A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Book Review: Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to know to Live Off the Land

Building on Our Pastoral Eternity

One of our quieter publishing successes in the region has been Storey Publishing of the Berkshires’ North Adams, Massachusetts, whose Country Wisdom bulletins, Country Wisdom Almanac, and the most recent Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land, have all been not only bestsellers but zeitgeist changers.

All further, take what Stewart Brand initiated in his Whole Earth Catalog in the 1960s, that which the 14-book Foxfire series perfected in their compendiums of natural remedies, home crafts, and other country folkways furthered from 1972 on, and the more recent morphing of Transition Movement meetings into fixer workshops of various sorts into new arenas of useful revolution.

What better way to escape the collapse of our corporate world than through self-sufficiency? And what better means of becoming self-sufficient than with self-help books utilizing the wisdom of all those who’ve blazed the trails we want to take out of today’s chaos long before us?

The Country Wisdom & Know-How works collect information on nearly 200 individual topics of country and self-sustained living, pulled from the bulletins that John and Martha Storey have been putting out since the early 1980s. Over the years, their works have become a trusted authority on gardening, home reference, crafts, cooking, beer and wine making, nature, animals, horses, building, farming, homesteading, and mind/body/spirit, all in illustrated chapters full of photos and drawings.

Yes, it’s a modern version of an old idiom that stretches back to the early days of can-do American publishing, when Ben Franklin’s almanacs gave way to the still-existent Old Farmer’s Almanac, of Dublin, NH and published since 1792, as well as the Farmers Almanac published since 1818 out of Lewiston, ME. Not including the weather forecasts, which have tended to be right about half the time, but definitely including the farm-related tips (on a national basis) as well as loads of folksy, usable information (and a bit of humor).

It’s also similar to another trend that’s aimed at city-dwellers dreaming of a more pastoral life. The great originator of this was the classic Rural New Yorker, which ran from 1850 into the mid-1960s and found a number of prominent Manhattanites their spreads upstate. A more recent version was the Hudson-based Modern Farmer, which started off as an ultra-slick magazine with a design-heavy staff before more recently shifting into a website not necessarily located in the Hudson Valley anymore.

Suffice it to say that the Storey’s Country Wisdom tradition, which is currently owned as an imprint of Workman Publishing (and from whose wealth of impartable knowledge this publication got much of its original inspiration), has always remained the real thing, as they say. It’s gritty, no-nonsense, and despite being edited out of offices in Mass MOCA’s ultra-sleek rehabbed factory site, now galleries for contemporary art, stays embedded in the seasons-oriented life of a rural America not aimed at malls, or angry about anything.

It’s a perfect book for any true Hudson Valley home aimed at a new aesthetic and sensibility based on what’s always made this region work. As integral as repair work, sharing info with one’s neighbors, and keeping an eye to the sky to see what’s coming next, both good and bad.