Simple Living Series - Working towards a better life

9 February 2010
I was very busy day at work yesterday with meetings every hour and came home feeling I hadn't done much.  Yet when I came home and checked the comments on yesterday's post, I was so happy to read them I forgot about work and started thinking about compiling a list of resources that a few of you asked for.  It does my heart good to read so many of you are eager to learn, just as I am.

This daily work we do in our homes has the ability to make or break you.  I have no doubt that some people would wonder why I make soap when it's on every supermarket shelf, or why I'd spend time making bread when it's already sliced and wrapped waiting to be bought.  I also know there are some, and I believe it is a growing number, who not only understand me making those things, but do the same themselves or are on the road to learning the skills.  You understand the work and the urge and need to do it!

I have never been afraid of work.  I grew up in a working class family, slid into middle class when I worked for a living, and slide right back out again when I retired.  I happily think of myself as a worker,  Hanno is one too and we raised two boys to manhood with a strong work ethic and the knowledge that it is through work, both paid and unpaid, that we define ourselves and gain what is worthwhile in this life.  This work we do in our homes is, for the most part, gentle work, but it is relentless and it is there every day.  I have written before about housework never ending and you have to get your head around that, but when you do, when you realise that the work doesn't have to be perfect or even completed every day, you learn to relax and just do what  you planned to do each day and leave the rest for another time.  One of your jobs is to organise yourself so there is minimal work stress and you feel okay with saying: "I've done enough today, I'll spend time with the children/knitting/garden/relaxing/dogs now."  

Work is as much about how you think about it as it is about doing it.  A good attitude to it will help enormously.  It's also a great help to have a routine set up that will give a certain rhythm to your day.  Such a routine always starts with core tasks - those things we need to do every day - and is peppered with other things that are relaxing and enjoyable or harder jobs that are only done once in a while.  If you haven't set up a routine yet, now is a good time to do that. I have written about that here.

So here is the list of books and blogs that I have found helpful:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living.  When I first started to live more simply, this book inspired me like no other.  It would be most helpful to homesteaders and those who are using their backyards to produce food and keep chickens or goats, but overall I found her enthusiasm for living and her knowledge quite inspiring.
The Guide to Self Sufficiency.  I was lucky enough to win this book on Steelkittens blog giveaway and am now waiting patiently for it to arrive.  I have read this book before and know it well enough to recommend it - particularly for my UK and northern European readers.
Back to Basics.  I love this book.  I still enjoy reading through it whenever I see it at the library.
Easy organic gardening and moon planting is my favourite gardening book.  You'd be wise to find a book that is specifically for your climate. Lyn also has a very good blog here.
Nourishing Traditions - this book got me back to eating meat again after many years without it.  It's full of wise information about the way we eat and many recipes.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I recently bought this book with the points I gain on my Amazon advertising.  I haven't read it through yet but the bits of it I have read convinced me of its worth.  I love good sourdough bread but I've never made a loaf that I thought would fit well into my bread recipes.  I'm hoping this book will help me find a good easy homemade sourdough that I like.
Your Money or Your Life.  A good book to get you on track with your money.
The Complete Tightwad Guide.  This is full of hints and tips about living frugally.
The Simple Living Guide.  The first book I ever read on Simple Living.

BLOGS   Jewels doesn't blog much now but it's worth keeping her on your bloglist for when she does.  Hers is a generous and loving family, a fine example of what we are all striving for.    I've only just started reading this blog but it's very charming.

The Simple Living book photographed yesterday on my shelf is this one.

I would love to find more well written blogs like soulemama, eyes of wonder and throwback at trapper creek where the family is working on the kind of work I do here.  If you know of any that you think suit that criteria , please add the link to the comments and I'll check it out.


