The Oil Drum BookCollage -#2 of 3 - "Human Capital", How-to Books, etc.

Yesterday we had Part 1 of a three part thread on book recommendations by The Oil Drum readers pertaining to the big picture. This weeks (two) Campfire threads will also be home to book recommendations.

There seems to be growing consensus that the trend of globalization may slow or reverse itself in coming years. In a future trajectory of expensive energy and/or financial instability and/or geopolitical conflicts, overall social interest may revert towards basic needs and stability. I suspect that Post Peak, people will begin to substitute a unit of time and/or labor for what was previously provided via debt/cheap energy. In the past couple generations, we have shifted much of our human capital (knowledge) towards marginal services and heavy specialization. What sort of books might we recommend to others who are interested in either becoming more self-sufficient, learning new skills divorced from a paper/service economy, or anything practical for the various futures predicted Post Peak. My three selections below the fold...

I grew my first garden in my life in 1999 -some cherry tomatoes and blueberries. I have added a bit of experience and creativity each subsequent year. I have recently bought many gardening books, but alas my efforts on Peak Oil puzzle solving have kept me from really reading them. I have owned the 'bible' above for many years - it is written with northern gardeners with 1/2-1 acre gardens but there is useful information for most everyone interested in growing food.

This is a book about a couple who left the rat race and tried to slow the pace of their lives down by living on a farm. They found (as have I), that dividing ones day into a diversity of activities results in a fuller and more satisfying life than focusing on one thing all day long. As such, a barbell strategy of 4 hours or so of physical labor (gardening, etc.) and 4 hours of intellectual pursuits makes for a well rounded day (something I am striving for but the damn internets is always there....)

Irrespective of how green your garden grows or how resilient your community is, it helps to understand who you are, where you came from, and what are your behavioral drivers. There are many psychology books out there, the majority worthless. This book (written by a psychologist), is a very readable overview of happiness, emotions and creating personal meaning. Unlike most psychologists, he grounds most of the writing in evolution/neuroscience, which is key in giving the full story on brain/behavior. It's a good, informative and 'happy' book.


Please add up to three of your own selections, with a brief description of why you recommend them. This Saturday we will have the 3rd thread on book recommendations - what books would you choose to 'enjoy' if you had knowledge of big picture and practical know-how already covered.

Thanks for your contributions. Let's make this a big list....

(From Kiashu, in the earlier thread):

The Complete Handyman, an out-of-print book from the 1940s which tells us everything from making a bookshelf to replacing the acid in a lead-acid battery. Not many books like this exist these days, it's all high-tech, lots of plastics, and/or very specialised, and most books assume the reader is an idiot.

The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, by John Seymour

The Australian Vegetable Garden, which looks at growing fruit and vegetables considering the Australian climate and conditions - rather different from most gardening books which focus on Europe and North America

Is that The Complete Handyman by C.H. Hayward?

Thanks Nate for the repost!

There's no one authour for mine, it's old as. The frontspiece reads,

Home Repairs
Decorations and Constructions

The Sun News-Pictorial

It has no publication date, but I'd put it in the late 1940s at the latest - one of the projects they suggest is,

"Directions for making and simple and inexpensive type of cabinet, suitable for housing a three-valve set having an external loud-speaker [...] The cabinet is large enough to take the high- and low-tension batteries."

They also refer to batteries as "accumulators"; I believe this term faded out in the 1950s. They also, in the context of changing the acid in a lead-acid battery, expect the reader to know what "specific gravity" means.

I value the book because, as I said, it assumes the reader knows something, but also because it focuses on lower-tech solutions to things - the sorts of solutions we will probably have more of post peak fossil fuels.

Thanks just bought one on ebay and am waiting eagerly.

I'm surprised it was available! But looking on ebay, I find another for sale (perhaps gone by the time anyone clicks that link, but still).

I got mine on since i am not in Oz.

These are my recommendations for book purchases for a starter library:

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea (Paperback) by John 'Lofty' Wiseman

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness (Paperback) by John McPherson, Geri McPherson

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Complete Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival (Paperback) by Jack A. Spigarelli

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival (Paperback) by Matthew Stein

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook (Paperback) by Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht

Handbook of Knots : EXPANDED EDITION (Paperback) by Des Pawson

Forgotten Arts and Crafts (Hardcover) by John Seymour, Gillian Emerson-Roberts (Editor)

The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It (Hardcover) by John Seymour, Deirdre Headon (Editor)

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management (Paperback) by Maurice Grenville Kains

Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City (Paperback) by Christopher Nyerges, Dolores Nyerges

Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems (Paperback) by David Del Porto

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition (Paperback) by Joseph C. Jenkins

Earth-Sheltered Houses : How to Build an Affordable Underground Home (Paperback) by Rob Roy

Keeping Food Fresh (Paperback) by Janet Bailey

Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, and Survival Tools : The Complete Guide to Making and Using Traditional Tools (Hardcover) by Monte Burch

Country Wisdom & Know-How : A Practical Guide to Living off the Land (Paperback) by The Editors of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom Boards

Earthbag Building : The Tools, Tricks and Techniques (Natural Building Series) (Paperback) by Kaki Hunter, Donald Kiffmeyer

Where There Is No Dentist (Paperback) by Murray Dickson

The Woodwright's Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft (Paperback) by Roy Underhill

Underground Homes (Paperback) by Louis Wampler

The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (Paperback) by Eliot Coleman, Sheri Amsel (Illustrator), Molly Cook Field (Illustrator)

Ragnar's Ten Best Traps : And A Few Others That Are Damn Good Too (Paperback) by Ragnar Benson

The Art of Blacksmithing (Hardcover) by Alex Bealer, Alex W. Bealer


Reader's Digest "Back to Basics"

they have everything in the way of homesteading skills in there.

