Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book Review: The Backyard Homestead

By Flea - Be A Survivor

While I was camping a few weeks ago I finished reading "The Backyard Homestead", edited by Carleen Madigan. The book is an interesting if challenging read because I am not totally convinced it is meant to be read straight through, cover to cover. I do think this book is a nice reference book to which you can read and reread sections as needed. I did learn a thing or two and was pleased with the approach the book took. As I stated in my post on Suburban Survivalists (Post 1 and Post 2) you don’t need 10 acres to run a productive homestead and this book brings that point home in a crystal clear fashion.

The book covers every aspect of homesteading from growing vegetables, raising livestock, preserving food to raising bees for honey. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have referred back to it several times already while doing additional research on some of the topics covered. I learned a tremendous amount with regard fruit trees and it is NOT as simple as plant a tree and have fruit the following year. This book explains things like self-pollination and when it will not happen (meaning you need TWO trees).

This is a very recently released book, the publish date is 2009, so all of the information is current and up-to-date. I was really pleased to see they are releasing books such as this at a time when many Americans are looking for ways to self sustain and make ends meet.

Let gets down to business…the book is broken into the following sections:

Welcome – This is a basic introduction to homesteading, what it is, what is required and why you would want to start your homestead today. It also tries to dispel the myth that you need a ton of land to enable your family to self-sustain to some degree.

Start Your Own Backyard Homestead – In this section the author shows you want could conceivably be done with as little as 1/10 of an acre. Granted some of it is a bit unrealistic BUT she raises some very valid points on placement of resources. Informative if nothing else for sure.

The Home Vegetable Garden – This section is very comprehensive and goes into detail with specific vegetables and growing zones. Growing from seed is covered as well as warm weather planting and cold weather planting. Vertical gardening, raise bed gardening and preserving you harvest are all covered in fairly comprehensive detail.

Backyard Fruits And Nuts – This section was my favorite because I am actually thinking of getting some dwarf fruit trees planted in my yard in the near future. Pollination, pruning, preserving and even making wine from your harvest are all covered. This is a very nicely done section of the book and the one I found most applicable to my situation.

Easy, Fragrant Herbs – Here herbs are covered in great detail including a detailed information chart on dozens of herbs. Recipes with fresh herbs are covered as well as drying your own herbs make up major portions of this section. This section as well as the vegetable section has a bit of an encyclopedia feel to it with the way the heavy hitters are covered from A-Z.

Home Grown Grains – Feel like growing your own wheat? Make your own bread? How bough brewing some fresh beer? All covered in this section. The beer brewing section was surprisingly large and I think many male readers will appreciate that (and some females as well!).

Poultry For Eggs And Meat - I liked this section because it goes into good detail on keeping chickens. They even include some of the laws for keeping chickens in some of the major cities and towns across the country. The different kinds of chickens available and equipment needed to care for them are all covered in some aspect.

Meat And Dairy – If you want to have some cows for milk or meat, it is covered in this book. The different types are listed along with what they are best raised for; milking or butchering. Goats are covered, as is cheese making and safe milk handling (you can really get sick if raw milk is not handled correctly).

Food From The Wild – This section includes some tips on foraging for wild edibles safely. Collecting maple syrup from maple trees and bee keeping are all covered in this section. I just wish the bee keeping section was a bit more detailed. I actually would love to do this once I move a little more rural area. Don’t think my neighbors would appreciate the bees in my yard where I live now. Italian bees seem to be the way to go for beginners being docile and a fairly hardy species.

Resources – A great list of resources including companies, websites and telephone numbers where you can purchase items and learn more information on a particular topic. This is pretty comprehensive and it is nicely done.

I whole heartedly recommend this book to my readers. In fact I think this is the book many of my readers have been waiting for, something that covers everything at least a bit. It certainly isn’t definitive but it is a great launch pad for further research on topics covered that interest you.

I think they did a bang up job putting this book together and it makes a solid effort to present all of the basics concerning a ton of different subjects. I mean let’s face it, there are entire books written on canning and bee keeping; making an effort to cover them in a dozen pages is a tall order and I think they did an admirable job.

Check it out;I think you will enjoy this one.

...that is all.

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  1. Sounds like a good book Flea. Might have to check it out.

    Kentucky Preppers Network

  2. Thanks for the excellent review, my friend! I really do need to get a copy of this book!

  3. I am about half way through this book. I think it is a great starting point to have a little info on a wide reach of subjects. It is also not preachy and trying to start a pissing contest like some other books I have read in this category. It is a great place to start on growing food in small spaces.

  4. Sounds like my kind of book. Thanks.

  5. Hi there. Great review!

    Just dropping by as the host of the Aug 2nd edition of the Book Reviews Blog Carnival, to let you know I've added you to the post.

    Thanks for submitting your review. :o)

  6. Nice review of the book. Might have to check it out sometime!