Homesteading in the 21st Century: How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life

Homesteading in the 21st Century: How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life

by George Nash, Jane Waterman

Not since Thoreau made his home in the woods at Walden Pond has the notion of self-sufficiency held more universal appeal. There's no question we're going through some tough economic times, but this book offers an alternative. It's a guide for anyone who imagines a better life—from struggling families tired of energy dependency to dreamers who always wished


Not since Thoreau made his home in the woods at Walden Pond has the notion of self-sufficiency held more universal appeal. There's no question we're going through some tough economic times, but this book offers an alternative. It's a guide for anyone who imagines a better life—from struggling families tired of energy dependency to dreamers who always wished they could live off the land someday. This ultimate DIY guide holds to the premise that anyone can homestead, and raise at least a portion of their food themselves—even if they live in the city. This book is absolutely brimming with ideas on how to take control of your life by degrees—whether that means keeping chickens, growing a garden, or brewing your own beer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Husband and wife team George Nash (Renovating Old Houses) and Jane Waterman have supported themselves through a self-sufficient lifestyle for decades, passing their days renovating old farmhouses and chicken coops, raising animals and attaining a type of self-sufficiency rarely seen these days. Here, they share their years of wisdom, both the victories and the failures, in detail. Lest readers get too enamored by the romance of starting a day with coffee laced with cream from a dairy cow tethered just yards as the sun slowly rises and a rooster crows, Nash and Waterman quickly put things in perspective, addressing homesteading from literally the ground up. Readers will learn the importance of choosing their site wisely before breaking ground, not to mention thinking through less-glamorous topics such as income, wells and sewage and even making sure your partner is on board before embarking on what could be a very costly mistake in a number of ways if begun on a whim. Nash and Waterman's advice will likely be a godsend, as they offer tips on everything from log-loading logistics, the pros and cons of various water heaters, and attaining the optimal soil. While the couple offer condensed recommendations for urban homesteading this is not a book for novices. Still, those interested in living off the grid would do well to read this in-depth and informative guide. (May)
From the Publisher

This thorough and readable volume will prepare you for living with fowl, working soil the old fashioned way, and successfully growing berry and orchard crops. Unlike some of the competing homesteading books, this is not a political screed or a master's thesis. George and Jane tell you how to grow it, prepare it and perserve it. They are back-to-the-landers so expect to learn lots of low-tech tips for getting good results in the garden without investing in a lot of newfangled gadgets and such. "—The Vancouver Sun

"Homesteading in the 21st Century "tells the story of a couple who cut their teeth of self-sufficiency in the 1970s on the "Whole Earth Catalog." After growing Christmas trees (George) and becoming a doctor (Jane), moving to sunbelt states and then back East, the couple now live on a Vermont homestead and raise vegetables, berries, eggs, meat and fuel...Whether planting an organic garden, designing a workable kitchen and mudroom or caring for chickens, the couple keep a sense of humor and perspective that serves the reader well in grasping the time, skill, labor and resolve it takes to live life off the grid. "—The Seattle Times"

Homesteading is hot stuff these days, but it's frustrating. Many how-to manuals seem to be written by relative newbies who are glamorously photographed tending chickens and harvesting vegetables on their spotless new farms. It's refreshing, then, to read "Homesteading in the 21st Century "(Taunton Press, $24.95), cowritten by George Nash and Jane Waterman, whose photos reveal them to be unadorned, middle-aged folks doing real work...If you're serious about self-sufficiency, to any degree, this book is a valuable resource. "-The Philadelphia Inquirer"

Written with humour and experience, the husband and wife team penned a primer on country living that communicates their love for homesteading without whitewashing the hard times. That the two persevered speaks volumes about their tenacity. The self-proclaimed hippies ind

Product Details

Taunton Press, Incorporated
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6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

A lot of folks are thinking about ways to do a little more for themselves, entertaining notions of growing some portion of their food, both for security and pleasure, maybe brewing a backyard batch of biodiesel or installing solar panels on the rooftop or a woodstove in the living room. Some folks might be motivated to do a little more to fight global climate change than recycling their bottles and newspapers. And some folks are just looking for a rewarding hobby. In times of increasing uncertainly, it’s understandable that many of us would want to feel a little more secure, a little more in control of our lives and livelihoods, a little less at the mercy of distant corporations or the tectonic upheavals of the economy. Keeping a few chickens or raising some herbs and tomatoes may be all it takes.