  1. Thanks very much for the inclusion of a books and resources list on today's post. I am so pleased I also made that suggestion in my comment yesterday.
    I was also pleased to see that some of the books I own and some of the websites I visit (what a coincidence) have been listed. I look forward to reading about all of the other books (and perhaps getting my hands on some of them). I intend to have a quieter day today (with chores throughout) - and when I need a break I will visit some of the websites.
    Rhonda - you listed a bread book. Have you seen another bread book that has recently been published (it may be called My Bread) - it is Australian. I do not know what it is like, though.
    I hope you have a meeting free day!
    Tracy (Brisbane)

  2. Thank you for the list of books and blog links. One of the areas I'm working on is having a joyful attitude towards homecaring. I still have not completely wrapped my mind around the idea that something cleaned will become dirty again. That it is just the natural rhythm of a home - especially one like ours, a family of 6 with small children. It's the perfectionist in me! Intellectually I know it, but I still haven't accepted it.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  3. I didn't comment yesterday, but I love to learn new things. One thing I like to do is knit. Last year, while at my daughters gym class, I was knitting socks. One of the fathers asked what I was doing, when I told him, he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "they have those in the store you know". I resisted to urge to stab him with the needles and just smiled. Most people just don't get it.

  4. Everyday I think about what else I can make at home instead of buying it. Today as I used up the final bit of prepared horseradish I thought about planting some this coming spring. And trying my hand at fermented foods as well. BTW .. last night I made my third batch of cold pressed soap by following your tutorial .. and using the soap calculator. The first batch came out great using my stick blender .. (but I overworked it a bit) .. 2nd batch would not trace .. I used my kitchenaid mixer .. last night I used the kitchenaid again and it wouldn't trace .. so I had to bring out the stick blender .. within 2 minutes it reached trace. Soap is now curing. Thanks for all of your great posts!

  5. Love your blog and read it everyday.
    Even though I'm now retired I'm learning all over again.
    Rhonda, I'm interested in getting the Nourishing Traditions Book and was wondering if you follow it very closely? Thank you for all your wonderful information.

  6. You have been so helpful in encouraging and instructing this Mom. Thank you!!!

  7. My FAVORITE resources are magazines. I know, waste of paper, but having a toddler the few minutes I get to myself are in the bathroom, not in front of the computer :)
    Mother Earth News

    and Mothering

  8. Cool beans that you are trying the artisanal bread book. You will not be really changed the way I made bread and I'm pleased with the results. I have found a high gluten flour works best with these recipes.

    AM of the bread

  9. I want you to know that I agree with you 100%. Of course they have all that stuff in the stores, but it doesn't beat homemade. I too want to say thank you for all your resources you listed. I have a sewing blog, a crocheting blog, and a book reading blog. Trust me I will check out these books and sites you have recommened. Thank you

  10. Hello everyone!

    Tracy, I don't know of that book but I did buy Shane a book called Crust that is very good.

    Mary Ellen, it is good to want things to be as good as they can be but aiming for perfection is wasteful - both of your time and energy. It's probably going to work better for you to do the best you can, then let it go. You must be very busy in your home with all your babies.

    LOL the Mom.

    Mrs Mac, the stick blender reaches trace faster than anything else. I use the stick when I'm in a hurry and the mixer when I'm making soap while working on other tings in the kitchen.

    Harle, I don't follow Nourishing Traditions closely. I don't follow any book closely. I use it as a guide, it gets me motivated, shows me different ways of doing things, which I modify to our tastes.

    Thanks Tara and Ann Marie.

  11. Hello Rhonda, I just had a moment of serendipity! I was under the weather on the weekend so have just caught up on my blog reading. I saw the photos of your books in yesterday's post and thought, "I've been meaning to ask Rhonda about those titles!" There you are today, with them listed. Thank you dear lady.

  12. de-lurking to recommend one of my favorite blogs: She reminds me of soulemama in how frequently she recognizes the beauty in her every day life. And she reminds me of you because she's a homesteader.

    I've been enjoying your posts even though I'm not commenting. :) Best wishes.

  13. Reading your posts always makes me feel so good! Todays post reminded me of a little poem I used to recite to myself when I would stop sewing to make yet another barbie doll dress for my girls. I have no idea where it originally came from. "There will be years for cleaning and cooking; for children grow up while we're not looking."

