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Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life [Paperback]

Jenna Woginrich
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

7 May 2010
Starting off as a young, single woman with a desk job and a city apartment, Jenna Woginrich set out to build a more self-sufficient lifestyle by learning homesteading skills. She didn't own land or have much practical experience beyond a few forays into knitting and soap making, but she did have a strong desire to opt out of what she saw as a consumer-driven culture. After moving across the country to a rented farmhouse in northern Idaho, she learned to raise chickens, keep bees, and grow her own food.From the satisfying work of starting a new garden and installing honeybees, to the bliss of gathering fresh eggs to be baked into a quiche served with warm-from-the-oven bread and hand-churned butter, "Made from Scratch" shares the deep satisfaction that comes with providing for oneself.In an encouraging and entertaining voice, Woginrich weaves into her narrative easy-to-follow instructions for making your own clothes, teaching yourself to play a musical instrument, and much more. In any setting - urban, suburban, or rural - with any level of experience, it's possible to take small steps toward self-reliance. Window box vegetable gardens, a batch of homemade strawberry jam, a hand knit sweater, or a small flock of backyard chickens all satisfy the craving to homestead. It's not about having a rustic cabin on five acres, complete with a pickup truck and a barn full of livestock. For Woginrich, it's about being more receptive to learning the simple skills most of us have forgotten, and finding joy in the process.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Storey Publishing (7 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603425322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603425322
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 15.6 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,111,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Made from scratch: written from scratch. 14 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Poor book. So much more is possible when writing about living from scractch. Beehives are nice but not very practical for 99,999 % of the population.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  73 reviews
182 of 186 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sign me up 28 Dec 2008
By Auntie Claus - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mere nostalgia for a so-called "simpler time" is not enough reason for me to do anything; I have to know there is some modern benefit, something to justify its practice in the here and now. The author of Made From Scratch does an excellent job not only convincing me of this, but stoking my excitement for it.

Of 11 chapters, I loved 6:

Chickens. Eggs aren't that expensive -they might be some of the cheapest sources of protein available- so why raise your own chickens? First, by doing so you'll know exactly how they've been treated instead of wondering by what loophole "free range" came to be stamped on the egg cartons at the grocery store. Second, fresh eggs really do taste better; they are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol than factory eggs. They even look better, with perky, deep orange yolks. Third, getting eggs out of your own backyard is a nice way to bypass the whole "eat organic vs. eat local" debate. Fourth, chickens will eat the slugs and other pests harassing your vegetable and herb garden. Fifth, when you change their bedding, the old bedding does wonders for your compost. The one glitch seems to be getting your hands on chickens humanely. She gets chickens through the mail, first two-day-old chicks who arrive in a box "parched and starved" and later pullets (chickens just a few weeks away from laying their first eggs) who arrive with clipped beaks.

Grow Your Own Meal. The food at the grocery store is a mystery. You don't know how it was grown, how far it was trucked, how long ago it was picked, who picked it, or what they were paid. It's coated in wax and dyes. It's oversized, dry, and flavorless. It's grown for shelf life rather than taste. And it's getting more expensive all the time. Not only does growing your own food cut all that out of the equation, it gives your kitchen scraps new purpose as compost.

Beekeeping. Honey! Wax! Support for the garden's ecosystem! Too bad I'm probably actually too afraid to try this one.

