Hi, Katrin. I read your message yesterday, and it really struck a chord with me. In fact, I woke up at 5 am thinking about it, so I guess I better write a reply! I wanted to speak to the "books" issue, and then to the overall issues of money/poverty. Both issues are near and dear to my heart. I personally have spent many years in poverty, my husband and I are just now ready to sell the home we bought to fix up (with no money, lol), and stand to make enough profit to erase the debt we incurred and buy something with more land. But it's been a long haul.
First, books. I love books and will go to great lengths to get my hands on them, but I could never afford all the books I want to read. I agree with all that's been said about public libraries. I use my inter-library loans all the time for books and movies. I also make lists of book requests and give them to the librarians. They have been very obliging, but strangely, they only want to buy relatively new books. I don't mind that, as the new ones tend to be more expensive anyway. Also, see if/when the libraries near you have book SALES. I've picked up some great gardening (and other) books, not necessarily permaculture, but I wouldn't be too fixated on that, because there are so many related topics. I've found several Ruth Stout books (the mulch gardening lady), and Mel Bartholemew's Square Foot Gardening, among others. Some days of the library sale have $1 a bag pricing. I've also found great deals at Goodwill and used book stores. There's another online library called soilandhealth.org that's very good. Yard sales and craigslist (especially the free section) are worth checking out as well. In addition to books, you might want to see if your library would subscribe to a permaculture magazine, and also see what they do with old magazines. And I always keep an amazon wish list of books, and tell people to look at it if they need gift ideas for b-days or Christmas.
Now, some general thoughts about poverty. My husband and I used to be very poor, now we're just kind of poor. It can be depressing, sure. But you have to realize that you being depressed doesn't do anything to help. Only by raising your energy and devoting yourself to positive things can you help yourself and others. I used to be very prone to depression, but somewhere along the line I decided not to expose myself to low energies. No violent movies, no T.V. news (actually no T.V. at all on a regular basis), no dark music. It helped me a lot. And I also incorporated positive things that I like to do and spending time with people who make me happy. It helped a lot! Also, watch your thoughts. Rather than say "We're too poor to afford land, and forest gardens are only for the rich", say "Permaculture is something I am passionate about, and I'm going to take every opportunity to learn about it and practice it until I can afford land". Or here's another comparison: rather than "We're too poor to afford to do the things I want to be doing", try "Our current state of poverty is giving me the opportunity to use extreme creativity and learn the skills I'll need when I get the land I want for a permaculture paradise".
It may help you to take an inventory of what your assets, including the "intangibles", and then a list of things/skills/habits you will need to get to your goal. You didn't say much about your situation--where you are in the country, if you live in a city/town/country, an apartment, house, if you and your husband are employed, if you have kids, etc. But I can tell from your stories that you are compassionate (because of your friend with diabetes), courageous and assertive (in confronting the creepy sex offender and police officer), and resilient (because you switched from public transit to walking everywhere). These are rare traits these days, and certainly assets that you can work with. Other assets might be: a supportive husband, a curious mind, the skill of cooking, a trowel. Think very broadly about what you already have, and then think about what you'll need in the future to live your more sustainable life. Then get creative.
As you are walking around, carry a backpack with you with a trowel, notebook, pencil, scissors, etc. If you see food plants such as blackberries or apple trees that are not in season, make a note of it so that you can glean some fruit in season. Lots of people around here have apple trees that they do nothing with, just let the apples fall. You can often get permission to pick them. If you see a beautiful or fruit-bearing shrub, take a cutting (getting permission from a private homeowner, if applicable) and see if you can root it. If you know where there is a willow tree, get some willow branches, pull off the leaves and stick them in water. Willows release a powerful rooting hormone into the water that can help other plants to root. Save your plastic food containers (and get your friends to), fill with potting soil or even soil from and obliging field if you can't buy potting soil. Plant your rooted cuttings, plant your food scraps: potato sprouts, apple cores, celery and lettuce "stumps". Not everything will be a success, but some may be and you will be gaining experience. As you are walking around, find people who's gardens you like, and try to connect with them in a friendly way. Often gardeners will share plants for nothing. Actually, come to think of it, I have a ton of free veggie/flower seeds that a friend gave me who works at the dollar store. They were going to throw them out at the end of the season so he rescued them. Send me a private message with your address if you want me to send them. If you don't already have houseplants, get a spider plant baby and an aloe baby. They grow well and propagate, so you could later sell the babies for a dollar or two.
Have you networked locally with permies in your area? There is a regional board on this forum so you can connect with like-minded people in your area. Often the best "research" is done by seeing it in person and getting a chance to practice and help someone who's already doing it. You might also want to connect with "regular" gardeners through a Master Gardener program or a community garden. There's a lot of overlap between "regular" gardening and permaculture. Are there other ways you could learn useful skills by volunteering? Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. There are lots of ways to become more self-sufficient. Sewing, knitting, crocheting, spinning, cooking (including canning, fermenting, baking), carpentry, repair (auto, appliance, small engine), making soap, candles, leather, etc. Permaculture is so all-encompassing that I'm sure you can find a niche that would work well for you.
What about animals? Could you keep rabbits where you live? Rabbit waste is an excellent non-burning fertilizer for plants. You could even breed them for meat or for sale if you were so inclined. What about fish? If you could get a free or cheap fish tank on craigslist or a yard sale, even some feeder goldfish would create excellent fertilizer water for your plants. How about a worm box? I've started a worm box with just a few dozen worms (dug from the soil or a compost pile) in a large sterilite plastic container with a lid. Fill it with damp newspaper and your fruit and veggie scraps (not too many scraps until they start breeding). Another excellent fertilizer source. Ground up eggshells are also good fertilizer. You can start to create your own mini plant-animal loop even in an apartment.
Good luck! I wish you the best.