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    Sharon Astyk has a good blog and this link is for my favourite piece of her writing (so far - I haven't got through them all!)

    It's about the value of handwork, something that stays done after the day when most of our tasks are a cycle of done then undone.

    A very heartwarming read.

  15. Rhonda, 'what is a stick blender'?
    Thank you for today's list of resources - very helpful.

  16. Thanks Rhonda!


  17. I have gotten to where I enjoy cleaning and doing my daily chores. However, I struggle with the guilt of not always having things done or feeling like my home isn't as clean as someone else's. As always, your blog is an inspiration! Thank you!

  18. I just saw several of these books at the Earth Lodge where we went camping here in Guatemala this past weekend! I wish I could have stopped to read them, but I was too busy trying to stop my little guys from hurling themselves off a cliff.

    As for sourdough, I have a really delicious recipe for a nice fluffy bread here:

  19. Thanks so much for all the links. I especially like the link for King Arthur's Flour blog. I am going to make one of their recipes tomorrow.

  20. I love the Back to Basics book.My mother gave it to me.She found it in the basement and said she hasen't seen it in years and she knew I would love it.I keep it on the table next to the couch cause I'm always looking in it.

    I live in pennsylvania and we just got hit with a blizzard that dumped 18" on snow on my lawn.I was needing water to do some washing up and some cooking and I didn't want to use the drinking water we had cause we still have no electric and it's going to be 4 days now.Anyway,I was wondering if I could cook with snow.I figured you could but wanted to be sure so I opened the book to the chapter about living in the wilderness and there it was 'cooking with snow' I melted done ALOT of snow on our wood stove we have and made a pot of soup and washed some dishes.That book has come in handy plenty of times and that's why it sits on the table.

  21. Hi Rhonda,

    I don't leave many comments but do love to read your blog. One other that I read is Crystal lives in the state of Washington and homeschools and cooks from scratch for a large family. Thanks for all the good resources.

    Kathie in SC

  22. Thanks so much for sharing these resources! Definitely doing a good read of them all.

    BTW: On a side note, I have made 2 batches of your dog food recipe, and one of the dog treats. My black lab/newfoundland mix adores them both!! Thanks!!

    has a well written blog, it's very honest and has beautiful photos.

    I am sifting through the material in your blog, and always find something I can implement.
    Thank you the 'Simply Living Series', it's great.

  24. Hi Rhonda,

    I have only come across blogging lately (yes, Very slow on the uptake) but your blogs are just fantastic. It is great to know that other people are thinking and doing the same as me. I have been baking our famiy bread for ages and soap making and all that lovely stuff that makes you feel good about being a homemaker.

    I am a mother to 6 natural children, 1 adopted child, 5 children in long term care and 2 children in short term care. They are all pretty special to my husband and I.

    I look forward to reading your blogs. It keeps me inspired to keep doing what we do.


  25. I love your blog, you always have such wonderful ideas. My husband and I strive to live this life as well. Although I am new to the blogging world I hope to be able to share our daily adventures in simple living. Doing for yourself what others pay for is an extremely rewarding experience.

  26. hey i'm always looking for more resources so thanks!
    i find this site:
    very helpful, because it has lots of articles on many interesting subjects.

  27. Thanks Rhonda, I know you're right. I just need to absorb that wisdom and do the best I can around the house. When I wrote out my list of what I really wanted in my life, more time with my children and husband were at the top. Perfectly clean house didn't make it to the list LOL! So I guess I have to get myself in line with my priorities.

    Two blogs I wanted to share with you -

    Rabbit Hill Farm ( - a young family pursuing the simple life in Maine

    Food Renegade
    ( - Real Food/Nourishing Traditions

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  28. An excellent post, it sums up the way I feel. Sometimes after a busy day at work even I get to wondering why I try to live such a homemade life. I do so for the very reasons you mentioned. Thank you.