Old Stuff. "There are a lot of really good reasons I run to the past when I need something as utilitarian as a cheese grater: things were made better, looked prettier, and lasted longer before plastic took over. Buying from a neighborhood secondhand shop helps support the local economy and is a kind of recycling." -p. 78

DIY Wardrobe. There are two things that excite me about this chapter. First is simply the fact that I hate shopping for clothes; 10 minutes in a dressing room and I seriously ponder following the example of the woman who made a single brown dress and wore it for a year. My body type (like anyone else's) only seems to be "in style" once a decade, if that. Things don't look on me the way they look on the hanger/mannequin. I know I'm not the only one to have a great skirt hanging in the back of the closet for lack of the right shirt to go with it. I can't count on living to see the type of clothes I like (1930's, 1940's) being manufactured ever. Second is just enthusiasm for the idea that it is possible to REALLY make stuff with my own hands. "Most of us never even consider that something like a pair of jeans could actually be made without an assembly line behind it." -p. 90 It seems widely regarded that any homemade item is sure to be inferior, unsafe, or even flat out impossible. I think this is reinforced by "craft" stores like Michael's where to make paper, soap, candles, or chocolate you must first buy ... paper, soap, wax, and chocolate, merely shredding or melting it down and bringing it back together in a new shape. Even as a kid I thought that was pretty lame -and quite the letdown for someone high on reading Anne of Green Gables and the Laura Ingers Wilder books.

Research, Son. Seventeen pages of memoirs, how-to books, and websites that pertain to the topics discussed in the book.

The other five chapters are: The Country Kitchen, Working House Dogs, Angora Rabbits: Portable Livestock, Homemade Mountain Music, Outside The Farm, and Want More? The Country Kitchen is pretty thin, but is nonetheless why I now have (as of Sept 2011) a little handcrank radio playing away in the kitchen (She's right; it adds coziness to the room in a way a TV never could) and as many hand-powered kitchen tools as are practical (including a manual coffee grinder). When the power went out in California/Arizona/New Mexico/Mexico recently, I have to say it was extremely reassuring to have these things and the chickens and a way of composting food scraps should the trash collection get derailed. The black-out just came and went with no hiccup for us (also courtesy of the book Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens. And we'll soon likely have rabbits, I'm coming around to the practicality of having working dogs, and the chapter on Homemade Mountain Music got me started on listening to it which turns out to just be a gateway drug to needing to own a fiddle. So even the chapters that didn't initially fire me up seem to have been gestating in my mind this whole time.

I would give the book five stars but for layout. Because it is a memoir and not a how-to book, disrupting the chronology to arrange the story by project does not make the most sense.

Whether your interest in the DIY scene began with knitting a scarf and now you're looking for more, you crave the comfort of control that only self-sufficiency can provide in turbulent times, or you feel like there is nothing to do with your free time anymore but shop, this book is worth a look.

One more note: When I read this book in December 2008, though I enjoyed it, I was mildly disappointed that it was not (I thought) as useful to my situation as the preface had led me to believe. But six months later, as I've returned to this topic and started reading more about gardening, beekeeping, and chicken raising, I am amazed at how much I recognize, how much I already know that I didn't even realize I knew -about raised beds, queen bees, pullets- all from reading her stories. And I think a lot of that comes because she chose to share her difficulties and failures (by far the best parts of the book). As Michael Pollan says in Second Nature "...his failures have more to say to him -about his soil, the weather, the predilections of local pests, the character of his land. The gardener learns nothing when his carrots thrive, unless that success is won against a background of prior disappointment. Outright success is dumb, disaster frequently eloquent." (p. 121)

Two more things she said that have come back again and again:

1. Homesteading is about small steps. Be happy with what you can do today. This helps me not spoil my own excitement over everything I'm growing on my balcony with wishing I could fit a clothesline, rain barrel, composter, solar panel, mini-windmill, three chickens, and a pygmy goat, too.

2. Have a mentor. Reading is useful of course and a reference library will earn its shelf space, but also having someone from whom to learn is invaluable; they can show you with their hands when the book's diagrams aren't yielding their secrets and answer questions omitted by the index. I should've figured this out from giving up on both sewing and knitting after trying to learn solely from books, but it took her saying as much to get me moving on at least finding sewing and gardening classes.

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, The Not So Simple LIfe 3 Jan 2009
By Nancy - Published on
I picked up this book for a quick little chapter read to see if I would be interested and didn't put it down until I had read the whole book. Very much in the same vein as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but without all the preachiness.

