Cozy Up with a New Book on Preserving and Natural Housekeeping

Erica Strauss’s 'The Hands on Home' takes a deep dive into simple seasonal cooking, DIY laundry detergent, and homemade preserves.

By Allison Jones September 25, 2015

Hands on home enimok

If you've spent any amount of time reading healthy food and lifestyle books and blogs, you're likely aware that your deodorant may be killing you, your food cart lunch is probably weighing you down with oxidized industrial seed oils, and the best way to eat sustainably on a budget is the preserve all the things, all the time—but all that doomsday information can result in a wholesale blockade of any more advice from well-meaning writers.

A new book from Seattle author Erica Strauss—of the popular urban homesteading blog Northwest Edible Life—aims to offer a balm to the notion that taking your home and your health into your own hands is intimidating, woo-woo, or unbearably time consuming. In The Hands On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Housekeeping (on sale September 29 from Sasquatch Books—order now at Powell's), Strauss sends the takeaway message that "those trendy eco-green methods for maintaining our home also happen to save a bunch of cash and keep our dollars out of the hands of companies that are basically in the toxic chemical business." In a phrase, it's simply smart home economics.

The book is separated by season, offering simple tips and tricks for the quiet, cozy activism of taking back your home, from seasonal recipes and preserving tips to guides to making your own Bronners-style Castile soap, DIY oven cleaner, and lip balm. Some seasonal highlights:


  • Snap Peas with Mint, Feta, and Walnuts
  • Green Herb Lamb Chops with Preserved Lemon Aioli
  • Apricot Barbecue Sauce
  • Rhubarb Syrup
  • Carpet Freshener
  • Two-in-One Facial Exfoliant and Moisturizer


  • Cucumber and Garbanzo Bean Salad with Feta
  • Grilled Prawns and Cherry Tomatoes with Avocado-Basil Salad
  • Lacto-Fermented Garlic Dilly Beans
  • Surfer Hair Salt Spray
  • Gardener’s Hard-Core Hand Scrub


  • Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apples and Cider Cream
  • Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon
  • Pork Porterhouse with Apples, Sage, and Dijon-Bourbon Pan Sauce
  • Vanilla-Ginger-Bourbon Pear Preserves
  • Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Muscle-Soothing Eucalyptus Bath Soak


  • Warm French Lentils with Celeriac and Hazelnuts
  • Braised Pork Cheeks with Plum Jam and Star Anise
  • Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Shoulder Chops Braised with Quince
  • Persimmon-Apple Chutney
  • Petite Mason Jar Beeswax Candles
  • Oat and Milk Skin-Soothing Bath Soak

Strauss also includes information that demystifies working these recipes and habits into your real life, like how to set up a custom regular maintenance plan, tips on how to clean a room in the most efficient way, and basic canning techniques if you've never ventured into the world of preserves. (Psst: If you're more of a visual learner, check out this video from Strauss's appearance on PBS's Growing a Greener World.)

Strauss will also be appearing at Powell's City of Books on Burnside at 7:30 pm on October 19 to answer your burning homesteading questions.

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