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« Garden journal: what's thriving? | Main | Book tour: segment 6! »

Homemade Living Series giveaway

Do-it-yourself stuff is all the rage these days. We’re reclaiming our autonomy over marketing campaigns and industrial food, like our parents did in the 70’s, or, maybe your parents, because mine were working. My parents didn’t hop on the organic food movement when it started in Berkeley, nor did they have any idea how or why we’d ever want to raise chickens, keep bees, make our own jams or cheeses. They were busy building careers, trying to bring up their kids differently than they were raised. And I’m glad they did; I’ve had a lot of opportunities and life-phase-stuff that they never had, e.g. there was never any doubt that I’d go to college (neither of my parents were able to finish).

Here’s where the promise of a happy-holding-hands DIY future meets the demands of present day reality (we have jobs and bills and things to do outside of the home), right here, on your own terms. It doesn’t matter if you grew up doing this stuff because people like Ashley English are out there writing excellent, beginner-friendly guide books. No matter how you come to try these kinds of projects, via your own grandma, someone else’s grandma, or the internet, the outcome is the same. New skills, new experiences, possibly new relationships with your food and home.

Ashley and I became friends after I won one of her blog giveaways, her signature 5-spice kumquat marmalade, in fact. (The recipe is in her canning book!) Ashley’s Homemade Living books are an essential resource for any person, girl or guy, getting hip to the homefront and all the things you might do there. I adore her four books (that her publisher so graciously sent me): Canning and Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Keeping Bees, and Home Dairy.

Her style is warm and inviting. Her photos are top notch.

This is one of my fave features in her Canning book. When you’re a beginner, how are you supposed to know what recipe to use if you don’t know what the end result is supposed to look like, if you even like the kind of preserve you’re making!

She helps you ease into those projects you’ve been curious about for sometime. I can’t say bees are on my agenda anytime soon, but I really enjoy reading about what goes on in friends’ hives. Even if you don’t have plans to try these kinds of homemade life projects, it’s great to understand how things come to be that we often take for granted, as they appear magically on store shelves.

Here’s how to enter: Leave a comment on this post by midnight West coast time, Sunday June 19:

Tell us what you most appreciate about your upbringing. We’re in the cusp between Mothers’ and Fathers’ days here, so let us know how they influenced you the most. It doesn’t have to be home-related!

Restrictions: You will NOT win if you don’t include your email address in the little box on the comment form, no one but me will see this, I promise. Also, Ashley’s publisher has asked me to restrict the winner to US Residents only. I’m sorry my Canadian and UK (& elsewhere) pals. Presently, I can’t afford to ship the series myself. Thanks for understanding!

Reader Comments (213)

I grew up on 20 acres with all the modern amenities. When I was little, the well went dry and Dad had to haul water. I grew up with an appreciation for where water comes from and how essential it is. To this day, I am careful with my water consumption. Dad also taught his girls how to change their own tires, use power tools, and be strong women. (Mom helped too. :D )

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea the Yarngeek

Wow! these books look amazing! I grew up in a home where we sat down to homecooked family meals every evening. We had a modest garden. My mom was and still is a from-scratch kind of cook. She still cans. And my Nan still deep-fries the best doughnuts.

I love that they've passed their passion on to me!

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Hollis

What I appreciate most about my upbringing is that I had the balance between being fairly well-off yet still having the opportunity to work when I turned 14 (and haven't had a break since, almost 10 years later) so I learned a lot of life lessons without having to learn them the hard way. My parents are the best!

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

I was brought up by my grandparents and they taught me to respect everything about the earth and treat her well. This includes giving back to her, caring for her and enjoying her fruits without spoiling them. I love that you are teaching us who want to learn how

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

I appreciate that I grew up with a sense on what was We did not have much financially but I have two very creative parents who made wonderful things and my mother did not work so she was able to spend a lot of time with us. I am trying to share the same spirit of imagination and love with my daughter.

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy B

These books sound incredible. Love everyone's comments. My parents instilled in me the gift of knowing that if I was willing to work hard enough, I could be and do anything I set my mind to. Positive attitude is everything when it comes to reaching for the stars!!!

These books sound great! One of the things I most appreciate about my upbringing is my parents' example of integrity. They weren't perfect, but they tried to truly live what they believed.

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnth

My mom instilled in me a great love for live, a try anything and everything attitude as well as an appreciation for the little things. She made me an avid cook and part time adventurer and lover of travel and books all while she worked full time. I have come to understand how having a passion for the simple things is one of the greatest gifts. I love your giveaway, i am sure it will give me some more great ways to show my love to and with my family through cooking and homesteading life. Thanks so much!

