about a one layer book shelf? Actually, build your bed up four or five feet off the floor and have bookshelves under the whole bed. On the inside, put in some canned food and storage bottles of water. The imagination is limitless, and there are times our imaginations can take us to extremes. This may be one of those times.Frank

  6. Ilene, books are one of those essential items. I remember pictures from pre-WWII Germany when the citizens were encouraged to bring their books for public burning. Wonder if we're going to be heading into these times again? It appears we have a sinister government, and I would guesstimate someday that they will outlaw knowledge. Then in two or three generations, knowledge will be gone. Just like we've done with morality in public schools. Two or three generations and it's all gone, and you never have to fire a shot. We've lost this one. Might as well lick our wounds and get ready for the next battle, because we're going to lose it, too. Be prepared. Is that the Boy Scout motto, the Girl Scout motto, or the transgender motto? This is just an example of what I'm talking about. Just imagine 50 years ago a person demanding transgender bathroom rights. We've lost, and we're going to keep losing. That's the way it is.Frank

  7. Thank you for the comment. We have multiple public libraries in the area, but they are seldom used by anyone except older folks and kids. Fern and I used to travel every summer between Alaska and Oklahoma and the public library was a place we used often. We'd check our emails and find out what was on the internet. Libraries are a lot more today than they used to be. It's just a shame that more people don't use them. Years ago we worked in an extremely remote bush school in northwest Alaska. According to the staff there, the school library was a bustling place every night. When the village got satellite cable TV, there was never another person that came to the library. It's not because of the internet, because Al Gore had not invented the internet yet. Most folks don't know you can bring your own laptop to a public library and use their wireless internet, or at least that's the case in our area. Some places you can even sit outside the building.I'm going to miss all these things in life. Take care.Frank

  8. Great post! We recently moved to our rural home on 30 acres and have found ourselves heavily reliant on internet articles on gardening, running fences, construction, canning, chickens, etc. I like your policy of no TV in your household. We have two in the house but havent used them since moving here several months ago. One will now be sold off to make way for bookshelves! We cannot always rely on the availability of electronic media to provide critical \”how-to\” information. Really enjoy your blog – thanks for sharing as you learn! – Chris in WA state

  9. I teach kindergarten through fourth grade students with disabilities, and we love the Little House books. We're on our third one, and do activities with each. I'm trying to teach the kids how to survive and thrive if they are ever in a off-grid situation. I hope they're listening and learning.

  10. I had a complete set of the Foxfire books back in the 70's, but in my silly youth, I gave them away. I have managed to collect some of them at thrift stores but not the entire set; I keep a sharp lookout for them, because they are hard to find and expensive. Boy Scout manuals from earlier days have been reprinted and are easy to find at pretty low prices. Ralph Moody books and Little House books have fascinating information about the \”how to's\” of yesteryear, and you can get your kids to read them!

  11. We have that book as well, Claudia, it is there on the shelf, it just didn't make the detailed list. We could have mentioned many more, but I figured the article was long enough already. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  12. It is interesting to find out other folks have many of the same books, isn't it Callidore? Happy Spring! I hope your growing season brings you a bountiful harvest. It's good to hear from you.Fern

  13. I have a lot of those same books. Just recently ordered \”Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing\”. I agree that it's better to have books than things stored on the computer. So much can happen, you might not have electricity to power up, or your computer might crash and you'd lose everything. Many things saved on a computer would be as expensive to print, or more so, than just buying the book, due to the exorbitant prices of printer ink (don't get me started on that topic – heh.)

  14. When I was in high school in the 60's, I'd save my extra money to buy used books. Although we practically lived at our local library, I loved owning some of the classics. As a very poor newly wed, I collected paperback versions of all the Agatha Christie's including some English versions along with various authors.Our 3rd bedroom is now a combination home library & genealogy archive. We have 9 tall, narrow book shelves stacked 2 deep on most. We also have book shelves in the other 2 bedrooms and 2 in the living room, about 1/2 fiction & history, the other 1/2 reference books. I love that I can do hours of research on the internet very quickly with just a google search. And I can easily search a particular subject or phrase quite easily. But reading about something in a book is just better. That's why there are always multiple books on my Christmas/wish lists. They're some of my favorite presents.

  15. May I suggest Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon? She explains how animal fats and cholesterol are necessary for brain function and protection from disease.

  16. You have some mighty fine books there! I am also a lover of books and have quite a collection. Since we just began beekeeping, my husband and I are reading \”Top Bar Beekeeping\” by Crowder and Harrell. We are also reading \”The Holistic Orchard\” by Michael Phillips; another great reference book. In our new home (can't wait until we build it) we will have a second story loft that looks down into our great room. All along the back wall will be my bookshelves, and in front of that will be a couple of comfortable reading chairs. This will be my heaven on earth! You have a couple of books that I am going to look into. I usually don't buy books new, but sometimes Amazon has used ones that look brand new at a very reasonable price! Thanks, again, for all this information!

