Sally Morgan, Vicky Chown

Mini Reviews – Lifestyle Books

I’m a bit of a hippy… There, I’ve said it. Judge me at your leisure… And I’ve decided recently that this is actually something I want to encourage more of in my lifestyle. Being a massive book fiend, I obviously turned first to some books to figure out how I might do that…

Living on One Acre or Less

Author: Sally Morgan | Publisher: Green Books

We all have goals, dreams about what our future will look like, right? Maybe you want to get married, have children, travel the world, be a hard-hitting investigative journalist… I don’t know. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted two things: to be a full-time writer, and to live on my own smallholding. I blame River Cottage and The Good Life – I do. But anyway, that’s my big dream…  And having entered my 30s (and not even taken the smallest of steps towards either of those goals), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably considered “an adult” now and can therefore actually just decide to do these things…

So, I’m giving this a go! I’m switching to a flexible working arrangement, so I can be home more and have more time. We have a conservatory and a garden, and for the time being I’m going to rely on those to create my own mini-smallholding. If that works out, I’ll look to move somewhere with more space!

But I figured, since I’m a complete newbie, I could really use some helpful advice from someone who’s done it before. To which end, I bought How To Live On One Acre Or Less.

How to Live on One Acre or Less is a fantastic guide to the basics of smallholding. It’s designed for the novice (like me), and covers everything from composting, preparing your beds, to keeping livestock. Its detailed, uses language that I can actually understand, and backs up the theory with stories of the author’s own smallholding experience. It feels like there’s a hell of a lot to learn, but the author has made a dense subject, and difficult undertaking, seem possible and (relatively) uncomplicated.

The photography is beautiful, as well. The images were useful as illustrations of techniques and ideas, but also served to make the whole subject more enticing and less overwhelming.

How To Live On..

I feel like I’ve learning a lot already by reading this book, and we will be trying some of the techniques to get our soil in good condition – ready for planting in the Spring!

Rating: 5/5

The Handmade Apothecary

Author: Vicky Chown & Kim Walker | Publisher: Kyle Cathie Ltd

I know there are a lot of different opinions about herbal remedies. I would never claim that they work for everything, or that they’re a substitute for a visit to your doctor. However, I came to the conclusion that there were some things which could probably quite safely be addressed with a natural alternative. I’m not a purist – far from it. When I get a cold, for example, I’m the first one in line at the chemist for some Lemsip. However, I also self-medicate with vitamin c tablets with zinc, and lots of hot lemon and ginger drinks and spicy food. And if I have dry skin, or some minor ailment, after some trial and error I have found a few things that work and spare me a trip to the shops or the making of an appointment.

But I’m far from an expert on the subject, and I decided I would like to know more about herbalism…

I started with Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine and found the whole thing completely incomprehensible. Not to mention, a little dry… The Handmade Apothecary is a lot more accessible, and pitched at those of us who only have a beginner’s understanding. It’s not an encyclopaedia, and I think if you’re interested in the subject there’s probably a lot more to learn. However, it’s a good starting point.

Yet again, the pictures are lovely. Very “Instagram-able”, and have that slightly unobtainable quality which adds to their appeal. A bit like recipe books, with their perfect pictures of cakes – mine never end up looking like that, but it’s fun to try.

The Handmade Apothecary

The recipes for various concoctions are very straightforward. It does seem like a lot of work to build up a store cupboard, and I can see that if you were going to rely on it you would need to take up gardening because I just can’t imagine where you would get a lot of these ingredients otherwise! That being said, if you could lay your hands on the ingredients, and you had the time to prepare the different recipes, it doesn’t seem too hard. The instructions are quite easy to follow.

I liked the matter of fact, common sense approach to the healing properties of various recipes. At no point are the authors claiming a “miracle cure”. What they do suggest is that the scientifically established properties of certain plants may be useful in particular ways. I can buy into that.

This is something I will definitely be including in my smallholding plans, and I’m definitely going to be trying some of the suggestions. If you’re interested in herbalism, but, like me, know very little about it, I think The Handmade Apothecary would be a good place to start.

Rating: 4/5

If you haven’t heard, I’m playing a version of December Book Bingo. You can find out more about it here.

And, if you want to join in, just drop a comment on one of the posts and tell me what you’ve been reading and what categories you’ve ticked off!

10 points for each category, and the person with the most points on January 2nd gets a £25 Amazon gift card!

December Bingo

I’m going to count How To Live On One Acre Or Less and The Handmade Apothecary as my “arts and crafts” books – but I only get 10 points, despite it being 2 books, because it’s only one category (booo). And The Handmade Apothecary as my “book you chose for the cover” – because, well, there’s lots of books about herbalism, but this is surely the prettiest… So, 20 points!

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