Well, on the heading of "how to" mentally keep important things in perspective, this one occurs to me. A slim volume, it draws a useful line between spirituality and religion, and describes a nice context for individual peace and perhaps doing our best in a preposterous situation.

The Sacred Depths of Nature, by Ursula Goodenough

I think I'll add, for the heck of it,

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing

I put this in the "how to" section because it doesn't really fall into the other catagories, and it's good to be reminded that simply prePOSterous adversity may be overcome.

and if you can get your hands on a copy:

A Child's Garden of Grass, by Jack S. Margolis & Richard Clorfene

I haven't seen a copy in 30 years, but it has all sorts of useful social and philosophical tips, far beyond the best ways to get stoned.

an eclectic mix of books, I'll agree.

Vegetable gardening? Careful, don't forget the trees! They take the longest to establish, therefore the first thing one should do when starting a garden is planting the trees - first the nut trees (often take seven year to bear fruits) then the fruit trees (three to five years)

A very good point. I'll be starting a new vegetable garden at a new house soon.

There are some very nice big avocado trees on the property already along with some young citrus trees, mostly limes I believe. I'd like to add papayas, mangoes and bananas.

I'd also like to plant passion fruit vines and maybe cashews.

The previous owners were urban farmers are leaving behind lots of big empty ceramic pots and what looks like tomato cages with some very over run cherry tomatoes still clinging to life. I'll try to bring them back to life or just replant them.

Then I'll start worrying about the rest of the vegetables...

Good advice.
The same holds true for firewood plantings.
I have a small area that I've devoted to intensive plantings of hybrid poplar and black locust-both do well in my area.
Although I would have to have access to a greater area to provide for all my energy needs, this is giving me valuable experience as well as stock for further plantings should more area become available.
While I fully expect to see some of this wood burn in my stoves, I'm thinking my son may benefit from these efforts more than I ever will.

How To Books for work with your hands can be a problem. Often they don't cover important items either because they are more art than science or because the people who write them are better with their hands than with words.

Two examples I know.

One key question in farming is exactly when to plant or plow. This question takes into account soil type, moisture conditions, climate(or micro-climate if you prefer), planting method, crop being planted,and other less important variables. Getting this part wrong will often be the difference between a good yield and a poor yield. This is more art than science and you will need to practice or be shown by someone experienced to get it right.

A second example is welding with a stick welder. You have to practice keeping tha arc steady and properly melting the materials to be welded. No book I have ever seen will make you a decent stick welder without a lot of practice. It helps to have an understanding of the theory but it is only a beginning.

My point is that for many skills a good book is only a start and you must practice and be prepared to fail on your first trials.

If your view of the future is dark you can not just buy How To Books and expect to take them out and use them after you really need them.

its free folks

Copyrights and patents have a negative effect on humanity but I do not expect anyone to understand or accept this at this stage so keep on consuming for all your worth.

Thanks :)

Nuclear War Survival Skills by the late Cresson Kearny - a free download is available. The book is dated but I doubt that the basic physics has changed significantly.

The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. by the late Petr Beckmann -also dated

Radiation Hormesis by T. D. Luckey

Can I pride myself on being the only other TOD reader to have read Luckey's book on Radiation Hormesis? It was recommended to me 20 years ago by a European Commission health physicist who was thoroughly pissed off with the EU's better-safe-than-sorry 'radiation protection' policy based on the linear no-threshold model.

Good introductory article online:

Thanks Robert and Carolus, some more spendid lessons from the University of Tod!

PERMACULTURE: A Designers' Manual Bill Mollison
The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage Evans/Smiley/Smith
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure Joseph Jenkins

Between them you have the info to build, plant and maintain a homestead with minimal equipment and sans fossil fuels.

These 2 volumes round out the Mollison book and take it up a notch:
Edible Forest Gardens (2 vols) Jacke/Toensmeier

Edit 2:
If you are in the SW US, these are probably worth acquiring too
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1)
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 2)
Both by Brad Lancaster

Edit 3:
This online library should really get a nod too:

Nate (and others) The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency is available as a FREE PDF download at

Its 250+ pages are chock-full of useful information.

I second the recommendation of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. I picked it up two years ago as a new gardener. Growing organic is different from growing with standard fertilizers, and Ed Smith's method of using wide rows of raised beds with deep soil does work well. He also includes tips that save a lot of time throughout the season.

Also I am a big fan of: "Organic Gardening - The Natural No-Dig Way" by Charles Dowding.

My top suggestion is Nonviolent Communication: A Language of LIfe, by Marshall B. Rosenberg. It's basically an excellent guide to getting your way without having to bash people; talking your way out of conflicts with potentially hostile people. Of course, you might want to add a book on physical self-defense (I don't have that one, so pls make a suggestion.)
I also recommend Creating a Life Together, by Diana Leafe Christian. It's how-to form an intentional community. A lot of emphasis on legal considerations, which may become less relevant in the Descent; but also a lot of very practical information and examples relevant to making group cooperation effective. No one can survive alone.
My third suggestion is about survival -- a guide to wild edibles and medicinals. What you choose will depend on where you are. My basic book is the Peterson Field Guide, Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America, by Lee Allen Peterson. A more general guide (for North America) is Katie Letcher Lyle's Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook them. (Be careful with those mushrooms!)

I'll put in a strong second on:
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure Joseph Jenkins

It's very important to do this and it's very, very important to do it right.

I bet theres a crapload of info in that book...;-)

I didn't know you were a father, Nate. That's very much a Dad Joke.

