‘Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money’ by Dolly Freed could just as easily be called ‘How to Kill Stuff and Eat it’ as that’s what the lion’s share of this survivalism classic is about.
The true life story of the girl behind the pseudonym Dolly Freed is as fascinating as the book itself but you can google that.
I read it cold knowing nothing much about it.
What struck me like a blow to the head was how startling, forthright and downright funny it is.
The narrator extols the virtues of laziness, lying and tax evasion and makes no bones about killing animals — so long as you’re going to eat them.
She describes in graphic detail how to rear, kill and butcher animals for food. And more power to her for having the guts to do it herself.
There’s plenty of good, down to earth, common sense advice on homesteading, mixed in with homespun wisdom and the occasional bizarre contradiction.
She laughs at people who are squeamish about, for example, killing rabbits because they’re cute (also delicious) but doesn’t kill possums ‘for totemic reasons.’
In later sections there’s antiquated advice on how to buy a cheap property and do it up yourself. And although some of it creaks and groans like a screen door banging in the wind the underlying principles are sound.
Right near the end it gets really nutty and some of the things she says are outrageous.
Gotten into a financial dispute with someone who is trying to rip you off? Don’t get a lawyer — just intimidate them. And if that doesn’t work, kill their dog.
So by all means take it with a giant pinch of salt.
But there’s an intelligent message here — an ecology even — that I’d take any day over any number of ‘white middle-class people throw out all their stuff and feel better about themselves’ books that pass for advice on minimalist living.
Own your own property and land. Cut your expenses to the absolute minimum. Learn how to fend for yourself. Become self-sufficient rather than money dependent. And make sure that everything you do supports everything else.
Why throw rotten vegetables on a compost heap for months when you can feed them to rabbits, who shit it out the next day, and fertilise the garden with that instead? Then you raise, breed, kill and eat the rabbits (along with fresh vegetables).
I don’t doubt such advice is nothing new if you’re any type of survivalist, homesteader or sit on your porch with a shotgun. But it was interesting to read a dated self-help book that was still surprisingly funny and, dare I say it, helpful.
I’ll leave you with her closing thoughts:
“Now, then, don’t you have a hobby you just don’t have time to pursue? Golf? Tennis? Partying? Studying? Music? Painting? Pottery? Hang gliding? Whatever? Even fishing or gardening — wouldn’t you like to change these from merely recreation to partly occupation? Yes? Then why don’t you simply do so? It’s feasible. It’s easy. It can be done. It should be done. Do it.”
Now get off of my lawn.