I was sent The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook – Independent Living on the Last Frontier, written by Tricia Brown and Nancy Yates by the book’s publisher. I was very excited to read this book as any time I can learn more about how to be prepared I jump at the opportunity.
This book is organized into over 40 chapters about different homesteaders, bush dwellers, country folk, and city folk and how they arrived in Alaska, a little bit about their life stories, and at the end of each short chapter there is a tip from the person whom the chapter is about on something they found helpful in their homesteading endeavors. With this type of organization it is an easy read. I found it very convenient to be able to read a chapter or two in between doing other chores around the house, or to read a couple chapters at night before bed.
I want to emphasize that this is not an in depth instructional guide. Most of the topics/tips that are given could have small books written about their topic individually so to fit them into a couple pages at the end of a brief chapter does not allow for extreme detail. That being said there are many tips that provide enough information for someone without previous knowledge of the subject to start and possibly finish the task at hand.
These topics include but are not limited to:
- building a dock
- crossing a river
- keeping a sour dough starter
- dealing with bears
- how to build a steam bath
- aging meat
- building an outhouse
- conserving water
- building a first aid kit for living in the bush
- building raised garden beds
As I said, there are topics that are less detailed, these would include:
- field dressing a moose – while I hope some day to need to use this skill, the detail needed to instruct someone, especially if they lack any previous experience with field dressing an animal, is necessarily lacking in this chapter. Without an extreme number of pictures, or a video, it is unreasonable to be able to give instructions on this topic in the allotted space. Basics are what are given.
- Building a freight sled – again, depending on your aptitude in construction projects there could be a whole book written on this topic. The chapter does go into some detail, but to think you could build a freight sled with only this book would be foolish.
- Reading a river (for riverboat captains) and recognizing avalanche signs – while good basics are given in these chapters people can spend a good part of their lives learning these skills. It is impossible to communicate the nuances of these in a few short pages.
There are other skills that I hope to never use, like landing a bush plane on a river bank, or building an airstrip (that might be fun, but I don’t think I could convince my wife that it would be necessary).
In general I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an entertaining and easy read, that offers some good instruction on basic skills. The intertwining of Alaskan history, interesting individuals, and bush skills make this a fast read. If you are looking for a comprehensive bushcraft book, this might not be for you. If you are looking for a well written book, that will not only teach but entertain you, I highly suggest this book.