Adding to the Bill Mollison shelf: The Permaculture Book of Ferment & Human Nutrition

A comprehensive book on preserving foods by various methods, including fermentation. Plus information on methods to enhance nutritional quality, such as parboiling and then drying whole grain rice before milling to preserve more of the thiamin, preventing the nutritional disease beri-beri.

Amazon shows only one used copy available for $120 US. It is worth it.

Any books on water treatment/storage that people like?

Earthship Volume 2 by Mike Reynolds is a pretty good place to start on all aspects of water capture, storage, and filtration. It also covers other "systems" like solar, wind etc.

There is also "Water from the Sky" from the same source, which I haven't seen but appears to be a more focused tome.

Unfortunately for this list, but fortunately for me, I learned about this stuff hands-on from a culture (in the Algarve) that has relied on cisternas for hundreds of years, and on building biological purification systems in the UK's National Parks, so have little to add on the book front.

A guest Campfire post summarizing your knowledge would be great...

I will try to make time for that, though I am very busy at the moment.

Some highlights...

The big issues are (obviously) making sure you don't have materials that leech toxins in the water capture and storage areas (no lead flashing on the roof, for example). It is most efficient to treat the water directly before use rather than on capture - in fact in the Algarve they often keep trout (or similar) in the cisternas to provide protein (these are BIG cisternas, often over 500 cubic feet).

The "quickest" and "most complete" treatment to deal with biological pathogens is UV sterilization, but this is not a good way to go if you have issues with supply chains of complex items, or lack the power to run the system. I favor the "Berkey" gravity-fed filters, the big stainless ones. Last for ages and unbelievably good performance. You only need to filter water used for consumption (though it might also be worth filtering water used for cleaning cooking and eating materials if you keep fish in your cisterna...)

In more sunny climes, passive solar pasteurization is very effective and easy to set up.

Biological filters are theoretically great, but the compact ones are mechanical (with associated maintenance issues) and the natural "marsh" style ones require careful monitoring for several years as they establish. Both need output monitoring by a lab (preferably once or twice a year) to ensure safety of the outflow, obviously problematic if things get dicey.

Using composting toilets reduces needed water DRAMATICALLY. They also deal very effectively with pathogens if done correctly (unlike most municipal operations). This is NOT difficult, but many have some weird inability to deal with their own shit, never mind that of others. I would advise people to make the effort to get over this ASAP.

In a hot climate, if you design the site from scratch, you can create passive air-conditioning by drawing the air from the top of the cisterna into the living area.

The lead contamination obtained from roof flashing would be far less than from having water standing in lead pipes. It could well not be enough to cause harm, especially if a linear no-threshold model is invalid like with radiation.

True, it might not be an issue - but nobody uses lead pipes in water systems any more, whereas lead flashing is still generally used. Also heavy metals are known to bio-accumulate.

I tend to go with the precautionary principle if at all possible.

I totally agree that we need a household/farm scale water capture and storage how-to post on TOD. This is one MAJOR area where we really need to gather information and skills.

There is "On the Mode of Communication of Cholera" by John Snow but it was published in 1855.

I have read that during the 19th Century it was a common practice to drop a silver dollar in the water container before leaving on the long trip west.

The best I have seen is Water Storage by Art Ludwig. Still available for purchase.

Covers all the various methods from ponds to tanks to cisterns. Compares and contrasts them all. Lots of focus on how to buy, make, plumb and maintain tanks. Very hands on.

Even has info on how to make your own ferrocement tank, and how to cover a standard plastic tank with masonary to give it a super long life. (UV is the enemy...)

He also has a good book on How to build a Greywater system

ahhh, yes, I have seen Ludwig's "Water Storage" - good book. Despite my general dislike of cement, ferrocement is really the way to go to build cisterns cheaply and quickly.

Root Cellaring - Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables

Besides food storage, a cool place to take a nap if its sweltering hot and there is a power outage.

"When Technology Fails" by Mat Stein is a mini-encyclopedia of what and how to do.

There are also the books by John Seymour on more hands-on skills and self-sufficiency. I like:

"The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It"

Healing with Whole Foods by P Pitchford +1

Cache Lake Country is one of my favorite books.
Similar in spirit to Walden it details a year in the life of a Northern Ontario woodsman.
It recalls the dreams of childhood for me and rejoices in the splendor of a simple life.
After reading it, the fear of losing much of modern day life vanishes.
Read an excerpt here.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, it is simply the best I've read on the subject:

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series) (Paperback)
by Steve Solomon (Author)


The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A gardener's supply book) by Eliot Coleman

The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers (Hardcover)
by John Seymour (Author)

I REALLY want to give a second "Gardening When it Counts".

Being innately economic beings, it seems we need to focus some attention towards monetary issues. Any book reccomendations there? I think that might be what I like most about TOD...the focus on economics. I think the economic changes we're going to experience in the next 20 years will be both the first and biggest things to alter our lives.

Gardening varies so much by in the south should feel lucky. For AK I like the Alaska Gardening Guide ( not just for the cover photo.

Oh yeah, I forgot, everyone with some medical training should have the Tarascon Adult Emergency Pocketbook, $14 and fits in a shirt pocket. Of course, I splurged for a 10lb, $100 emergency med text...but the Tarascom is VERY comrehensive and well worth it. I bought 10 and gave them to all my friends.

Regards Solomon's Gardening When it Counts.

I had high hopes for this book. Some of my hopes were dashed. Yet I did apply 'some' of his concepts and overall some of his views are worthy. How to decide which? Experience.

Yet he depicts 'methods' that I find do not fit well for my soil,my climate and my part of the country. AND I refuse to do the onerous task of 'double digging' and working my ass off on it.

