Reading Review

Winter doesn’t seem to want to loosen it’s grip – as I type it’s snowing, and has been snowing for two days. The one thing cold snowy weather does lend itself too though, is reading. I’ve always got a pile of books at my bedside (let’s be honest – there are piles all around the house) and I can always seem to find some stolen time to read a chapter or two, in between or after the rest of the minutiae of every day living. But I’ve been remiss on updating you about some of the gems that have come into my hands. I have a pretty nice opportunity to share books I like with you so often as I get them gratis from their publishers or PR agencies. Today I’m going to share three books and a rare magazine with you, the reading of which has helped me cope with a seemingly endless winter.

Old Farmer’s Almanac 2018 Garden Guide

I have long been a reader of The Old Farmer’s Almanac – I’ve found it to be a very reliable source of accurate year-long weather forecasts, and the information on astronomy and gardening are quite useful. So I was excited to see that they have produced a supplemental edition completely devoted to gardening topics. Unlike the almanac, which is printed on newsprint, this edition is magazine-sized and glossy full color, which makes looking at the beautiful pictures of flowers and gardens all the more enticing on snow-bound days indoors. But beyond the eye candy, I found several of the articles very informative and timely to my personal circumstances, including articles on herbal sleep aids, perennial vegetables, edible gardening for small spaces, and converting a lawn into a foodscape. There’s also an almanac table for gardening by the moon, which is a topic I have a budding interest in. In short, planting or harvesting by the waxing or waning of the moon can be done at optimal times for certain crops – if you think about it, it makes sense. The moon’s interaction with the flow of water on our planet is notable (think of the tides). It’s definitely a topic I want to learn more about, and if you’re curious like I am, the Garden Guide is a good primer.

Cacti and Succulents Handbook: Basic Growing Techniques and a Directory of More Than 140 Common Species and Varieties

My interest in succulents began when I was little, as my great grandmother had a huge colony of ‘hen and chicks’ at the foot of the stairs to her front porch, forming a carpet beneath pink bleeding hearts. My love for both plants has been abiding, but it was only until I picked up the Cacti & Succulents Handbook that I realized that ‘hen and chicks’ are a type of succulent in the Sempervivum family, and they’re actually a quite hardy little plant. I’ve got some currently that are growing happily in a strawberry pot, as well as aloe, ‘string of pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus), and a couple of sedums. But I would love to expand my collection, as they make excellent low-maintenance houseplants and are evergreen. This handbook covers it all – how to cultivate and care for them, as well as serving as an encyclopedia of the myriad varieties that exist. It’s definitely inspired me to expand my repertoire – next up I’ll think I’ll add a few more varieties of aloe, and a Christmas cactus in my dining room – my Great Grandmother grew one of those as well.

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary


Prepper’s Armed Defense: Lifesaving Firearms and Alternative Weapons to Purchase, Master and Stockpile

I’m a fan of Jim Cobb’s books, especially Countdown to Preparedness: The Prepper’s 52 Week Course to Total Disaster Readiness, which is a no-nonsense guide for ordinary people about how to get started in prepping (otherwise known as taking care of oneself in disaster situations). So when I starting thinking about becoming more educated about home defense, the veritable library of books that Cobb has produced was the first place I turned. But I think I bit off a little more than I could chew. My mindset was coming from a place of learning how I can make my home and property more safe and secure today, preferably without it looking like a low-budget military installation. Both of these volumes are coming from a position of assuming that law and order have degraded to a point that calling 911 is a thing of the past, and the homeowner is, quite literally, left to their own defenses. Preppers call this unfortunate state of affairs SHTF (yes, that’s ‘shit’s hitting the fan’), extreme interpretations of which are also dubbed ‘grid down’ (think power going out forever, or at least long term) or TEOTWAKI – the end of the world as we know it.

It’s hard for most of us ordinary folks to get on board with SHTF prepping, especially early on in learning about how to be prepared for emergencies and covering the basics of making sure we can outlast blizzard power outages, stay safe in a tornado, or thwart neighborhood burglars. It’s definitely not a beginner topic, but with that caveat set aside, I must admit (and hopefully all rational people do) that it’s a good idea to have some mental idea how to go about dealing with a worst-case scenario should one occur. Better to have the knowledge and skills and not ever need them, than the reverse. I definitely found a lot of value in these two books, especially chapter one of Prepper’s Home Defense, “Basic Security Concepts”. I like to think I’ve got some common sense about security and safety, but the concept of a “layered defense” is one I hadn’t really given any thought to. It’s actually a very basic assessment we should all be making of our homes and properties. You basically divvy up your home into zones – picture your home from the top down with a bullseye centered over it – preferably you can stop an intruder at the perimeter of your property with a fence or other measures, but what happens if they breach your home? Do you have a safe fallback position (like a safe room) for your kids while you deal with the threat? Your entryway or mudroom is a more peripheral zone that your master bedroom closet, for example. You want to stop an intruder at the furthest zone possible from your safe room area. The chapters on “Structure Hardening” and “Safe Rooms” also have a lot of valuable information that can be used in our environment today – simple upgrades like reinforcing exterior doors with longer screws, reinforced stop molding and dead bolts go a long way to increasing security. If you’re interested in firearms or other weapons as part of your home defense strategy, Prepper’s Armed Defense gives an easy-to-understand overview on how different options work, that even a novice can cope with. So while I had my moments of skepticism about when I would actually need to dig fox holes in my front yard and institute perimeter patrols during my lifetime, these books are still chock full of useful information that can readily be applied today – without making your home look like a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist lives there.

(All books were complimentary and book links are affiliate links.)