Have you read The Ox-Cart Man? We discovered it last spring and I loooove it. It's a sweet picture book about a family that lived in the pioneer days (maybe just post-pioneer) living off of what they can produce and selling the extra for what they can't produce. There are vegetables, split shingles, wool, knitted mittens(!), candles, honey...it's just beautiful. My top recommendation lately. I think it appeals to the romantic in me who loves the idea of such a lifestyle, but I'm so grateful I don't have to butcher animals, pluck feathers, and do laundry by hand. I'm no vegetarian, I just don't like raw meat. I've begged off doing the turkey for thanksgiving this year because of the whole naked dead bird thing...gives me the heebie-jeebies. Twisting those wings back to tuck them under just about puts me on the floor.
I love to read and I'm in the middle of Sense and Sensibility right now. Every time I read anything from Jane Austen or others from that era I am just amazed at their lifestyle. Having only two or three servants was considered poor! Can you believe it? Huge houses, estates, bedroom suites, and yet...few rights for women, rough transportation, and, as some friends and I were discussing the other night, you only looked good in the fancy dresses if you had enough cleavage to fill them out! So I'm glad I'm living now and not then, either. And...I suppose...I do have a laundress (Mrs. Whirlpool), a couple of cooks (microwave and oven, fridge and freezer), and a maid (the dishwasher, the vacuum). And don't forget the real toilets. Phew.