  17. I, too, love my books. My absolute prized is a daily devotional my grandmother created as a wedding gift for her daughter in 1941. It is in her writing and is a mixture of her writing and newspaper or church bulletin clippings.My regret from my early adulthood is losing a 1970s World Book encyclopedia set. Still on the hunt for that one at garage sales.I, too, am a fan of Mother Earth news and have saved all of my magazines since the 70s. I've thought about getting their archives on CD but just can't figure out which version would be the best to get. Maybe for Christmas this year.Have you heard of the FoxFire books? They are a compilation of interviews made to preserve the traditions from the Appalachian Mountains. I've found a few at used book stores and have purchased the rest of the series on Amazon.I also have a collection of 1950s Boy Scout and Girl Scout manuals. You never know what will come in handy. Most of my friends in my non-internet life do not get it – they have all gone to eReaders. I just love having a book in hand. Ditto for printed versions of soduko and other games.Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC Canada.

  18. Hi, Frank and Fern,Interesting that so many commented on having the same books! We also own most of the books you highlighted! We have books in every room of our home with a huge built-in bookshelf in our living room with how to books and history books.You are right about never having enough Bibles, as well. Our large master bedroom bookshelf contains nothing but Christian books, commentaries, and Bibles I continue to pick up every time I see one at the thrift stores. We believe there will come a day when Christians will need to go underground, and we want to have enough Bibles to share with a home congregation. We weeded out our fiction books mostly to series we enjoy – The Cat Who books, Dorothy Gilman books, Alexander McCall Smith books, and all our old favorite Agatha Christie novels. We might really need them if we have shortages of electricity and can't sit down to watch our old movies. Have you all watched Wartime Farm on You tube? It is a VERY interesting series done by the BBC having historians go back and live just as people lived during a previous era. Wartime Farm shows the extreme sacrifices the Brits had to make in WWII. The same historians did \”Edwardian Farm\”, and both of these teach \”tactics\” of how to survive in an utterly deprived environment.\”Knowledge is power!\” at least as far as one's knowledge will carry him. The survival instinct in humans is strong, but without a reservoir of know how, it is pretty tough to survive on human will alone.

  19. Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed is among the best seed saving guides. It tells you what plants you need to worry about cross pollination, what plants you don't, and what to do about it. And her lists are comprehensive.I also love Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener. She lives in a completely different climate than I do, but her way of thinking about gardening I found highly valuable.W.

  20. Fern – back when we were living in the city and planning to move to our BOL, i had to get rid of 200+books. but they were all fiction and so it was easy to do so. i kept all of my encyclopaedias (i collected encyclopaedias all of my life and have 14 full sets) and all of my reference books (gardening, herbs, homesteading, children's, medicine, etc.). in total, when we moved here, i brought 76 banker's boxes of books!!! our friends came and helped us unpack when the u-haul van arrived. we had unloaded all of the furniture and there were only the boxes left. my friend jimmy picked up the first box and said \”what the heck do you have in this box? it feels like a box of books!!!\”. he was right. and there were 76 more boxes of them – bahahahah!but, like you, my fear if the poop hits the fan is that we will go back into the dark ages. without books, we will have nothing to reference and nothing to be able to teach children with. so my books are worth more than their weight in gold to me. thank you for sharing your books with us. we have very similar tastes in books. if you are interested, here is a post about one of my favourite books – it's a \”cyclopaedia\”! friend,kymber

  21. I love your special shelf! I once lived in a small cabin and had so many books I had to have another room added on so I'd have a place for them. Your shelf reminds me of one of my walls that was all bookshelf. Heaven!I see we have a lot of books in common. I loved going through your list, and will probably get a few of your suggestions. You've given me a lot of good ideas with this post. Thanks!

  22. My favorite-Carla Emery's \” Encyclopedia of Country Living\”-I'm on my third copy. It's my go to book for all things homesteading. If I had to choose one book this would be IT!Thanks for a great blog.

  23. AWith great hilarity, a friend gave me James Wesley Rawle's book as a joke. I read it in one sitting and called the friend at 2 am to thank her for her choice. I have so many books that I do not ever want to move. T'would take me one van for my belongs and another for my books!

  24. I was so excited to see we have books in common. I to have \”One Straw Revolution\” I had borrowed it from my local library then found my copy in an Op shop several months later. It cost me the awesome sum of $1. I also have \”Making and Using Dried Foods\”. It's my go to book for dehydrating. Lovely to see how much you have both achieved. I have been reading but not commenting. Life is frantic with the arrival of Spring and I'm so glad we are finally having some warmer weather. Blessings to you both.

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