Book review: Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich


A note about this post: During our last visit to Denny’s I was taking advantage of the WiFi to whip up a post about something moving I had read on Jenna Woginrich’s blog, Cold Antler Farm. I wanted to refer in my new post to the below book review, but I couldn’t find it in my list of published posts. I searched for it every way I could think for several minutes until I came to the awful realization that the reason I so clearly remembered what I had written about the book but couldn’t find it on the blog was that it must have been on the thumb drive that was smashed. Five or six cups of coffee and a lot of whinging later, it occurred to me to check my “analog backup”: the composition book in my oversized purse. Sure enough, about fifteen pages in was the hand-written original draft. Whew! A second draft from shaky memory a year and a half after having originally read the book would have both sucked and been a frustrating writing experience.

I think it speaks well of this book that two of the blurbs on the cover were written by authors Jenna herself lists in her recommended reading list (titled “Research, Son!”). These people inspired Jenna, and I’m pretty sure Jenna will inspire plenty of others.

I was surprised by my desire to use the term ‘inspirational’ to describe this book, given that it’s not one I use very often and that I’ve obviously already been inspired to lead the kind of life Jenna and I are striving toward, but it’s the right word.

Without embroidering, Jenna paints a beautiful portrait of “a Handmade Life,” and yet makes it look utterly attainable. Her steps toward self-sufficiency began when she moved to Sandpoint, Idaho to Tennessee (to which she had come from Pennsylvania) and visited a coworker’s farm. She recounts her experiences with chickens, gardening, beekeeping, cooking, junk-storing, sewing, working dogs, rabbits, and mountain music, and walks you through how to get into these things yourself.

By the end of the book Matt and I were joking about driving over to Idaho (just a couple hundred miles and a handful of mountain passes from us) to befriend Jenna, with whom I had decided I had so much in common (bees, junk store savvy, NPR addiction, knitting, canning, and a strange but steady sense of humor) that we were sure to be friends. No go, though. It turns out that since the book’s publication she has since relocated again, this time to a lovely farm in Vermont, which has allowed her to increase both her garden size and the variety of her menagerie.

And, since I originally wrote this review in longhand, she has moved again, this time from the rented Vermont farm to her very own 6.5 acres in New York.

— Amanda


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