Monday, July 01, 2013

On my book: "The Self-Sufficient Home..."

“The Self-Sufficient Home: Going Green and Saving Money”

Way back in 2000, my wife Dolores and I wrote a book called “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” where we detailed how we grew food, raised animals, generated power, and more, in our average home in the hilly outback of Los Angeles.
The “Self-Sufficient Home” book is a continuation of that work, but in this case, we didn’t strictly write about what we did in our own home. Rather, I interviewed at least two dozen other home-owners and experimenters to discover the ways in which they were practicing urban self-reliance.

 The book begins with the story of Dude McLean, former Marine who was heavily involved in self-reliance, and his experience during the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.  McLean and family survived well when much of their neighborhood was in ruins because they gardened, stored food and water, and had sufficient camping supplies and the know-how to live in the backyard.  Whenever I teach a class about urban preparedness, I begin by reading that chapter and the very real lessons learned by McLean and family.

“Self-Sufficient Home” includes an interview with Altadena architect Steve Lamb, who shares all the ways in which homes should be built to take advantage of natural principles such as sunlight, wind patterns, shade, and other site-specific issues.  Lamb points out that white roofs, and large overhangs helps keep houses naturally cooler.  During the course of writing the book, Lamb took me to a few of the places he’s worked on to show me how it’s also possible to retrofit an “average” house to take advantage of these principles.

The book shares the specific ways in which various local people, with no government aid and with no whining, went about producing their own electricity, and their own solar-heated water.  The reader is guided through the steps of making an electrical use assessment before going out to purchase any solar devices or components.  It’s important to do that assessment if you’re going to be your own power producer, so you build a system that is suitable to your situation.

There are interviews with people who collect rain water, with everything from low-tech to high-tech methods.  In fact, this is now so “mainstream” that all of the building supply companies routinely sell you all the hardware needed to turn a bucket into a rain water catchment system.

The many alternatives to the conventional flush toilet are discussed, from the expensive high-tech to the very simple low-tech methods that have been practiced for millennia.

The book also addresses all the ways in which the average urban back yard can be utilized for food and medicine production.  This begins with an assessment of the resources already on the property, coupled with a list of your specific needs and wants.  Where to get your seeds, how to produce plants from cuttings,  and ways to create your own backyard fertilizers are all included.

I interviewed a La Crescenta resident who makes his own biodiesel fuel from used vegetable oil, and ran his VW diesel rabbit on his own fuel for months. There are enough details in the book for the reader to follow in this man’s footsteps.

And lastly, there are several interviews with individuals whose lifestyles are laudable – a man who bicycles every day, a permaculture practitioner, a woman who lives in a tipi, and more. 

“Self-Sufficient Home” can be obtained via Kindle, and hard-copies are available wherever quality books are sold, or on-line.  This is a wonderful book and everyone should have a copy.

[More information about Nyerges’ classes and books is available at, or via School of Self-reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]


Yoko said...

Years ago I learned about the homesteading movement when I purchased a copy of your book Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City. It's a wonderful read and my copy is very dog eared now. I'll be sure to look at your new book The Self-Sufficient Home.

Christopher Nyerges said...

Thank you for sharing, Yoko. I know you will like The Self-Sufficient Home, where I interviewed lots of other people who practiced aspects of self-reliance.
For the record, there is now, as of Sept. 2013, a new edition of Extreme Simplicity which has color pictures.