The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (10th edition)
This book was a generous gift from dear friends when we moved out to the country many months ago. We've been flipping through it and reading various entries ever since. (I'm pretty sure Kansas Dad has read the whole book by now.) It's nearly one thousand pages long and overflowing with information, everything from giving birth by yourself at home to skinning a bear.
Chapters on grains, vegetables, trees, berries, poultry, bees, cows and more contain definitions, descriptions, instructions on how to grow and care for the plants (or animals) and recipes for enjoying the fruits of your labor. The recipes include food to eat, herbs and oils to treat and products to use (like soap).
Through it all, Ms. Emery shared her experiences, her joys and triumphs and even her sorrows with her readers. It is as if she is a neighbor, stopping by with a bit of wisdom and some freshly-gathered eggs. As the book was written and revised over the course of many decades, the personal reflections are disjointed, but sincere.
We have a variety of homesteading and self-sustaining farming books, all of which are excellent resources (a great advantage of previewing books from the library before purchasing), but I think this one is my favorite by far.
Kansas Dad and I used to joke about how we'd survive if the end of civilization as we knew it meant we couldn't get toothpaste and penicillin at the store any time we needed it (jokes begun with my brief obsession with the show Jericho and continued in the midst of the present economic conditions). We don't really anticipate the end of readily-available toothpaste (and I've got about a year's supply of that thanks to MoneySavingMom anyway), but I do find a certain satisfaction in stocking our home library with books that would give us the information we need to muddle through in such dire circumstances. Given a few healthy animals and this book, I think we'd be just fine.