Woganrich takes you through her experiences in homesteading and living a simpler life. Each chapter begins with her discussing her adventures, successes, and failures then ends up with mentoring tips. All the stuff you are looking for without all the hours of research.

The chapters can be taken or dismissed depending on your wish to undertake this particular part of your own adventure into homesteading, but I did have to laugh when I came to the one on Dogs as Work Animals. I own Pugs and there is not a single working gene amongst them so that part just won't work for me.

The other chapters on Bees and Chickens are quite interesting and it's quite refreshing to read an author in this field that will actually discuss their failures and mentor you to your own successes

Great book and going to her website you can see what she has been up to in the year since.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for city folks who dream of country living... 24 Mar 2009
By Heather Lea - Published on
This book came into my life at the perfect time. I am a midwestern transplant living in NYC and was starting to feel depressed and disconected by city life. I picked this book up one day and read it while commuting to work. My usual boring hour ride on the subway flew by as I read about Jenna's garden, chickens, and bees. I finished the whole thing that night and then went online to read her blog, and it sparked something inside of me,and I realized that even if my dreams of country living are probably not going to happen for a few years there are plenty of things i can be doing now. As of this moment I have some rapidly growing vegetable plants in the window, a pair of socks on the kntting needles, a quilt in progress, and can play about ten songs on the fiddle. So if you are just looking for a great read, or some inspiration for your country dreams pick up this book, you will be glad you did.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a masterpiece! 17 Nov 2009
By Lois Lain - Published on
I have mixed feelings about this book. I adore the premise (the exchange of the consumable society with a lifestyle that is more authentic), and the author is a great writer. There are moments of pure brilliance, like the introduction. But there were some things that bothered me.

The structure felt wrong to me. The book was set up as a series of stand-alone chapters on different topics (bee-keeping, working dogs, cooking, etc.), but this was very disjointed because Jenna Woginrich's story seems more of a cohesive journey than a set of chapters. It was disconcerting to have her living in Tennessee in one chapter, and then find her in Idaho in another chapter, with no clear explanation of how she got from one place to the other.

I also had some problems with her almost flippant approach to her animals' deaths, whether it was her chickens, her rabbits, or her bees. I know that these events couldn't have been easy for her, but she comes across (and even says in one place) that she was more surprised than anything. What about horror? Shame? Fear? It just seemed cold-hearted, and I don't think she intended to come across that way.

The chapters that shone for me were the ones rife with personal experience -- the dog-sledding chapter, for instance, or the one on music. It's interesting because I was not clear why the dog-sledding info was included in a book on "Made from Scratch." But the luminosity of her writing made up for any questions about why it was included. In contrast, though, other chapters (most notably, the one on sewing and knitting) seemed almost to be written from afar, with no real personal detail or anecdote.

I would love to read another book by Woginrich that was more a storybook, with lots more information about her personal journey, and a little less of a resource book.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Made from Scratch review 7 Aug 2009
By Vashon Mama - Published on
Ordered Made From Scratch after seeing an article about the book in Mother Earth magazine, which typically makes great recommendations about books that help people to reconnect to the earth and get back to the basics. So... I was very excited for an inspiring summer read. Unfortunately, after about a chapter into the book I realized that the book was very "beginner", while I was looking for a book written from the perspective of somewhat who has experienced a great deal of life and spent several years transforming back to a more simplistic and sole-searching way of doing things - not a bad book, just a bad pick on my part.

This would be a good book for people just starting to think about reducing their carbon footprint (perhaps just thinking about starting a small garden or getting a couple chickens...) The author was able to give some great perspective and fun ideas on buying second hand household items, making homemade pasta, and the first joys of starting a garden and collecting your first fresh eggs. Again, great book for the 20-something crowed making the transition from college to having to make lifestyle choices for the first time on their own.
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