by Leon Pantenburg
The Alaska Homesteader's Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier by Tricia Brown and Nancy Gates
My typical reaction to getting a new book in the mail is to leaf through the pages, and decide when (and if) I want to read it completely and do a review.
But The Alaska Homesteader's Handbook grabbed me from page one and held on for about 40 stories and a couple hours. My first impression, re-enforced through the writing, was that this book is a well-written, informative collection of useful knowledge. In addition, most of information would be valuable to homesteaders anywhere or to anyone interested in emergency preparedness.
The writing is superb, and the authors show the communications experience gained in years of newsroom publications.
Tricia Brown is a former writer and editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Magazine. She spent nearly 30 years traveling the state of Alaska writing about the state and the people.
Nancy Gates is an Alaska resident since the 1970s, and has written for various magazines such as We Alaskans, Alaska Magazine and the Cup of Comfort anthologies.
Together, the writers interviewed more than 40 pioneer types ranging in age from mid-90s to mid-20s, and compiled a series of how-to articles that covers everything from building an outhouse, to skinning a moose to baking sourdough bread.
The publication is lavishly illustrated with drawing and photographs that enhance the information.
Some of the people interviewed were actual homesteaders. Others were bush-dwellers and/or city dwellers. The common attraction was the adventure of living in Alaska.
Homesteaders anywhere can appreciate the challenges of off grid living and self sufficiency. But in Alaska, you also have to factor in extreme isolation, arctic weather, incredible storms, and predators that can kill you.
Obviously, Alaska is not for everybody, but most of the homestead lessons could be applied anywhere. In the book, you can learn:
- How to put in a running winter water hole that will work at -50 degrees
- Spinning dog fur: What breeds produce the best hair, and techniques for processing it
- How to keep moose out of the garden
- Tips for getting started in trapping
- Smoking salmon
- How to start a chainsaw
- Getting started in off-grid living
- Set up a backcountry first aid kit
For people not yet interested in preparedness, this publication could provide that final nudge. Chances are experienced outdoorspeople will learn a lot too.
The Alaska Homesteader's Handbook is going in my preparedness library, and I'd recommend you get a copy too.