nonfiction

Book Review: Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel

Simple living. It’s not always the simplest way to go, ironically, but it’s something I’ve been engaging in for most of my adult life. Handmade gifts, homecooked food, canning and otherwise preserving, knitting and crocheting and sewing, doing my best to reduce, reuse, and recycle, it’s all a big part of my daily life. I happened upon Rhonda Hetzel’s blog, Down to Earth, a few years ago, and discovered that she had written a book on simple living, also titled Down to Earth (Penguin Australian, 2012). Onto my list it went. It took a bit to get to me via interlibrary loan; Mrs. Hetzel is Australian, and I don’t know how widely known her book is here in the US. My copy came from Virginia, which would probably take most of a day’s driving to get to from where I’m at! Oddly enough, the library in the next town over has another of her books, but not this one. Strange!

If you’re looking to get back to basics, to simplify your life and begin a gentler, more earth-friendly, more soul-nourishing way of living, but you don’t know where to start, Rhonda Hetzel has a plan for you. From the very basics of building a budget that ensures you can cut back and what you can cut out, to building a garden that works for you, and why knitting and sewing and mending is important, to the keeping of chickens, to home cooking and preserving and more, this is an explanation of what simple living looks like at its most fundamental level.

Seasoned homemakers and advocates for this slower way of life may not find anything new here (but inspiration to keep going is always nice, and this lovely book provides that in spades in its gentle encouragement and gorgeous photography), but for neophytes looking to escape the rat race, exhausted working parents barely able to keep up with the daycare costs, folks looking to retire a little early (if possible; here in the US, our lack of a nationalized healthcare system makes this tricky), newlyweds or college graduates just starting out in the real world, all of these people will find a glimpse into a way of navigating life that they may not have considered.

This is an absolutely lovely book- a bit smaller than a traditional coffee table book, more like a small textbook, but it’s filled with beautiful photography of Mrs. Hetzel’s gorgeous life. If you’re looking for a gift for a recent college graduate or a unique bridal shower gift, Down to Earth would make a fabulous choice. Let everyone know that there’s a better way than constantly stopping for fast food and precooked, preservative-filled junk at the store, that even in apartments, your life can be sustainable and earth-friendly.

Down to Earth is a lovely, gentle read about a way of life you may already be engaged in, or something you long for but aren’t sure how to get started. If you’re looking for an overview of all the ways you could slow things down, this is a beautiful place to begin.

Visit Rhonda Hetzel’s blog, Down to Earth, here.

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