He downgrades the use of mulch. He advises that if everything is planted with enough space you will not need to water, and so on with the same that MIGHT work for where he lives,once in Cascadia and now on an island somewhere,...yes works for HIM but will not work for me and I believe others depending on factors that are not available to him and his style.

So I tried his COF this spring. I have seen little advantage so far but I haven't given it radishes rotted in some cases, the lettuce didn't come up right, some of the potatoes didn't sprout, and the corn was spotty.

Overall my garden is about the same as always so COF was not given a big score. I will continue to use it but with reservations and continue to experiment as always.

Here is the truth IMO. You will on your own, given time and effort , discover exactly what works and does not work , on your own soil, and in your own climate. Therefore a book written for what works in Upstate New York is bullshit for Kentucky or the upper Mississippi valley. It can even vary within a state as central Ky varies immensely due to soil types from the western area. A huge amount.

So its something you find by experience. Following a book can get you a wasted planting season but it will give you some more experience, its just not biblical or right or correct. Its one's mans experience.

Also listening to Ag Profs can be very wasteful. I listen but reserve judgement.

You learn by doing. Thus is how it has always been. Even the oldtimers, like me, can lead you astray. Best to go find someone whose garden shows you they have discovered what you need to know and pick their brains and watch them. And remember that what looks good on the vine may taste lousy on the plate.

One last point. I have always thrown up hills. Not for his reasons but simply to keep the copious spring rains from drowning my garden and washing out my rows. Around here most lost all their gardens due to this wet spring. Not a one of mine washed out and never do because I have ,like I said, always 'thrown up a hill'. I also use a lot of mulch to keep down weeds and grass while Steve wants you to get out the hoe. To hell with hoeing. You will find out if you go there. And if you persist you will certainly find what works best for you and your area, one size again, does not fit all. Thats just the way it is.

Airdale-good luck,,and sorry to bust ballons but....and who the hell can get KELP in the middle of the USA? This sort of stuff is NON-SUSTAINABLE,,you must , must use what you can obtain easily where you live and grow your food, not at some feed store...PLEASE do not go down that road----I use vetch,buckwheat,covercrops,haymulch,clover,woodsoil,chipped up branches,cowpies,horse manure,etc.....Screw a bunch of kelp or dolomite lime

All good points, airdale. Another basic issue is whether or not you are in full-time self-sufficiency/subsistence mode or if, like me, you are still in the employment economy and are just trying to raise some food on the side for the time being. The way I garden right now, being in the 2nd category, is not the way I would garden if I were in the first category. I simply don't have all that much time to dedicate to food production, so I concentrate on producing as much as I can with as little investment of time as possible. That is why I am not a big fan of Jeavons. Yes, his methods hold out the promise of incredible yields. However, once you read the fine print and start trying to implement it, you come to understand that one must lavish enormous amounts of time and effort on crops in order to get the yields he claims. I doubt that most employed people have that sort of time; I know I don't. Similarly with your mulch-vs.-hoe issue; Mulch saves me time (both with weed control and watering), so mulching is what I do.

As long as one is not yet in that full-time self-sufficiency/subsistence mode, the best one can do is to go ahead and make some investments and preps for the future. Go ahead and be planting those fruit trees NOW, go ahead and be digging beds and improving the soil NOW. It takes years before fruit trees start to bear, and until the soil is improved to the point where it can be loosened with a broadfork or turned easily with a spading fork, and thus hold lots of moisture and fertility and symbiotic microfauna. For those of us who are still employed, the present time is a gift, a precious window of opportunity when we can get ready for a time when we can get ready to ramp up our domestic food production, without being under the gun to do it RIGHT NOW.

That is the basic problem I have with so many books in the "Gardening When It Counts" genre: they assume that people are going to go from zero food production to total self-sufficiency instantly. That is a lot like hitting the gas and going from zero to 100 mph in 0.1 sec. The reality is that it isn't going to happen that way, period.

Not a book recommendation but two one-liner pieces of advice recommendation about growing things.
1. Don't just learn from "experience", instead try things out in systematic experiments comparing abcd with abcf, etc.
2. Keep careful records of what you do and what results you get. For example, one day this year I put in a few ft of pea-seeds. Then next day some more, at greater depth I think and or more water (and/or did I add some of the xx compost?). I now note that the first lot sprang up nicely but the second lot have simply failed utterly. Important lesson if only I had recalled what I did (though I guess some postmortem biopsies might clarify in due course).


You guys most definitely have got it together.Keep posting,I feel sorta lonely here sometimes when I try to get the folks who have not yet earned thier calluses to see how things actually work in the real world of gardening/farming versus how they THINK IT WORKS as a result of reading the wrong writers/web sites.

If tshtf,the new gardeners/farmers who take our posts seriously just might pull thru.

We mulch with fallen leaves-free at the curb as many as you want already bagged in town when we are going anyway,horse bedding-costs about 20 dollars a ton this year locally delivered by the dumo truck load,any nearby free wet hay,and anything else that comes along.Sometimes we can get rotten sawdust for the hauling.What are you using mostly?


Well son me and WNC,Todd and some others have been yakking about gardening for a loooong time on TOD.

However I would add this. TOD is not a good archival system. Its not set up to be so you can type your heart out and it will soon go below the radar screen and be lost pretty much forever.

Its only as current as long as its visible , which is about the half-life of a peanut butter sandwich forgotten on the countertop.

So yes its ok I guess to talk about the real components and methodolgy of gardening or farming but your audience is rather limited. Those in the past who have got the message are no longer here or have gone silent and are busy with their plans.Or so it seems to me after almost three years of this. The rest are already tuned in or really don't care or haven't the time.

