Saturday, June 6, 2009

the farm library

Before Cold Antler was up and running like it is now, I knew I had a lot to learn. I dove head first into research. I would pour over books and small farm magazines. Before I had any hoofstock or rabbit hutches—most of my energy was put into preparing, research, and trying to cook, can, and bake while dreams of sheep and chickens loped in my head.

But now, a few years down the road (and two dozen animals later) time to sit and read is at a premium. But I can't tell you how much those early days of research and library building helped me and continue to help me. Not a day goes by I don't use something I read, or have to run back into the house to look up gardening or livestock information. How much space do pumpkins need? How much milk replacer should a three-week-old goat be swilling? These are the questions that make a decent library the most important thing on a small farm since the pickup truck.

I am constantly in my bookcase. It has plenty of reference, but it also hosts memoirs, music, and inspiration for when things get low around here. It started in my kitchen, but has long since taken over the rest of the cabin. The porch, bookcases, and any free level space around here is overflowing with books. I need them. They're mentors and entertainers. There's no TV or cable here, just books and DVDs. I like movies as much as the next gal, but nothing beats a book in the hammock. Nothing.

Like I said, time for farm studies now is limited. But everyday I try to crack a book and read up on something. Maybe it's just an article on hay in The Small Farmers Journal, or maybe it's a chapter on growing Okra in the backyard. But still, I am constantly learning. I have so far to go.

If you're thinking about this life and dreaming about your own small farm—I can not stress enough the importance of starting a farm library. You might feel silly subscribing to Countryside if you live in downtown Detroit, but who cares? All those articles, books, and notes I took in classes or at small farms have become invaluable. And you'll be thrilled you did all that reading about chickens in your apartment when the time comes to put up your own backyard coop. So read up farmers. Read up and never stop. Books are our friends and it's hard to fit a Kindle in your coveralls and not break it.


Anonymous Tony in Asheville said...


June 6, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Beegirl said...

I just bought the 'Sew What Bag's book this week and can't wait to try it. I really don't sew well, but the bags look so cute. Fantastic post and so very true! My night stand is an avalanche of homesteading, food storage, canning, gardening/orchard and chicken books. Your book is there too!! Isn't learning wonderful??? Have a great weekend!

June 6, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Books, yes, books. What fun to see some of the same titles that are in my collection. A good book, a cup of tea and my hammock chair on the front porch, now that's living.

June 6, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger MrsL said...

Can never have enough/too many books. I started out before the net, and all the reading I've done over the years has certainly stood me in good stead, and I'm able to pass on ifnormation gained now too. What the net is good for is inspiration for other books to read; I especially like the American ones, and am a bit of an Amazon regular. I've spotted one in your pic I'm off to investigate about LOL



June 6, 2009 at 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Kendall said...

Have you gotten your hands on any of the Foxfire books? I love them! You can learn how to make your own banjo and your own spinning wheel!

June 6, 2009 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

The librarian says "Amen!" I've always said its a good thing I work in a library instead of a book store or I'd never bring home a paycheck. As it is I'm an Amazon junkie.

Just finished Compassionate Carnivore and Hit by a Farm...both excellent.

Jenna, you might as well put up an Amazon store because everyone is going to be asking you for book recommendations now!

June 6, 2009 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I love looking at other people's libraries. Thanks for the photo :)

June 6, 2009 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Terrific post! I agree with everyone here about how much knowledge is out there in print. I was raised to appreciate reading and our local library (thank you to all our librarians out there!)
I have my core collection which I’ll never give away; how-to books, memoirs, etc. Then I have a “rotating” stock; ones that I read and pass along for others to enjoy. This gives me space to bring more in.

June 6, 2009 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Actually speaking of Amazon, I have an Amazon store on my blog with farming/homestead books that I have enjoyed and found helpful. Here's the link if you want to copy & paste:

June 6, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Do not be without a copy of Carla Emery's "Encyclopedia of Country Living". It is the homesteaders bible. It is our go-to for pretty nearly everything. By all means, have plenty of other books too, but don't skip that one!

Also, anyone who really wants productive country acreage should read Joel Salatin's "You Can Farm". It's geared more toward a small farm business, but I find that most of his (very good) advice applies to hobbyists and self-sufficient types just as well. He's quite frank about the realities of farming and the mindset necessary to get into such an endeavor.

I don't know if it was appropriate to plug specific books here, but these two have been especially valuable to us, so I just thought I'd pass that along.

June 6, 2009 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes books are great. Its important not to become dependent on the internets - farm disasters can strike when your internet is down or electricity is out.

But please consider your local bookstores before amazon- or all we'll have is amazon....

June 6, 2009 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Good point Anonymous. Buying local means more than just food! But unfortunately around here most of the local bookstores have already been put out of business by the big box stores. I don't feel the same imperative to support B&N as I do a truly locally owned store.
Also don't forget the library. If I see something interesting on the internet I always check the online catalog for our library before I purchase.
Sorry if I was out of line mentioning my blog store...its just the most convenient list of books that I have found helpful enough to have in my own collection. Go to the library first! (says the librarian)

June 6, 2009 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Yeah, I'd buy from a local bookstore if we had one. My town of 1200 people has a grocery store, a dollar store and a music store (!) and that is the sum total of our retail.

June 6, 2009 at 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Rebekah said...

I see lots of Storey book there :) A fine choice.

June 6, 2009 at 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Kelly from Erlanger KY said...

I love Amazon. They have supplied me well. quick fast shipping. I too, have the Emery book. But I will plug for Hobby Farm Home and Mother Earth news ( which led me to Miss Jenna)I noticed my libarary ( sorry to many Belmont Breezes) is growning too. and no I didnt have winner.