  29. One of my favorite blogs lately is:

    she's a creator and vintage finder like soulemama but a farmer too. love it.

  30. Thank you so much for the wonderful links to resources that I am sure we will all find helpful!

    I also wanted to ask you what you do for dish soap? Do you make that as well? If so, how?

  31. Thank you SO much! I knew about 1/2 of these links & most of the books...but your additions are great.

    Blessings from snowy Ohio/USA...Kim<><

  32. Hi Rhonda,
    I read Hollys blog every time she posts. Holly lives in Wyoming, USA.Last year she had her dh pull the car over at cactus plants, while they were on a road trip thru the SW, so she could pick cactus fruit from the roadside prickly pears to take home to make jelly. She makes her own butter and ice cream out of goats milk. She also raises animals for food and has excellent pictures/blogs on her goats and other animals. Very well worthwhile.

  33. I love the way you write Rhonda, so sensible and down to earth and also so relaxing somehow. I don't comment every time, but I always read what you've written, and your blog certainly has the right title!

  34. Hi I just wanted to take the time today to say thank you for all of your work on this blog. It has helped fuel a revolution of sorts in my household and especially to that of my attitude to my housework. I am a new (stay at home) mother who was raised by a working single mother. So I have had to learn about what homemaking means in a very on the job training sort of way. I have also had to learn to give value to the work that I do everyday- though I have been raised to believe that work is only valuable if it is bringing home money. I now honor the hard work of the women that came before me. I hope to honor them, and this earth by learning and passing these skills down to my baby girl. You are helping us in so many ways.

  35. One of my favorite blogs is

  36. Thank you so much for writing this post. I have not had much time lately to read all of my blogs, but I know that I have missed a lot with yours. So when I have some free time I will be reading more. The 5 minute bread book is really great. They had an article on it in Mother Earth News with the recipe, and it is a big hit with my family.

  37. I make our soap and lotion, I make our laundry detergent, I can, I garden, we keep chickens, I spin and knit, and keep angoras for their wool (and because they're absolutely adorable). We buy local whenever possible, including fiber. We bake our own bread, and eat out very seldom as what we make at home is of such high quality it's usually a disappointment to eat out. I also work two jobs and am a 3/4 time student. No, I don't have a lot of time. I do, however, have a lot of satisfaction!

    Often people at work ask me how I find the time to do all of that. I simply tell them that EVERYONE is giving time for those things; it's just a question of whether you work more hours (and sacrifice those hours for money) to buy those things or do you spend more time to make them for yourself (and basically pay yourself for your time). You can really see the wheels turning as people consider this, having never had it put in those terms before.

    For me it's not a question of money as much as it is having quality control over the ingredients and methods of production. I might not save money but I definitely know my products are light on the earth and not harmful for those I care about.

  38. Hi Rhonda,
    I just found this blog
    It might not be exactly what you are looking for but this lady writes beautifully and has a wonderful way of sharing her life through her blog. Slow, thankful, gracious, thoughtful and frugal from the little I have read. I think you would enjoy it.

  39. Rhonda, I own most of the books you listed and visit quite a few of the blogs and I'm looking forward to checking out those that are new to me. I also have one to recommend:
    Suzanne's site is called Chickens in the Road and has a lot of useful information and beautiful photographs. It's my second favorite site after yours. :)

  40. Hi, you had asked for blogs that people enjoy with similar interests, mine is FuoriBorgo at This family lives a simple life on the edge of the Med. Sea in Italy. One recent post of 02/09/2010 shows her mending socks with a wooden egg passed down for generations. Enjoy!

  41. It is always wonderful to find others of like minds as I often get the same comments as your readers, wondering why I make my own dairy products such as sour cream and buttermilk, knit, make soap etc. Oh if they only knew how doing it yourself nourishes the body and soul. I love reading others blogs as they inspire me to dip deeper into the past to find my own comfort level into self-sufficiency. AT I share the things I've learned during this journey of thirty-one years.


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