Carla Emery first began to pen what was to become The Encyclopedia of Country Living in 1970 while working a small farm in Idaho and parenting the first of her seven children. All around her people were going “back-to-the-land”, trading city life for country living. Their desire for self-sufficiency vied with a nagging fear of nuclear annihilation and they were filled with urgent questions as to how to proceed in their new rural world. What began as serial chapter installments, produced by hand and mailed to people who responded to an advertisement for an “Old Fashioned Recipe Book” in Organic Gardening magazine over the years grew to become a definitive work on country living and modern homesteading. Now in its 10th edition, 35 years after the first complete book was collated (by hand) in a rural library in Idaho The Encyclopedia of Country Living remains a living history and comprehensive resource for “living off the land and doing it yourself”.
The above is from my draft of the introduction to The Encyclopedia of Country Living Guide to Growing Vegetables the first of my two single subject books drawn from the original title by Carla Emery. The completed manuscript just went to the publisher this week and now it’s time to turn my sights to the second book The Encyclopedia of Country Living Guide to Preserving and Canning (Yum!). Both titles are due out in 2009. The books are the brainchild (…storm?) of Sasquatch Books, publisher of ECL’s newly released 10th Edition.
I’m pleased, proud, and delighted to have been asked to author these works for many reasons – not the least of which is my growing fascination with writing about gardening and food, but also because as my editor put it, I “understand the ethos” of what Carla set out to accomplish beginning so many years ago.
While I don’t think I share her pathos of alarm and stubborn autonomy I will admit to a fierce streak of independence and yes, a certain “flower child” period when I did indeed purchase one of her earliest editions. It’s crazy how time wrinkles in on itself, no? Nearly 30 years ago however determined I was to bake our bread and grow our food if something went awry or I got tired…we just went out to eat! I know, hardly the stuff of self-sufficiency, but still reflective of my desire to be a part of the process and an awareness of a food web growing increasingly industrial and removed from daily life.
Today, thankfully, the pendulum is swinging the other way – or time is un-wrinkling – and everywhere, city and suburb, downtown and country, people are looking which a fresh perspective at where their food comes from and how it is produced. Today’s “victory” garden supports clean healthy food, a safe, sustainable environment and fair living conditions. We may not have more than a tiny patch in the backyard or a few containers on a shyly-proportioned patio but there is much we can grow, and much more we can learn in the process.
There is a dawning movement towards procuring local foods that follow the rhythm of the seasons – that is the seasons of the hemisphere in which we reside… for those of us willing to brave the weather, dance an evasive tango with pests and disease, kneel in the dirt, sport definitely non-fashion forward tan lines while shading our heads against the midday sun, or support friends, neighbors and small farmers who do, the table is set for a feast that feeds both body and mind, belly and spirit, at once economically sound and emotionally satisfying.