Rustic Retreats: A Build-It-Yourself Guide, by David & Jeanie Stiles
Although I do not consider myself the most handy person when it comes to constructing buildings  or anything else of the kind, I found this book to be very enjoyable. I know some people who could construct without too much trouble the retreats discussed in this book, and I found more than a few of the structures included here to be well-worth trying out. Even if I do not feel confident enough to actually build, at this time, any of the structures discussed here, I do feel as if what is included in this book would be well worth making and have at least heard some people plan and build items discussed here. All in all, this is a book with a great deal of beautiful building designs, amusing text, and a great deal of practical tips and advice for those who embark on constructing the various buildings mentioned here, all of which share in common a rustic quality as well as a decidedly low-tech view of how to live. If you want to live like the pioneers did, and develop at least some of their skills, this book is a good one.
In about 150 pages the authors discuss a wide variety of potential buildings, although they begin with necessary tools as well as tips on how to build one’s own handcart in order to haul items. After that the authors discuss basic building techniques, looking and strong and weak joins, windows, skylights, doors, roofs, latches, locks, ropes and knots, and how to deal with trees. It is only at this point that the authors discuss buildings, beginning with garden retreats like pavilions and a beautiful grape arbor, before looking at buildings on the ground like lean-tos and huts, a raft and water gazebo, two types of treehouses, some primitive native shelters like a wigwam, tipi, and yurt, some little houses like a log cabin and a writer’s retreat, and then a campfire circle and wind sculpture. The end result is a book that offers a wide variety of practical advice and beautiful designs for structures depending on how one’s whimsy takes the reader. Those readers who enjoy rural living will likely find at least something of interest in its pages, and that makes this book one that will likely be enjoyed by many.
Admittedly, I am not the target audience for a volume like this. I spend too much of my own time on the internet and doing my writing on computers, and am far too inexperienced at handling the tools necessary to do much of the building here. Even so, this is the sort of book that feeds the imagination, and one can imagine at least a few of these structures being immensely useful even for someone like me. And if I can find structures in this book I would like to build, have thought about building before, and may yet want to build in the future, there are likely to be many people whose greater skill at woodworking and even greater fondness for the quiet of rural living will lead them to find a great deal of inspiration here. The authors clearly fill these pages with a great deal of love and care, and it is obvious that they are not only aware of how to design and construct the structures included here but that they are full of love for the country and for the people of the country. That sort of goodwill makes this book even more enjoyable to read than it would be otherwise, and a book I can highly recommend to those who want to engage in preparation for a simpler country life.
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