In Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, Mark Frauenfelder, editor in chief of Make magazine, advocates the expansion of DIY into a pragmatic philosophy. After years of working with hundreds of diverse do-it-yourselfers, the author realized his own life could use a little tinkering. Frustrated by the fast-paced, consumer-centric and increasingly virtual nature of his family’s lifestyle, Frauenfelder decided to devote a year to creating a richer, more meaningful life: “a life of engagement with the world.” Readers follow his progress through a fairly low-tech to-do list, including: raise chickens, build a tree house, keep bees, tutor his kids in math and science and turn the front lawn into a vegetable garden. In no rush merely to divulge results, the author details each step, however embarrassing or slow, and demonstrates that to be successful, DIYers must have “the courage to screw up.” The payoff is in the process as well as the product: Every glimmer of self-reliance earned from daring to modify one’s physical world is priceless.

“Preserving is hot,” declares Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put ’em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook. In this colorful, friendly book, Vinton shatters the notions that preserving foods is too complicated, or too old-fashioned, or too dangerous. New methods, flexible batch sizes and straightforward, illustrated recipes mean anyone can do it. With sections organized by produce item, readers can easily find which methods suit whatever they happen to have in hand: blanching; jams and jellies; vinegar pickles and fermented pickles; granita (a frozen dessert) and agua fresca (a fruity beverage); salsas, chutneys and relishes; or butters, sauces and ketchups. Just a few of the possibilities are oven-dried tomatoes, watermelon granita, roasted garlic, martini onions, basil pesto, pear butter and Charred Chili Salsa. In addition to being easy and delicious, preserving is a natural companion to the Slow Food and Eat Local movements, and a logical extension to DIY gardening. Home “put-up” also tastes better, costs less, is easy on the Earth—and preservesvenerable traditions as well as fresh produce.

The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms is, in every sense, a book that grounds the reader. With this book—and a helpful adult or two—to guide them, children of any age can practice more mindfully what already comes naturally to them: to see their world from the ground up, whether that means in a backyard or on a sidewalk, by a lake or a storm sewer, in a park or a parking lot. The author, Clare Walker Leslie (Keeping a Nature Journal), believes in “finding nature wherever you are” and that everyone can be a naturalist by simply paying attention. Her guide encourages this new way of seeing with questions, tips, exercises and creative prompts that can ground a child in the world at large, plus foster environmental literacy, responsible stewardship and a passion for nature. Of course, kids don’t really need to know these momentous goals: For them, exploration is its own reward, and success lies in every new thing noticed, recorded, pondered or named.

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