And really I have begun to think its more of a 'pointer' as to the directions than a cookbook of howtos. Neither the time nor the space for real in depth expositions.

Others may disagree. I see it as a kettle of thoughts on various and interesting topics that I then go and read up and study on my own.

A dream-catcher sorta thing.

Big on oil but not so much anymore. Turning more now into the direction of Watchmen of the World and its future. Giving us the news daily and allowing everyone to discuss it. Giving clues about what could happen. Serving a noble purpose in that regard and one that needs doing.

I don't cruise it as frequently as I used to. One can get burned out with daily doses. You might put up what you think is a killer post and see zero responses. No telling what that means.

So knock yourself out. I will be busy fighting the cabbage and tomato worms. Just picked up some powdered BT which I have never used before. I can hand pick tomato worms and using row covers on my cabbage and broccoli and that works very good but when they do get in then you need a solution right off.

Airdale-however I do enjoy your comments and they are very very similiar to my thoughts and it is very nice to have another real farmer(retired or otherwise) on board.

PS. Corn is not looking good. Wheat is going to take a big hit from all the moisture. Its looking bad around here so far. I speak of Big Ag here.

The how to books in my collection would mostly not be of much interest to others here,they are too specialized and deal with things that are not likely to need doing any way if tshtf.

The best how to instruction manuals I have seen(available second hand both in paper and on discs)are the ones put out by the Americam military.There are evidently hundreds of them and they cover everything from how to clean a chicken to emergency first aid to the proper techniques of maintaining trucks and firearms.One I found to be very useful indeed is the introductory diesel engine technicians training manual.

These manuals are well illustrated and very clearly written.You can get them cheap used on the net.

Another gold mine of free or dirt cheap info is the extension servive operated by your land grant university.They have tens of thousands of pubs that explain every thing from sexing baby chickens to grading eggs to raising worms to..well you name it, they got it ...somewhere.Downloads arefree and paper is cheap or free but not always available.

I agree with Kiashu's comment in #1 of 3

I don't agree with the split between theory and practice. It's a failure to connect our abstract knowledge with our practical day-to-day lives that's got us into this mess.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig, 1974
In general:
1) Some useful tips on motorcycle maintenance
2) Applying 'Quality' in everything we do, however mundane
3) Feeling the essence of the moment
What I took from it:
4) Life is a journey with no destination that we travel completely alone
5) It helps a lot if you are either barking mad or don’t give a monkey’s

If you like gardening,bookmark this link and print your own book from the tons of information you will find there.

A general comment:

Most of the posters here seem to focus on gardening rather than farming. Basically: growing fruit and vegetables as opposed to growing cereals.

I don't think that survival strategy can be scaled up. F&V are supplementary while cereals are essential –man can survive on bread alone, but not on tomatoes and apples. The human stomach wasn't primarily designed to digest several thousand calories of F&V a day. Besides, you can generate more calories per unit of land by growing cereals than by growing F&V, with the exception of potatoes I suppose. Indeed, in an energy-poor world, consuming F&V may eventually become a luxury, like eating caviar today.

So where's the book on how to grow your own wheat or rice?

Potatoes, Corn, Beans n Greens are a great start to all round nutrition.

They all grow exceptionally well in my climate (hot temperate)

Carolus et al, the main course will be juicy joints from people with latinny names.

Grains give high yields, but are also fairly high maintenance (ploughing, seeding, fertilizing). The problem is that nearly all grains are annual, forcing the land to stay at an early stage of succession.

There are *loads* of perennial tubers / roots / shoots / greens, leading to what is known as perennial polyculture farming, as opposed to annual monoculture (standard farming). The perennials will have lower yields, but require far less work. The "Edible Forest Gardens", by Jacke/Toensmeier, mentioned earlier, does a good job of this topic. For anyone who can acquire more land than the bare minimum, I see this as the way to go.

In terms of skills and self-sufficiency, I like a lot of the Foxfire series from Anchor books (social / historical wisdom), the Lindsay publications (practical / metal / machining skills), books from Algrove Publishing (lots on farming, plus pretty much anything technical from 100 years ago), and any of John Seymour's books (modern self-sufficiency).


So where's the book on how to grow your own wheat or rice?

The book you want is called Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon

Carolus also wrote:

The human stomach wasn't primarily designed to digest several thousand calories of F&V a day. Besides, you can generate more calories per unit of land by growing cereals than by growing F&V, with the exception of potatoes I suppose.

The book that does the math on the balance between calories and nutrients and sheer food bulk - and how to therefore grow a complete eatable and digestable diet on a small plot of land is:
One Circle - How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less Than 1000 Square Feet

It's a great book, especially if you enjoy logic and math puzzles :-)

Mr Obscurus,

Your comment that we just aren't really capable of living on fruits and vegetables is not only correct but critically important, if one expects to survive by growing his own food.

I have repeatedly remarked here that you need to get your info from real local farmers/gardeners and real ag professionals-the kind employed by state ag/ home ec extension services,rather than from web sites run by folks with only theoritical knowledge-and usually not much of that,I might add.

No hard up Appalachian hillbilly growing his own food to eke out his cash in here the southern mountians is without his extensive potato patch-lots of calories there.He will also probably have quite a few beans which when dry are rich in both calories and protein,and very easy to store.A couple of generations back,he grew his own corn,and had it ground at a local mill,but corn meal and flour have been so cheap for the last sixty years or more that field corn for meal is a rarity nowadays.My grand parents raised some wheat for home use,but wheat in small quantities is more trouble than it's worth-if you have some extra corn or beans or apples to trade for flour.

