Book Review: Possum Living

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He's cuter than the ones I've seen in my yard.

There’s a great little book I just readPossum Living: How to Live Well without a Job and with (Almost) No Money. It was written back in the late 70’s by a then 18-year-old going by the pseudonym of Dolly Freed. 

It tells a story and gives instruction on how she lived with her father in a Pennsylvania suburb in an almost completely self sufficient lifestyle. They would often do odd jobs to bring in a little extra cash if needed, but almost everything they provided for themselves through gardening, keeping animals, hunting, foraging, making things, bartering, etc.

It was a fun and easy read partly because there was a lively, yet snarky humor about it and partly because it was a picture into the real lives of people. Here is a defining quote from her introduction:

Why is it that people assume one must be a hippie, or live in some dreary wilderness, or be a folksy, hard working, back-to-nature soybean-and-yogurt freak in order to largely by-pass the money economy? My father and I have a house on a half-acre lot 40 miles north of Philadelphia, PA (hardly a pioneer homestead), maintain a middle-class facade, and live well without a job or a regular income–and without working hard, either. (Of course, the term “live well” is open to various interpretations. We think we do–others may disagree.)

In the book she gives some practical instructions on how they live–including raising rabbits in the basement, preserving food, building a wood stove out of a steel drum, and making a still. Most of the instructions are very simple and can fall into two categories: 1)simple because it is really that simple or 2) simply an introduction.

Most people really don’t want to go this far unless forced to. Even so, it is a great read even if you just want to move toward a simpler lifestyle. It is not the one and only book you will have in your library on more self sufficient living, but it is a handy resource.

This book was just reprinted in 2010 with an afterward by the author. It is interesting to hear how her life progressed as an adult. Her dad pulled her out of school in 7th grade telling the school that they were moving to California. They didn’t, and she became an early homeschooler in the days before it was legal. She ended up becoming an aerospace engineer, entrepreneur, and college professor, among other things. 

Here is a little documentary filmed at the time. This is in 3 parts.

It’s interesting to hear how her dad talks about Dolly educating herself. I guess they are accidental homeschoolers. Actually, they would be classified as radical unschoolers. It is also interesting how his observations mirror homeschooling lingo today.

All in all I find Dolly very refreshing.

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