Walking along the book aisle in Costco the other day, I came to a rather sudden stop as a specific book caught my eye. With a name like The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, can you blame me? This was obviously a book stocked for a local audience, so I hope our non-Utah readers can find a copy. Author Caleb Warnock is a local (Alpine, Utah) writer, year-round gardener, and teacher of “Forgotten Skills” classes. It also helped when I noticed one of the people listed in the special thanks section is a friend of mine, and local sci-fi author (how’s that for a tight-knit Utah Valley). Also at only $11 or so, any tidbit that might help will likely pay dividends well over the purchase price of the book.
This book also stood out to me, because I often wonder *how* my family managed to get enough food to live. My mom’s side of the family was that oft-discussed “hearty pioneer stock”. However I have noticed that while many farmed to live, I have a long history of blacksmiths and military. There is no hiding that this must be because I inherited a really lousy black-thumb, they took up other trades because of this family curse. I’m one of those people who has to work really hard to make part of his garden succeed. I enjoy blaming my heritage on this, as it cannot be some failing of my own, right? So I felt driven to read this book, and find out how they managed to live, despite my inability to grow enough of the right foods in the wasteland of Utah.
Audience: Frustrated gardeners, those looking for more season to grow, people who feel they need to change their gardening to be more useful.
Target Location: The author speaks heavily about his experiences in the mountain west/high desert regions (specifically Utah valley). Skills discussed will make farming there much easier, and everywhere else is just easy :)
Mormons Only? No, not even close. This is mentioned specifically because of the historical hardships they encountered when arriving in Utah, and attempting to farm in what was considered a barren land. The author relies on some old family journals for historical information to help understand why certain farming techniques work, and why we shouldnt’ have forgotten them.
The Full Review:
Forgotten Skills is an encouraging read, introducing people of the mountain west to the fact that they can grow food year-round, even in our crazy climate. The author relies heavily on pioneer journals (mostly from his family) in order to reference specific practices for growing and preserving food that are completely foreign to most people today. Granted, experienced readers of this blog might be familiar with many specific concepts, such as: non-hybrid seeds, canning, etc; the author goes into extra depth about how these practices were used to simply stay alive in not so distant years. Beyond some more recently popular topics, there is great encouragement into practices that can be used by people with even small yards to produce and store food year-round by simply changing certain practices in your gardening.
This book in not designed however as a be-all reference. At only 145 pages, with many great photos, you wont’ find a book that teaches every single thing you need to be independent. However it introduces a good number of important practices, provides basic reasoning as to why it was an important skill, and provides some modern usage examples. It makes sure you know enough about what the skill is, and gives you what you need to find more information if you want. Example: After a great discussion about seed hybridization practices, and their effects, he also spends time explaining how seed banks work and how you can participate in one to get useful seeds in your garden.
Here is a list of some of the major topics covered that should get the interest of our readers:
- Extending the harvest
- Perennial food plants
- Long Keeping Foods
- Early Veggies
- Pioneer Yeast
- Modern Ideas the Pioneers Would Have Appreciated
- Forgotten Recipes