I recently received a copy of Caleb Warnock’s new book, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers and of course was quite interested in finding out what I could learn. Forgotten self sufficiency skills? Right up my alley.
I live in Utah and I’m a Mormon. With my own Pioneer ancestry, I have often wondered how the Mormon Pioneers kept alive through the winter in the 1800′s without the modern conveniences of stores and freezers and canning jars to keep food fresh to eat. We have a pretty short growing season here. Long enough to get a standard garden in, but we’re not getting two gardening seasons like the folks down south do. The produce is generally ripe around here July through September which wouldn’t keep you alive in the old days unless you were able to preserve a lot of what you grew. So what did the pioneers do to eat the other nine months of the year? Well, this book has some ideas.
Drawing from pioneer records as well as his own family history and experience, Mr. Warnock suggests some ways in which to extend the growing season which range from setting up cold frames to planting specific cold hardy vegetable varieties. He covers the basics of seed saving, seed exchanges, growing perennial vegetables, fruit trees/vines/bushes, and varieties of plants that ripen early or store well. He also discusses methods of transplanting and propagating new plants from the ones you already have (or that you could get from a neighbor or friend) greatly reducing your upfront cost for your gardening. I’m seriously using the information on getting a new grape vine from one that is already growing. I need more grape vines.
Another topic he covers is pioneer yeast (like sourdough starter, only not necessarily sour) with instructions on making it as well as recipes for using it.
He then covers a variety of topics for keeping chickens from coops to breeds to how to feed your chickens for cheap (and all you with chickens know that by the time you pay for the feed, those eggs are not free!).
This book definitely has an “out west” slant, being written by a Utah resident and pulling from experience of the Mormon Pioneers who settled in Utah, but you don’t have to be a Mormon to glean some good information from it. At 133 pages with lots of beautiful color photos, it is easy to get through but packs quite a lot of information along with anecdotes and records from the author’s ancestors to support the pioneer methods he discusses.
Overall, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers is an informative and interesting read, well designed with full color pages and lots of photos, and information that will help anyone (especially those of us out west) improve their gardening skills and harvest. We’ll be trying out a number of the suggestions in the book from the gardening to the chickens and we’ll see if we can’t at least get a longer season from our garden next year.