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The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook, Beeswax Alchemy and other book reviews

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Have you been looking for books to inspire you to a more simple, creative life? The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook, Beeswax Alchemy, Weeds of North America and Vintage Remedies for Tweens should be on the reading list.Have I ever mentioned that I just love our library? I do. I’ve always loved going to the library and getting books to read. But I really didn’t start appreciating it until four years ago. As some of you know, we have friends who moved here four ago from Kenya. She’s the one who taught me how to make samosas. But they have impacted our lives so much more than teaching me how to cook.

Soon after I met them, I took them to the library. As we walked through and I showed them where things were and how to get library card, the husband asked, “And what is the fee?” Ummm, nothing. Then we looked at the books and again he asked, “And what is the fee?”  Nothing. Then we talked about the children’s programs and he asked, “And what is the fee?”  Finally, I said, “Our tax dollars pay for almost everything in the library. As a resident you can check out books, audio book, dvds and cds, use the computers and participate in any of the programs and not pay a thing from your pocket. If you are on the computer and want to print something up, you have to pay for that. That’s it.” Boy, that sounds like a really good deal! In their county, libraries are attached to schools and you have to be a student in that school to use the library, there are no public libraries. 

So, now I don’t just love going to the library, I appreciate the fact that I have a public library to go to. Our library is great and will gladly inter-library loan books that they don’t have and I want to read. They are also great at taking suggestions from us on books to get.

All of that to say, please use your library, after all  your tax dollars are paying for it. When I find myself checking out a book over and over or I realize a book is going to be a good reference book, that is when I actually buy a book. Otherwise I can just check it out from the library.

On to the reviews…

Beeswax Alchemy by Petra Ahnert is a super fun and informative book. One thing I really appreciate about the author is that she is an actual beekeeper. Not just someone who has made a lot of cool things with beeswax. She has hands on experience harvesting and processing the honey and wax. The book starts off with talking about beeswax, how it’s made and some history of it. Then she shares the projects. There are directions for making common things like candles, balms and salves, lotions and creams and soaps. But then there are the uncommon things, home products such as luminaries and even how to make Batik. Oh, I love batik fabric. Then there was something I have never heard of before, “encaustic” which is painting with hot beeswax with or without color added to it. The last chapter is an ingredients guide which is very helpful. The book is relatively short and the directions are to the point but complete. I love that this book has a variety of projects without being overwhelming. I was very inspired by this book and we have a few ideas for some handmade Christmas gifts for this year.

The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook by Steven Lamb is a book I received through Blogging for Books for free to review. Smoking and curing meat is something we want to do in the future but we’re just not there yet and honestly, probably won’t be for a few more years. However, I’ve heard good things about this book and didn’t want to miss the chance to review it even if I know we won’t actually practice it for a while. First of all, this book is small, not short but small like a paperback but it’s a hardback. I don’t know why that intrigued me but it did. Secondly, the photography is fabulous. I wasn’t expecting raw meat to photograph quite so nicely. But the print is small and my over 40 eyes had a hard time reading it at times. Not a huge deal but something you might want to be aware of. I was very impressed with the thoroughness of the content. This book is so much more than a recipe book, it is really a how-to book with step by step instructions and graphics. The first half of the book goes over the tradition and science of smoking and curing, the equipment, ingredients and methods. One thing that the author is very upfront about is that smoking and curing is a science but also an art. No two meats are the same and no two conditions are exactly the same. There are variables beyond our control and that the is art part of curing and smoking. He then shares forty recipes for pork, beef, lamb, chicken, fish, duck, turkey, cheese and even smoked new potato salad. I think this is a must read for anyone who wants to begin curing and smoking food.

Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer is a book I bought on the recommendation of my friend Chris from Joybilee Farm. I was lamenting the fact that I really don’t know what weeds are growing in my yard and I bet I’m missing some really great foraging. She suggested this book and I’m so glad she did. At almost 800 pages, it was way bigger than I was expecting. But it’s divided into families and then species so it’s not overwhelming. Each weed has it’s common and scientific name listed, plus where it’s likely found, it’s life cycle, origin and the descriptions of it’s seeds, leaves, seedlings, flower, fruit and the plant as a whole. There are also several up close photographs for each weed. I’ve been keeping this book in my kitchen for easy access as we try to learn more about the weeds in our area. At first I tried to just read it like a book but it really is a reference book…and a good one at that! 

Vintage Remedies for Tweens by Jessie Hawkins is a book I bought for our homeschool. I’ve been taking the Family Herbalist course through Vintage Remedies and when I saw this I knew I wanted to incorporate it into our school. There are eighteen chapters and each chapter has projects and a quiz. The first section includes chapters on real food, cooking, healthy drinks, snacks, desserts, local foods and growing your own food. The second section includes chapters on hygiene (a separate chapter for boys and girls), immunity and prevention, coughs and colds, summertime fun, backyard medicine and aromatic oils. The third section has chapters on hospitality (separate chapters for boys and girls), cleaner living, green gifting, reducing and resusing and a natural home. At the end of each chapter is a parent/leader guide and a supply list (which I love!). This could also be done in a group setting and there are suggestions for making that work. One thing I greatly appreciate about this book and Vintage Remedies in general is that all of their books and courses are taught from Christian worldview. Now, that doesn’t mean that God is overtly mentioned in every book or course but it does mean that there is not any mystical stuff being taught or imparted in the books and courses which is in many herbal or alternative type books and courses. The other thing that I really like is that while, the author does point out how herbs and foods have been used traditionally she also pulls in scientific studies when they are available to support those claims. 

Have you been looking for books to inspire you to a more simple, creative life? The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook, Beeswax Alchemy, Weeds of North America and Vintage Remedies for Tweens should be on the reading list.

Now it’s your turn. What books have you been reading? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

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