Harriet Fasenfest on tour with ‘A Householder’s Guide to the Universe’

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Portland is undeniably chock full of beards, ironic glasses, and hip cafés that sell DIY books on how to fix bikes and home gardening. Does the world need yet another book that intends to get you out of the supermarket and into your home and garden?

Harriet Fasenfest, author of A Householder’s Guide to the Universe, thinks so, because she believes that thorough research and reading outside of her book will help you find the way to a homestead that works best for you—and I like that she recognizes sustainability and homemaking are not static, that she encourages us to find our own way.

Harriet Fasenfest, author, resident of Portland, New York native, and self proclaimed “urban homesteader” particularly appeals because, yes, her mantra is KEEP READING, but also because she creates a likable, funny narrative throughout the book. A Householder’s Guide to the Universe is not quite the typical DIY homemaking manual—it is part autobiography, part reference manual, part garden journal. It has more personality than an encyclopedia or how-to article that you could easily Google—Fasenfest is simultaneously expert and self-depreciating, funny and then deeply personal (she shares with us, for example, the lovely, poetic, relatable idea that she has a “toxic and indulgent fascination with despair”).

The book is perfect for a newbie gardener who’s interested in homemaking but doesn’t know how interested–Fasenfest makes plenty of suggestions for where to go after you’re through with A Householder’s Guide, such as A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural by Wendell Berry. It’s pretty clearly divided by month, and it’s very easy to skip around if you have particular interests or various levels of commitment to the narrative. Each month is clearly labeled with a personal introduction, a Home section, and a Garden section.

Throughout the book, we come to understand and trust Harriet Fasenfest’s complex author ethos: we find that she once ran a small business (a café), that she is an educator to neighbors, friends, students, but also speaks at conferences about the philosophy of householding, that she is a mother, a householder, a passionate woman. We then learn what to plant, how to shop, harvest, cook, can, store. At the very least, this book will inspire you to plant garlic, and in mostly colloquial, easily decipherable language.

A Householder’s Guide to the Universe is published by Tin House, a Portland-based press. They put out pretty cool stuff. Read more about Harriet Fasenfest and food storage at the New York Times website.

Harriet Fasenfest will be reading from her book at these Northwest locations:

Saturday, November 13, at 4:30 pm
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

Monday, November 15, at 7:00 pm
Village Books
1200 11th Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Wednesday, November 17, at 7:30 pm
Annie Blooms Books
7834 SW Capitol HWY
Portland, OR 97219

Thursday, November 18, at 6:30 pm
Pistils Nursery
3811 N. Mississippi
Portland, OR

Monday, November 22, at 7:30 pm
Powell’s Books
1005 W. Burnside
Portland, OR 97209

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