 No matter how far out back of beyond you might go, no matter how far off the grid you wander, in today’s world, you can’t ever really get away from it all or entirely escape the money economy. All you can do is choose which level of the game to play at. You still have to somehow earn enough actual money to pay property taxes and whatever mortgage, fire or health insurance, or other costs of property ownership and personal predilections. The goal is to live a more satisfying life, insofar as that can be defined by freeing yourself from the burden of useless possessions and obsessions and to forge strong family ties, raising kids that grow up curious and not jaded, and adults who can enjoy gathering together around the dinner table to celebrate good food and good living. Cultivating not only a garden, but the ability to enjoy the small stuff and take pleasure in honest work – manual labor as a life sport.   Ultimately, our intent is to show you how to appreciate and celebrate the enduring realities of life—food, shelter, livelihood, family, and community—how to develop the hands-on skills that you’ll need to reclaim and reconnect with the natural world and to live a life more in harmony with the great cycle of the seasons. Such would be a life sufficient unto itself, sustainable and satisfying, successful, indeed. A useful life and a dignified death – what more does anyone really need?     


There is a cornucopia of books in and out of print on the subject of self-sufficient or sustainable living, rural cottage industry and small-scale agriculture under the rubric of “homesteading.” Almost all of them are useful; some more, some less. Unlike virtually every other book on the subject, we don’t make the claim that ours is “complete.” There is no such thing as a complete guide to homesteading. There’s always more to learn and do than can fit between the covers of any one or any dozen books. The possibilities and challenges of a hand-made life are inexhaustible. The skills and knowledge which were just once normal life have to be relearned from scratch and sometimes, even rediscovered. While we touch on as many subjects as we can within our allocated pages, our intent is not an exhaustive treatment of any of them, but rather to present enough information to help you get started, pique your interest, answer the FAQ’s and give you a roadmap for your particular path. We’ve also read (or at least skimmed) a lot of books on the subject and have included them in an annotated “For Further Reading” addendum at the end of the book. A necessarily incomplete directory of online resources is also appended. Fortunately, you really don’t need to know everything you’ll eventually need to know upfront. You can learn as you go and grow as you grow. As your skills sharpen and your knowledge increases you can take on more projects and do them better. So indeed, read, read, read, everything you can. Build a library, visit your local library, track down helpful websites, subscribe to magazines (There are specialized journals that cover every conceivable aspect of gardening and small stock raising.) Find a mentor, a neighbor, or friend of a friend who can show you how to whatever —the guy who comes to your farm to kill the pig, the old woman who shows you which mushrooms are safe to eat and where to gather the best fiddleheads, the neighbor who captures a swarm of bees and relocates it to your hive. Eventually you’ll become that guy who knows how to do it. Whatever it takes to find reassurance and inspiration, find it.

Meet the Author

George Nash has been living a self-reliant life for almost 40 years. Author of the perennial favorite "Renovating Old Houses" (and "Wooden Fences"), seller of Christmas trees in Manhattan for the last 35 years, former builder and renovator, and homesteader at "Gopher Broke Farm," George is truly a jack-of-all trades. Jane Waterman was raised on a New Hampshire dairy farm and learned gardening and animal husbandry from an early age. After many years as a midwife and later a doctor, Jane now lives full-time on the homestead with husband George and their oldest daughter, son-in-law, and two of their nine grandchildren raising their own vegetables, berries, eggs, meat, and fuel. Together, George and Jane are actively restoring the overgrown and neglected pastures, cleaning up the woodlot, rehabilitating apple trees, and producing pastured poultry and pork for local markets. Jane also teaches anatomy and physiology and nutrition courses to nursing students at the local community college.

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