Plenty of corn is grown for livestock feed of course,and you would be suprised just how many hogs are still raised one or two at a time,fed to a large extent with table scraps and crop wastes.
There will be chickens,you can bet your rent money on that,and they are very good foragers once you let evolution do it's thing for a few generations and they regain thier normal behaviors and metabolisms.We have some that won't come to scattered feed until you have been gone for awhile.They can fly very well for more than fifty yards and have no trouble getting into a magnolia tree where they are safe from owls.Finding thier eggs can be a chore,but when we want free range grilled chicken the cash cost is about two cents for a twenty two cartridge.It's tougher than the kind you get at a supermarket,but it tastes so much better that you won't mind at all.

Hunting is THE primary outdoor recreation,followed by fishing,if near a river.A deer or two supplemented with a few rabbits and squirrels,plus maybe the occasional wild turkey puts some meat on lots of local tables,but hunting will not be worth the time if tshtf,the game will be gone in just a little while.

Any body who would cut a walnut or pecan tree(scarce in my nieghborhood,we are at the northern edge of thier range)would be looked upon as lower than a snake.Apple trees will produce copious quantities of edible put perhaps wormy and rough looking fruit with very little care if you get the right kind.Don't ask the name,because either it has been forgotten ,or it never had a name known outside the nieghborhood.You get one by grafting your own.

I am reasonably sure that chesnuts will grace these old hills again before I am gone,but I won't live to see them bear many nuts.The research into a blight resistant strain is just about THERE.

Some people think I am overly conservative when I suggest that a survival plan for this general area should include at least two acres per person of GOOD land.You can take it to the bank,if you ever need to survive on it,you will wish you had more.You can survive with only a little firewood in this area,but a couple MORE acres for firewood is almost a necessity and I should have included this originally,but I overlooked it,being focused on the immediate topic of growing enough food.
You should have no trouble getting firewood from a nieghbor around here as the countyside is heavily wooded and there will be little or no sale for it.

A couple more acres in grass will support a dairy cow or a couple of dairy goats.

The main thing to remember when planning is that rusts,rots,blights,grasshoppers,rats,mice,groundhogs,bears,violent thunderstorms,late frosts,droughts,hail ,bugs, slugs,beetles ,fire,hurricanes and other assorted disasters are in the cards.We lost all our peaches and 80 percent of our apples to a late frost, and our cherries are finished as a result of excessive rain over the last week. We won't get enough to make a pie.

On the other hand,I won't need feed the hounds today because they caught a big groundhog.If times wre really hard,they would get only the the head,feet, hide and entrails.

Gardening - I refer to these more than anything else:
Seymour, The Self-Sufficient Gardener
Coleman, Four Season Harvest
Hunt & Bortz, High Yield Gardening (OOP, unfortunately)

Nabhan, Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
Root, The ABC and XYZ of Beekeeping

Food Preservation
Ball Blue Book
Centre Terre Vivante, Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning
Greene, Hertzberg & Vaughn, Putting Food By
Bubel, Root Cellaring

Food Preparation
Joy of Cooking
Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Campbell's Great American Cookbook (OOP, unfortunately)

Nature Field Guides
Any of the Peterson series. Especially important and recommended:
Peterson & Peterson, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: (E/C or W US)
Duke, Foster, Peterson, A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: (E/C or W US)
Peterson, A Field Guide to (Eastern/Western) Trees

Maintenance & DIY
Time-Life Fix It Yourself, complete 23 vol. series (OOP, but I have found this to be the most comprehensive and helpful resource for around-the-house maintenance and repair tasks)

On Obamas night stand;

Just a little off topic but as this forum is about resources it is an important book for understanding;

"Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent"

Oh, no Galeano!: the posh Uruguayan tupamaro terrorist communist millionaire feted by the yankis. Small wonder that Colonel Chávez gave it to Obama, when they met.
OK, don't take my word for it: as a counterpoint to Galeano's pamphlet read a book from three other Latinoamericans
The Latin American Idiot has a good bibliography on European (and American) historical misunderstandings of Latin America, perhaps the best study of them is Carlos Rangel's
I tried to find a version in English but I didn't succeed. The title means "From the Good Savage to the Good Revolutionary".

I appreciated everyone's picks but especially want to bolster support for "The Good Life", "Humanure Handbook" and all accounts of Shackleton's Endurance expedition.

To thrive and survive in a rapidly disintegrating world, we need to increase our capacity to improvise, adapt and overcome obstacles. Unfortunately, most of that capacity to improvise, adapt and overcome without the crutch of power tools and materials derived from cheap oil is dying away quickly in the generation born between 1910 and 1945. My suggestion is to find opportunities to talk and work with some of the people of this generation. Without that opportunity, I suggest that you read the old manuals and texts of that era then put some sweat equity into building those skills. Go to where you will find a multitude of reprints of these ancient texts and some new ones in the same DIY subject area. Any and all of Dave Gingery's books are highly recommended.

Before cheap oil, cheap carbohydrates and a medical care system largely supported by both, people stayed healthy and fit for survival by eating the right foods. Like peak oil, our government is telling the wrong story about food safety or what constitutes a healthy diet. I suggest that you go to and read that information along with a plethora of supporting books and media. Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" is highly recommended as both a cookbook and a reference.

I appreciate everyone's gardening suggestions but I havent seen much emphasis on raising animals for meat. Both, gardening AND animal husbandry will be required as TSHTF. The majority of people can not tolerate a strictly vegetable diet. (I dont care what the vegans say!) Most soil conditions and climate can not support the magnitude of vegetable production required. We need to revive husbandry skills and understanding the symbiotic relationship between animal and vegetable raising. I recommend any and all books by Joel Salatin

Thank you, Nate and everyone who contributed to this thread!

