The Grateful Homesteader


There are so many green books coming out right now, it’s kind of gross. In fact, I’m partly to blame for this (sorry). But amongst all the useless tomes about how to be eco-chic and the innumerable how-to guides are a select few books truly worth reading. What makes a green book good? Well, in my humble opinion, it has to be honest and unpretentious, funny in some ways and serious in others, and above all, it has to offer something enlightening while still being accessible.

Recently, I came across a book that captured all of this. It’s called Sleeping Naked is Green. Ha! Kidding. OK, seriously, it’s called Made From Scratch, by Jenna Woginrich (she explains it in this YouTube vid — warning: extremely cute close-ups of bunnies with twitching noses).

At first, my lingering insecurities led to envy at this author being able to accomplish such immense ecological and writerly feats at the tender age of 26, but after the first few sentences of her book, I just wanted to move into her cozy sustaina-shack and spend the rest of my days knitting sweaters from whichever sheep was closest, prancing around the organic garden with a rickety fiddle, checking in on the bee hive every now and then to see how the working girls are doing.

Jenna, who keeps a blog over at Cold Antler Farm, also appealed to me because she comes from a cosmopolitan, design-savvy background, and is more than familiar with all the pleasures modern conveniences can bring. Seeking a lifestyle that was more fulfilling, however, she leapt into this whole homesteading movement head-first, renting a cabin in northern Idaho. With visions of softly clucking chickens laying fresh eggs every morning for breakfast, Jenna promptly went out and bought some newborn chicks; long story short, they were even more promptly devoured by her two huskies. Lesson 1: Keep chickens away from dogs.

This is what’s great about Made From Scratch — Jenna screws up and she’s not afraid to talk about it. She simply picks herself up, does a bit more research, has a few more rounds of trial and error, and finally figures things out. The chapters are short and concise, and there are plenty of resources and tips for anyone hoping to follow a similar path.

My only complaint: I wanted more backstory, more romance, and more… well, just more, in general. The move from the east coast to Idaho isn’t really discussed, nor is her apparently single status and whether she ever gets lonely out there in the country (there’s just an occasional glimpse into how her social life has changed), and the narrative is a titch fragmented, broken into topics such as chickens, music, beekeeping, sewing, etc., rather than following a linear trajectory.

That said, Jenna is a fabulous writer with a natural gift for anecdotal storytelling, so hopefully she’ll continue to publish more stuff. My favourite line in Made From Scratch, though, has to be the one at the end of the introduction. I don’t have my copy of the book here with me, but I’m pretty sure she says something like this: “Find your own happiness and dance with it.” Indeed, my friend. Indeed.

Wait, is it possible to dance with a lemon tree?

7 Responses to The Grateful Homesteader

  1. Lisa says:

    First off I really want the book. Second I really want a farm lol.

  2. yarrow says:

    thank you for the referral! she’s a fantastic writer, and i’ve added her blog to my feed. 🙂

  3. jenna says:

    Right on. Thanks for this, and feel free to send an email anyime. I’ll fill you in on all the details. Like with the move, it happened so fast mid-publish. Had to change jobs and landed in vermont. And yup, still single, but looking. Hard to find guys who watch arrested developement and six feet under on DVD and aren’t scared of livestock…

  4. Okay, I think I know what book to suggest for my next book club, before we do yours in the spring!

  5. Hellcat13 says:

    Thanks for the referral! I look forward to picking it up…I have a Chapters gift card burning a hole in my pocket. Keep on posting referrals, too…I’m always happy to discover a new author.

  6. Emma says:

    Can I dance with my blanky? HELLLLLSSS YES!!!! Blanky-1, Lemon Tree-0…hahah just kidding. Besides, blanky can only BE yellow, not CREATE yellow…

  7. Cin says:

    Wow, talk about synchronicity – I was looking at this book in my local book store not 10 minutes ago! Your comments about the book and blog have definitely intrigued me.

    I’ve sworn off buying new books this month, so I’ve placed a request at my local public library (which happens to have it on order and expects it any day now).

    And of course it’s possible to dance with a lemon tree 🙂

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