Book review: The “Have-More” Plan: “A Little Land – A Lot of Living” by Ed and Carolyn Robinson


This is one of the most-read books in our collection, even though it’s only 70 pages and its staple-binding and large page size make it look like a giant pamphlet. The publisher, Storey Publishing () says that this was originally published in 1943. I think that this reprint is of the second or third edition because allusions are dropped to letters they have received in response to their first edition, and sources dated as late as 1945 are quoted (Plus, there’s a picture of Carolyn wearing trousers!).

This magazine-length book reads in the endlessly cheerful, encouraging, peppy kind of voice one might expect from a post-war couple realizing the American dream (If you think I use exclamation points liberally, you’ve got to see this!). If the chores have you down or it’s the long dark winter of mud season, this is the book that will give you back the desire to fix that gate, clean the chicken coop, and organize the larder – and with a sense of pride.
Ed and Carolyn were a part of the second back-to-the-land movement. Second? Yes. The first was an attempt in the 1920s and 1930s “to find a third way between capitalism and socialism.” [Wikipedia] Ed and Carolyn showed up before the better-publicized 1970s back-to-the-land movement immortalized by The Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News, The Good Life, and the works of John Seymour, but they were at the forefront of a migration out of the cities and suburbs in the 1950s. Despite – no, because of – the post-war economic upturn some folks moved to the country to live more like their parents or grandparents may have instead of living it up in the suburbs like the folks you’ve seen on black and white TV. As Ed Robinson said “We aren’t always going to have a boom going on.”
This little book gives an overview of planning, buying, and building on your homestead; raising chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, squab, rabbits, pigs, dairy goats, milch goats, beef, sheep, beef, and fish; vegetable, herb, small fruit, and orchard gardening; woodlot management, transportation, repair and maintenance around the homestead, and how to make a living on or off your land. I’m pretty sure Ed must have been an engineer, because everything is presented in the most economical of forms – how to most efficiently manage your garden, how to utilize every square inch of your barn, even house plans that reduce “wasted” hallway space to a mere 2% of overall square footage.
If nothing else, this book will make you sniffle with nostalgia for an era when the monthly mortgage payment for a “more expensive home” was $43.36!
— Amanda

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