June 6, 2009 at 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

I'm finding that some of the books that have been in my house for years are starting to come in handy. I'd love to support my local bookstore, but when they hit you over the head for a book, and your dollars are stretched pretty tight, you have to go with the cheapest buy. Which, most of the time for me means hitting up all my local thrift stores. And giving a new home to an unwanted book. I find that by reading, I get more excited about the day when I have my own yard full of chickens, sheep, goats, rabbits, and things...

June 6, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

i do love books as well, have been building a wonderful useful collection (my neighbors always get a giggle when we are chatting and i will mention something i read ( i still want the one neighbor to try the copper at the roofs eve to stop the moss from growing on the roof)
Today after the farmers market i made cheese , baked, cooked, sewed new ideas, knit swiffer covers, made swedish bitters...all learned from a book! And tomorrow morning will make your simple bread from your book.
Yes, i do shop amazon but try to check s afew of our used book stores before ordering.

June 6, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you mind maybe doing a post on the books that comprise your library. Or the books you found most helpful? Thanks.

June 6, 2009 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Here are some books I can't imagine not having read:


Storey's Basic Country Skills
Barnyard in Your Backyard
Living with Chickens*
Living with Sheep*
The Contrary Farmer*
The Backyard Homestead
Emery's Bible
Food Not Lawns
The Vegetable Gardeners Bible
The Backyard Beekeeper

Country Living Memoirs:
Better Off
See you in a Hundred Years
Hit by a Farm
The Dogs of Bedlam Farm
Animal Vegetable Miracle

June 7, 2009 at 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna - thanks for a view of your library - I have always loved books & have grown a huge collection of many different genres including a cookbook collection (& yes I use them all), historical fiction, gardening, canning & now self sufficiency. I love to read & always have my nose in one type or another of books. Thanks again for sharing some of your must haves. I will be on the look out for some of the titles I don't already have!
Wendy in PA

June 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Chance said...

Fantastic list -- and I saw on your bookshelf "Hit By a Farm". I love that book. Even as I appreciate the technology behind a Kindle, I will never use one, I love the crafted page too much.

June 7, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought: set up a link to for the books you love on homesteading. Amazon has a deal where your referrals earn you $. It's called the associates program and there is a link at the top right of the amazon home page. Since you get a fair amount of traffic, you might pick up some extra feed or book money. And we would have the benefit of your recommendations.

June 8, 2009 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger Lorri said...

Tara - Don't feel bad. I live in a town of about 200,000 and my local bookstores, as far as I can tell, are B&N and Borders. *sigh* I'll check, though.

Jen, you seem to enjoy the Small Farm Journal; I'll probably subscribe here soon. I wasn't sure but am going off your enjoyment of it! Thank you for all the book recommendations!

June 8, 2009 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Damn it! After reading your post I had to buy three of the books you mentioned on Amazon. I especially can't wait to read Emery's. Thanks for the suggestion!

June 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops! I guess, I shouldn't have purchased the kindle version of your book last week.
I still have a "physical" library as well and a material copy of your book will join that collection too.

Thanks for posting the photo of your library.

June 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Jody M said...

We started a subscription to Backwoods Home this year. We may add Mother Earth News, Grit, etc etc to it soon....not to mention all the books!

June 8, 2009 at 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any way we could get you to list your absolute favorite resources? I'm JUST starting and would really appreciate.

June 9, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger B's Mom said...

I live in Reading, and I have been expanding my garden every year. I found you, and your book, at the local library where I work. I loved that you spoke about antiquing in and around the Kutztown area. I enjoyed the book so much that I am going to purchase it!

June 9, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I live within 30 miles from where Countryside is published. They also have nice sheep and poultry magazines.

June 10, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

I couldn't imagine not having a stack of books falling over somewhere in my house-- the usual suspect place is the bedside table where the books get knocked over in my attempt to get to the screaming alarm clock after staying up much too late reading "just one more chapter".
Yes, your book was a culprit back in Feb.! I have now purchased two more as gifts for my friends (who wanted to borrow my copy, but I didn't want it to dissapear).

I also wanted you to know that because of your inspiration, I planted my very first (tiny) garden this year (I'm 41) and it seems to be doing well, even with the attempts of the strange weather trying to discourage me and kill off all my tiny seedlings (it was 38 degrees in Central Montana last weekend!!).
Thanks for writing Made From Scratch, and in the process, giving me the swift kick in the pants I needed to "just get on with it, instead of talking about doing it"!
You are a true inspiration!

June 10, 2009 at 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops--I asked you to list your favorite resources without realizing that was YOUR comment that did just that. Came back to check and that's when I saw it. Thanks!

June 11, 2009 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

This book collection is amazing! I live out on the prairie...My dream is to do just as you are doing :) I just bought your book, in fact, as part of my library!~
My husband thinks Im a little nuts wanting dream is to one day have a few goats for milk and cheese and an art studio in the country. Maybe some day :)

June 12, 2009 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Shona~ LALA dex press said...

Oh no, Counryside has many great articles about urban homesteading. I'm not quite in an "urban" setting, but not quite country and find the magazine (as well as Mother Earth News) to be perfect for my little place in the world. I dream of chickens, maybe not goats, but for now I can dream in those magazine pages.

June 14, 2009 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Books are a staple in our house. I just got Storey's chicken book and dairy goat book plus yours on the way from Amazon ;) Back to Basics is a family favorite and the circa 1972 hardcover Foxfire book I have is worming it's way into my heart. The chicken book is my current read and my notebook is rapidly filling with dreams and ideas. Someone said to me once "Read every book on animals you can get your hands on. Then, when you get the animals remember they didn't read the same books." :)

October 27, 2009 at 2:03 PM  

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