A Great Old Book,
And a High Compliment

Dateline: 21 June 2013

When I was 16 years old I bought myself a copy of The Mother Earth News Almanac. I had never heard of The Mother Earth News but the book caught my eye in a bookstore, and as I flipped through the pages, I was enthralled with all the down-to-earth information and ideas. That book resonated with me in a very profound way. It still does. It prompted me to subscribe to The Mother Earth News magazine, which was a life-changing experience.

I learned a lot of things from the old Mother Earth News magazines. One thing I learned is how to write how-to articles. In fact, one of the old articles in that magazine was titled, "How to Write For Mother." I still think it is one of the best things I have ever read on the subject of writing a good how-to essay or article.

John Shuttleworth, the man who started Mother Earth News, was, in my opinion, a master when it came to communicating with the written word. He didn't win a Pulitzer and his name isn't considered with the great authors of history, but, I'm telling you, he knew how to engage readers. The following excerpt comes from an old issue of Mother Earth News and served to introduce readers to the then-new Mother Earth News Almanac (published back in 1973)...

The crew that puts together LIFESTYLE! and THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS was given a special holiday present last fall: In addition to its usual average of about 56 hours of work a week, it was presented with the chore of nailing together (in its spare time) a 384-page paperback book for Bantam. 
September, October, November, December and the first few days of January—in other words—were pretty brutal for some of the folks around here . . . and I'm afraid they didn't have much of a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's celebration at all.
Why did they do it . . . why did nearly a dozen individuals work themselves (for very little more than minimum wage) until they were so exhausted that—at one time or another—they all actually became physically sick? Because they're damn good people who want to get THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS Research Center built for the (we hope) subsequent benefit of the planet and all of us. They knew that, by putting together a book that Bantam could mass-market, they'd be helping to spread MOTHER EARTH NEW's word just a little further and—if all goes well—putting a few more dollars into the Research Center fund. I'm dang proud of 'em all.
And the book? Oh yes, the book. It's called THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ALMANAC and it's packed with tables and formulas and recipes and tips and hints and weather lore and wild food ideas and organic gardening information and land-finding methods and recycling projects and alternative power concepts and all kinds of things. A few (actually a very, very few) of the book's subjects are shown on these two pages just to give you the tiniest idea of the wealth of knowledge crammed into the paperback . . . all written and illustrated just for the book.
Look for THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ALMANAC wherever paperbacks are sold . . . or order out a copy direct from MOTHER EARTH NEW's bookshelf. The money, as they say, is going for a good cause . . . and I betcha you'll like the book too!

I am prompted to tell you about The Mother Earth News Almanac today because my newest book, The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, is starting to get a few comments and reviews (favorable ones, for which I am thankful) and the following comment was posted at the new book's "hidden" online Resources web site:

"The book is great! It reminds me of the old Mother Earth News Almanac, but very focused."

That little bit of feedback is high-praise, indeed, and it made my day to read it. 

For those of you who have not seen The Mother Earth News Almanac, you can find old copies for sale at a reasonable price on the internet. It is a remarkable book. Though it is now 40 years old, and some of the information is dated, it is still well worth getting a copy if you want a good dose of down-to-earth inspiration.


Anonymous said...

I go my copy of Planet Whizbang Idea Book yesterday. Yesterday and today I am canning tomatoes (millions of tomatoes...hah hah) but I did take a moment to open the book and saw the drawn chicken and your signature. I love it.... thanks Mr Kimball for sharing your wit and knowledge and "can do" spirit with us. Shannon from Lufkin, Tx

Carol said...

A long-time reader here. I'm jumping in to let you know that there apparently is a problem with your RSS feed. I began wondering what had happened to you and see that your feeds quit working in April. Here's the message:
Sorry. Feed not found.

This URL does not point to a valid feed. It is possible that this feed existed in the past and is not longer published. It is also possible that you entered the wrong URL.
Letting you know here because I don't see another way to contact you. Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading whatever you have to say!

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you.

I did something in my settings for this blog so that it doesn't update at other people's blogs that have linked to me, and can't seem to find the fix. It's very discouraging.

I have an e-mail signup form over at the top on the right sidebar that I'm encouraging people to use so they can be informed when I post a new blog here.

One of these days I'll figure out what I did wrong (I hope).


Herrick Kimball said...


I think I might have fixed the problem. Thanks for prompting me to at least try again.

Matt B said...

I just purchased my copy of The Mother Earth News Almanac! Thank you for suggesting it. I picked it up from Amazon.com for less than $9 and I look forward to looking through it and putting some of that info to good use.

Also, I'm glad you got your RSS feed working again. I thought I had done something in my blog reader!


Herrick Kimball said...


I'm pretty certain you'll find that $9 well spent for the entertainment and instruction. My copy came up missing a few years ago and I bought another used one online.

There is a recipe in there for "onion butter" made by boiling onions down, sort of like maple syrup. I have always wanted to try doing that but never get around to it. Maybe this year....

Pam Baker said...

I have to laugh. I love that you date your blog posts, as every good writer should and so many don't. But go look at the date on this post about the MEN Almanac. You will chuckle too.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hmmm. 90 years in the future. I'll fix that now. Thanks, Pam.