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By January 9, 2013 Read More →

Review: The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier

Ever wonder how homesteaders in the Alaskan bush manage to get by in the extreme conditions? This book can give some insight.

by Leon Pantenburg

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The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier by Tricia Brown and Nancy Gates

My typical reaction to getting a new book in the mail is to leaf through the pages, and decide when (and if) I want to read it completely and do a review.

But The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook grabbed me from page one and held my attention for about 40 stories and a couple of hours.  My first impression, re-enforced through the writing, was that this book is a well-crafted, informative collection of useful knowledge.  In addition, most of the information would be valuable to homesteaders anywhere or to anyone interested in emergency preparedness.

The writing is superb, and the authors show the communications experience gained in years of newsroom publications.

Tricia Brown is a former writer and editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Magazine. She spent nearly 30 years traveling the state of Alaska writing about the state and the people.

Nancy Gates is an Alaska resident since the 1970s, and has written for various magazines such as We Alaskans, Alaska Magazine and the Cup of Comfort anthologies.

Together, the writers interviewed more than 40 pioneer types ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-90s, and compiled a series of how-to articles that covers everything from building an outhouse, to skinning a moose to baking sourdough bread.

The publication is lavishly illustrated with drawings and photographs that enhance the information.

Some of the people interviewed were actual homesteaders.  Others were bush-dwellers and/or city dwellers.  The common attraction was the adventure of living in Alaska.

Homesteaders anywhere can appreciate the challenges of off grid living and self-sufficiency. But in Alaska, you also have to factor in extreme isolation, arctic weather, incredible storms, and predators that can kill you.

Obviously, Alaska is not for everybody, but most of the homestead lessons could be applied anywhere.  In the book, you can learn:

  • How to put in a running winter water hole that will work at -50 degrees
  • Spinning dog fur: What breeds produce the best hair, and techniques for processing it
  • How to keep moose out of the garden
  • Tips for getting started in trapping
  • Smoking salmon
  • How to start a chainsaw
  • Getting started in off-grid living
  • Set up a backcountry first aid kit

As someone who loves esoteric knowledge and timeless homesteading and survival skills, this book fascinated me. In addition to being an interesting read, the book could also serve as preparedness manual.

For people not yet interested in preparedness, this publication could provide that final nudge. Chances are experienced outdoors people will learn a lot too.

The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook is going in my preparedness library, and I’d recommend you get a copy too.

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