Monthly Archives: December 2010

Book Report: Living the Good Life

It all began with the urge to can.

I woke up one morning, threw my legs over the edge of my bed, and silently asked myself what I wanted to do with the day. The response was immediate and completely inexplicable: I wanted to can peaches.  I ended up doing something much more mundane that day – something like cleaning the kitchen, most likely – but the urge remained. It remained, and it grew. A few months later I found myself immersed in a Mondo Beyondo exercise, furiously writing down every crazy dream that popped into my head. Among the far-reaching and outlandish (like being a guest on The Daily Show or living in Italy) were a number of more simple dreams: repurpose old belongings; learn to sew; garden without killing; live greener; teach my children to “farm”; grow my own food; can foods for winter. And, in the same theme, one big one: live an entire year without buying anything new. Wow. That’s a lofty goal. But I ran with it for a while (and it, in fact, was what led me to start this blog) and did a bit of research and, in so doing, ran across a most interesting sounding book.

Living the Good Life: How One Family Changed Their World from Their Own Back Yard, by Linda Cockburn.

Living the Good Life cover

The book is essentially a journal, documenting the family’s attempt to live for six months without spending any money. They were already pretty well set up for such an endeavor (solar power, rain collections, established food garden, etc.), but they kicked it into overdrive for the six month experiment. Given my similar goal (though one I am not at all prepared to attempt), I found the book fascinating. Cockburn tells the tale of their six months with humor and a healthy dose of self-depreciation. She’s also frank about their missteps along the way, which keeps the book from being preachy and keeps the idea of self-sustainability approachable. (It’s not so intimidating an idea once the expectation of perfection is removed.) Cockburn intersperses her journal entries with informative data on everything from national (Australian) water usage to the various types of composting toilets. It’s a very good example of what “regular” people can do to live a more enviro-friendly life, and I highly recommend reading it if you’re at all interested in just what it takes to get off the grid – or to at least rely on it a little less heavily.

I had to actually buy the book from Amazon since the Seattle Public Library doesn’t have a single copy (maybe it was only distributed in Australia?), but I kept it green by gifting my copy to my mom at Christmas. It’s nice to have family that appreciates a well loved hand-me-down!

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Filed under Books, Environment