Sep 10, 2011

The Backyard Homestead

edited by by Carleen Madigan

Beyond just a vegetable garden or keeping a handful of chickens, this book aims to show how you can raise everything you'd need to eat on your own little patch of land. Even if you've just got a tenth of an acre, The Backyard Homestead claims you can produce a staggering amount of produce, fruits, grain, eggs, meat, honey, etc. It has instructions on nearly everything. Let me just make a list of the food subjects this book covers: vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, eggs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, herbs, beekeeping, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, making wine, beer, herb vinegars, bread, cheese, yogurt, etc etc etc. It just got to be kind of mind-boggling after a while. I mean, I envision a huge veggie garden, a nice full herb bed, permanent strawberry, rhubarb, asparagus patches, chickens and maybe bees someday. I might stretch that to add rabbits. I want to try my hand at breadmaking someday, although just the idea of cheese still intimidates me. But pigs? wheat? digging dandelion roots and grinding them up in leiu of coffee? Those things I don't even dream of.

One thing this book doesn't do, is give you all the details. After reading the parts about making bread I'm almost ready to follow their recipe and try (it all sounded familiar from watching my mom make bread as a child, too) but then other sections seem lacking so it makes me wonder what they skimmed over here. I've read quite a few books on beekeeping lately and their four pages here seem woefully brief. I've tried my hand at canning green beans and making jam a few times and in no way would I sally forth into that venture again with just the information in this book. So whatever activity this volume encouraged me to attempt, I'd be sure to read up a lot more on it first. However, it does inspire and show you what kind of scope really is possible in a small space. I've already added another dozen plants to the list of what I want to add into my herb garden, and am going to try their johnnycake recipe for breakfast one day.

If you read the welcome pages, it's clear why this book lacks all the details. The editor states: It's an introduction to the best of Storey's information about food production. I hope it'll inspire you and give you a starting point, a foothold to learn a few practical skills. So in that it has succeeded admirably. I am inspired, and I do want to go forth and learn more. The Storey publications include a lot of other good-sounding titles, including a few that are already on my TBR list such as Carrots Love Tomatoes and Made from Scratch.

This is really a resource book, but it was surprisingly easy and engaging to read. Even the sections I thought didn't really relate to me I ended up reading out of curiosity. For example, I don't drink alcohol but my husband has a friend who home-brews his own beer and I was curious about the process so I read the section about making beer (sounds awfully complicated!). I have no space in my yard for a nut tree, nor do I ever envision raising a beef cow, but still I found it interesting to read about those things too.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 367 pages, 2009

more opinions at:
Mama Gone Green
Seed to Harvest
four green steps


bermudaonion said...

That does sound like an interesting concept but I'd think you'd need lots of manuals to do all of that. As far as nut trees go, my parents planted a pecan tree 25 years ago and this is the first year that it's bearing more than a handful of nuts.

Chris said...

I liked this one too :) Mainly like you said, as a resource book. You're does skim a lot of things, but it gave me lots of great ideas :)