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

I love that I learned to do things like can and sew and cook. My friends didn't learn how to do those things. While I was teenager I sometime resented helping my grandmother put up tomatoes on a Saturday instead of hanging out with my friends. Now I am so happy that I have those skills.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervicki

I'm amazed looking back that we ate dinner together every night. My mom cooked -- we rarely did take out -- and my dad cleaned up. They shared the work and we enjoyed time together as a family.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

I'd LOVE to win these books, they look and sound so amazing! I've been canning. but just started making my own yogurt and would love to get more into dairy project and even beekeeping!

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen H

My parents grew a garden and baked bread, then they had kids and other things to do. They never told me what I should do or be, but always supported me in my decisions. I really appreciate that.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Those books are about everything that I've been wanting to learn to do myself!

I love that I was brought up to be respectful of all different people, and to be welcoming to everyone. In what can sometimes be a judemental world, I'm glad that I can meet all kinds of people with an open heart and think back to the example my parents set for me. It's led me to have a great network of friends and support wherever I go and to take the time to learn about the lives of others.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

my grandmother was an urban homsteader before it was hip. they had a huge back yard in the old suburbs of sterling hts MI. her garden was massive and fed the entire extended family. she put up all her produce to make it thru the long winters and baked her own breads. there was a close line and my grandfather hunted and fished a large amount of what they ate. they raised a wonderful family of 5 on pennies and hard work. i hope to create such happiness on my own new (only 2 months in) farm. these books would be a great help.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterapron betty

I really appreciate all the walnuts that I was "forced" to pick up. We got paid pennies for each one, so it felt less like a chore.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I grew up in the suburbs of Florida, and my parents taught me everything about the natural world around me. I learned to name every shell on our local beaches, every tree in our parks, every plant in my yard, every brid in our waterways. We fished on piers, we camped in the Florida Keys, we worked in our yard. When indoors, my mother showed me how to cook from scratch; she passed down southern recipes from generations of women before me. She showed me how to keep a home, and modeled how to be a patient, loving mother.

My parents filled my days with nature, art, music and lots of books. When I grew older, they added in travel, including trips to France and England all over the US. I had a charmed childhood that inspired me to want nothing more than to be a mother, so I could pass on all my parents gave to me to a new generation.

I would love to win these beautiful Ashley English books! Thank you for the generous giveaway.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMamaBird

Looking back, the one thing I learned from both of my parents and that is now my primary passion (and has spurred my first vegetable garden and foray into preserving) is cooking. My parents couldn't be anymore different from each other, I lived with them in different households, in different states at different points in my life but an appreciation for good food and a solid family meal is the one thing that they both shared with no boundaries.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkienda phillips

I would so love to win these books! What I appreciate most about my upbringing is that my parents pushed me to go to college because they never did.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I am grateful for how hard our parents worked to provide us with the security that they certainly never had, as children of hardworking immigrants (and alcoholics). They did not spoil us, taught us the value of money, education, hard work, and compassion. And in particular from my mother, I learned the value of handmade. Every dress and headpiece/veil I had for every occasion from my christening and First Communion to proms and items for my wedding, was handmade. Our relationship was built on conversations next to her dressmaker's dummy, with advice given through pins held in her teeth. Her love of making and giving handmade spread to my sister (a quilter), my other sister (an artist and jewelry-maker), and me (a spinner/knitter). For all of those things, from each of my parents, I have oceans of gratitude.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

My mom taught me to read at a very young age (4 years) and both parents encouraged a love of books from the beginning. I think it's the most valuable gift they gave me, and I appreciate it every day.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah H

We would spend summers picking local fresh produce and turning it into things - jam, pickling, freezer stuff.... I ended up into my adult years and really started missing these projects, and not really knowing how to do them on my own. Maybe I need to go invest in a few freezers first.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

I would love these books. I love cheese, yogurt and anything made with milk! As a midwestern girl, I still find myself wanting to make things from scratch out here in California. Nothing tastes like scratch!!!! I love cooking and making new things! I look forward to reading them if I don't win them!

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoan

My family moved around a lot when I was young. While parts of that were hard, I enjoyed living in new places and feel that it made my family a stronger unit over all.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterk a t

I love that my parents actually taught us to make food from scratch, even though it was the processed food 1980's! We baked cookies with my mom, had homemade (not Eggo!) waffles on Sunday mornings courtesy of my dad. And learned that homemade cakes taste way better than store bought, even if they aren't as pretty.
My mom said recently to me (while she munched on some pizza with fresh herbs that I'd created for lunch), that she had taken a step away from the boxed foods her mother had fed her, and that I seemed to be running with that concept well beyond what she ever expected!

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Oooh, I've been dying to get my hands on these books ever since I first heard about them!

I really appreciate the fact that my parents raised me out in the woods and really encouraged my imagination. We didn't watch TV much when I was a kid, and I pretty much spent every minute I wasn't in school or sleeping outside playing in the woods. I had a lot of freedom to roam and play and use my imagination, and I hope that I'll someday be able to give my own kids the same kind of upbringing.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris C.

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