For gardening I can suggest:
I have used it in the past and had very good results. Today I raise meat and buy what few vegetables I need. Vegetables from the supermarket (organic) or the farmers market are cheap and meat is all expensive. I save more by raising my own meat.

For basic supplies and information I can recommend Lehman's Hardware. Not the cheapest, but mostly high quality stuff. They have been going a bit towards the Yuppie stuff the last few years, but they do still mainly serve the Amish needs.

I can second the recommendation of all the books from Lindsay Publications listed above in the thread. I have most of them in my library.

For those in the USA who are inclined towards being self defense prepared, I would recommend a membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA) to help protect your Second Amendment Rights.

For alternative fuels for your own use:
From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank is a good basic book on making biodiesel fuel from either used cooking oil or new vegetable oil.

There are many good books on building a still for the production of Ethyl Alcohol for engine fuel and also some on converting auto engines to run on alcohol.

Both the Government Ag Department and many Universities have many plans for buildings and equipment that your can build for use in raising different types of livestock. (FREE)

Use the WEB to find as much info as you can and print out the important info. The WEB might not always be up and running when you need the info. Digital storage isn't a really good option for vital information either, in my opinion.

If foreign trade slows way down real fast, clothes (mostly imported in the USA these days) may be hard to get and become very expensive. Get some good basic books on sewing and mending clothes, canvas, etc....
Also books on darning, quilt making, knitting, spinning, weaving, upholstery (I don't like sitting on hard wood surfaces for long and I doubt that you do either?)and other crafts to turn raw organic material (cotton, wool, mohair, etc..) into wearing apparel and materials for use around the home/homestead.

A good book on sharpening would be very helpful. Knives, axes, hatchets, chain saw chains, chisels, wood working tools, etc...

I could go on for a while, but think I have taken up my allotment of band width.

Square Food gardening is OK, but it has its pros and cons. I have found that his method works very well for things that are planted at the rate of four per square foot or less, provides that you plant them in relatively solid blocks. Trying to plant carrots at the rate of 16 per square foot simply does not work, it will drive you batty trying to do it. The idea of interplanting sounds like a great idea for getting maximum yield out of every square inch of garden space, and perhaps it is. It also makes life hugely complicated, and multiplies the amount of time and effort required enormously; and Bartholomew is a considerable simplification of what Jeavons advocated.

I actually use square foot gardening techniques for some crops, where it makes sense. There are other crops, though, where I don't use it, because it just doesn't work for me.

To get carrots planted in such a densely spaced pattern, I take newspaper or brown bags, fold into 2-3 inch wide accordions, then cut little triangles out of each edge every 2-3 inches, staggering cuts on opposite sides. Kinda like making gingerbread men in elementary art class. Open it up, and voila, you have an appropriate planting template. Sure, it's impossible to place just one seed in each hole once placed on the soil, but averaging 2-3 is not so bad, then just thin to one per hole. The paper stays in place as a weed barrier, and decomposes into the soil, esp. if kept damp, which also helps keep it in place (along with some soil or other weight on corners/edges) until carrots are past seedling stage.

The Joy of Cooking. Be careful what edition you get though. Some recent editions edited out the useful canning and preserving sections. The comments at Amazon are helpful in discerning which editions are better.

Carla Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. This book covers how to grow, preserve and recipes for every kind of fruit and vegetable. She has chapters on different kinds of domestic animals and how to care for them as well as some information on soap, fiber, etc. During canning season I use her book, the Joy, and the French preserving without canning or freezing book mentioned above to answer any question I have.


John Seymour: The Self-Sufficient Gardener & Joseph Jenkins Humanure Handbook are both mentioned above and well worth reading.

However, I heard yesterday a call for more legislation to prevent people 'poisoning themselves with greywater' so I am not so hopeful that people can manage their own by-products responsibly but without paranoia.

Cairncross & Feachem: Environmental Health Engineering in the tropics. Info on various sanitary diseases & how to avoid them.

Doris Longacre: More with Less Cookbook. This was written by Mennonites and has lots on preserving and cooking from scratch.

Haynes: The Bike Book-Complete Bicycle Maintenance

Longacre also wrote "Living More With Less". Not a lot of practical how-to detail about living simply, frugally, sustainably, put perhaps some good inspiration.

How about Free to choose?

I've been a peak oiler for years now, but I feel this book would even help pre-peak. How about that!

Another thought:

Most of what we have been mentioning here are very practical "how to do it" books, which are indeed important. I suspect that this is the emphasis because most of us are already college educated, and we already have studied math, the sciences, and maybe engineering or some other discipline. As has been frequently remarked upon here, college education is going to likely become increasingly unaffordable for all but a shrinking minority of people. Of course, there is also the education of those of high school age, which is going to increasingly have to be with something other than the public schools if it is to really amount to anything at all. Thus, another category of books we could consider are those that would be useful for those who must self-educate themselves. Even those of us with college educations might have missed a subject or two that we now wish we knew more about, or maybe we've gotten rusty and need a refresher.

I am therefore going to highly recommend the Schaum's Outline Series. Most of us are probably familiar with these. Schaum's outlines got me through college, and I'm sure the same could be said for many, many others.

My personal feeling is that most Schaum's outlines are far more valuable and useful as a learning tool than are most textbooks. IMHO, textbooks are a teriffic racket.

First of all, they are revised every few years, just to flush the old used editions out of the system and force the poor students to buy new ones. (Why in the HELL does an algebra textbook have to be revised every few years!?!?!?! It isn't like there have been a lot of new, paradigm-shifting discoveries in algebra. It is done purely for the money.) For most of the basic and introductory level courses that high school and undergraduate students will be taking, even a ten or twenty year old Schaum's outline will cover the material just fine.

