Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sort of a Book Review Possum Living

You have to admit the name is intriguing. I first heard the title mentioned in a Philip Brewer article for Wisebread over a year ago. Philip looks at his dog-eared copy when he wants perspective. After a bit of searching I found the book in it’s entirety on line. Read only. Then our intrepid library ladies tracked down a copy through inter-library loan. It’s easier to peruse in hand but had to be returned. I wanted my own and checked our favorite used book sites, only to find it was outrageously expensive to purchase. Happily, it was reprinted just this year and is available for $12.95. My sister Lisa gave it to me as a Christmas gift. (Thanks Lisa!)

PL addresses basic questions, “What is enough?”, and “Is there a way to live outside the money economy?” I’ve puzzled over ways to integrate Dolly Freed’s experiences into our current situation, eliminating any ethically shady bits. (There are plenty.) Several major strategies remain. Maintain a large garden, cook from scratch, preserve, learn how to fix things by reading library books, forage, and be content. I suppose in a pinch I could learn to kill rabbits for meat. That certainly would be a learning curve for the kid who freaked when her fish swallowed a hook. But our cellar isn’t good for rabbit breeding or chicken nesting either, as it tends to flood in heavy rains. So gratefully, that’s not an option. And there are always beans.

Dolly and her dad were content to live in a fixed up house, basically off the land, and never go anywhere. If it were a treehouse in the woods as home base, maybe I’d agree. Washington state, or Britain or France even. But a treehouse, or a small bungalow among trees. Not suburbia. Not all the time.

Would I recommend it? Try interlibrary loan first. It may not be your cup of tea. For me it adds ideas to the stockpile. I have big dreams and limited means. The romance of cross country travel, silent stepping in pine forests, musty marsh smells, hawk calls, salty sea breezes, churning brooks, cool water rocks. All these sing their siren songs. How to get from here to there though, that is the question. And Possum Living may just offer some answers.


  1. Thanks for the mention!

    Journalist Paige Williams recently posted a long article about Dolly Freed—basically, what she did when she grew up. You can find it here:

    It's worth reading if you found Dolly's story in Possum Living to be compelling but problematic (as it sounds like you did).

  2. Thanks Philip for the lead. I just realized the feedback section may include people outside my usual friends and family.