Second, I have found most textbooks to be highly verbose. Because textbook authors know that there are some professors out there with pet theories and obscure research interests, and that those professors will be offended and maybe not select their textbook if their pet little side-show isn't covered, textbooks tend to be too non-selective in the material they include. There might be something to be said for being comprehensive, but until a student gets to graduate school what they really need is to master the really important core knowledge. There is also something to be said for lavish illustrations, interesting side bars, etc., etc. However, all of this adds bulk, and of course that drives up the price, which is really what this is all about. In contrast, I have found most Schaum's outlines to be very concise and focused on helping the student to identify and learn the most important points. That is one reason why the typical Schaum's outline is much thinner, and much less expensive, than the typical textbook.

Third, too many textbooks might have exercises after each chapter, but not the answers (except in the instructor's edition). You are supposed to wade through the verbal jungle, give it your best shot, and then find out in class - or maybe a class or two later, after you've already moved on to another chapter or more - whether you really got it right or not. That is a pretty crummy feedback system, and it is not conducive to good learning. In contrast, any Schaum's outline is going to have plenty of really good exercies, AND all of the answers. You can check your comprehension right then and there, and if you got it wrong, you can go back and review and try to figure out where you went wrong. Immediate feedback - perfect!

My recommendation to anyone going through school:

1) Buy the Schaum's outline for every course where they have one. If you can't afford a new copy, search ebay for a clean used copy - older editions are still perfectly good for most subjects.

2) Study the Schaum's outline FIRST, and then do enough exercises to satisfy yourself that you have the material in that chapter down.

3) Then, and only then, skim your textbook. You are mainly going to be looking to see if there is any material that wasn't covered in Schaum's. There isn't likely to be very much. (Bonus: Since you will be relying mainly on Schaum's, you shouldn't need to mark up your textbook, which will increase the resale value.)

4) Then do whatever exercises in the textbook that are assigned. With any luck, there will be similar ones in Schaum's, and that will help you to complete them and be assured that you've gotten them right.

I can just about guarantee that any student that hasn't gotten themselves in totally over their head should be able to earn at least a solid B+ at most schools using this approach. It should even be good for an A for many students.

As for those of us who are past school age, it might still be worthwhile accumulating a library of Schaum's outlines, both for continued learning, for a refresher, and for future generations.

I already know how to make my own that will get you drunk,but I am willing to bet that the average Drummer will need a little help if he/she wants to brew some drinkable beer or make a barrel of decent wine.Some of you folks into this subject far enough to own books please get some titles up before comments are closed.

As far as I know it is legal to talk as much as you like about distilling,but don't post anything that gives you away,I have friends who have done time for depriving the revenoors of thier revenue.

This simple book tells the story of a "modern day" mountain man. As close to totally self sufficient as possible.

It always strikes me that most of the debate about post peak oil preparedness centers around individual skills and hard survival scenarios.
My suggestion is to emphasize community building. This is important in places where communities exist and thrive , sometimes for centuries (I live in Florence, Italy, which has existed as a city for more than 1000 years and gave its best to humanity centuries before societies started to burn fossil fuels.) All the more important in individualistic societies such as the US: start digging the well before you get thirsty, as a Chinese saying goes.

In this perspective, a book which I found comprehensive and inspiring was
Richard Douthwaite, Short Circuit, 1996 - available here.

As the main agencies focusing on disputes and conflicts will become less efficient (State, formal laws, Police etc.) Conflict Resolution will certainly become important. This has become a huge field, with dozens of books. A first overview can be gained with:
The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, Berghof Center for Constructive Conflict Management, Berlin

Nonviolence in general and the work and exeperience of Mohandas K. Gandhi are also a subject worth reading.

Thinking about this thread last night and three other resources came to mind:

First, the entire Foxfire series. Great knowledge about primitive life and self-sufficiency.

Second, a compilation of several interviews with Alex Stewart, an Appalachian pioneer with knowledge spanning generations as far back as the Revolutionary war by the founder of the Museum of Appalachia. Sidenote: Last week I visited this living museum in Norris, TN (twice), took 223 pictures of various tools (amongst a collection of 40,000 items) and buildings and met Irwin. Highly recommended if you have the opportunity.

Third, both Mother Earth News and Homepower magazine have searchable DVD sets of past issues with an enormous wealth of information on alternative energy and self-sufficiency.

I have been reading the Foxfire series and, now, the Alex Stewart book to my 10 year old. Although I wouldn't wish those conditions on any generation, my hope is that it will prepare her on some levels for things to come.

This may be beyond the means of some TODers, but I strongly recommend obtaining a Frenchman. Better still, a couple - that is, one of each gender. Preferably quite old but still active. The best can be found out in a small village. I've got two, and they've become irreplaceable companions.
While not strictly adhering to the criteria of being in print, they are nevertheless walking compendiums of useful knowledge - be it where to find the best mushrooms, or how best to incorporate them in a homemade 'terrine'. They are repositories of all things gastronomical, agricultural, horticultural and cultural.
I've just spent a few days working in their vineyard ( ) and I've learnt a packet.

Failing that, I second Nate's recommendation of John Seymour's classic : but would insist it be the original, in all it's 70's glory.

The drawings are accurate and earthy, in this edition. There's no prettying-up. Ideals and perfection are one thing - bodgeing it is what we may have to put up with in the meantime.

I'm with OldFarmerMac, and Biologist, and SMN when he says 'a good book is only a start'. There's nothing like doing it - and doing it with others who know.

I will add something similar to the start of this topic; from Asimov's hat:
That, IMHO describes the best where we are going and what to do about it.