Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the backyard homestead

So there's a new book out for us front-lawn farmers and I highly suggest it. It's called The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. I actually know Carleen fairly well since she was my editor for Made From Scratch. She's visited the farm in Idaho, and I've met her a few times down at Storey's HQ. (She has a paint-by-number of Monticello over her desk, which is awesome.) So if you liked my book, and after reading it considered gardening, baking, chickens or any homestead skills I wrote about, this book is the next step. It's a chunky info-packed volume going into the details you'll need to take on this farm life one step at a time. And the great thing about it is it isn't meant for people with acreage and rural mail boxes—it's a book written for people working with a quarter acre or less. I have my copy on my coffee table at the farm, and it's been the first book to make me seriously consider pork in the backyard. Not this season, but in the future for sure.

So I think it's a dandy, and here's a little more off the Storey website:
With just a quarter acre of land, you can feed a family of four with fresh, organic food year-round. This comprehensive guide to self-sufficiency gives you all the information you need to grow and preserve a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, and grains; raise chickens for eggs and meat; raise cows, sheep, and goats for meat or milk; raise pigs and rabbits; and keep honey bees. Simple instructions make it easy to enjoy canned, frozen, dried, and pickled produce all winter; use your own grains to make bread, pasta, and beer; turn fresh milk into delicious homemade yogurt, butter, and cheese; make your own wine, cordials, and herbal teas; and much, much more. It truly is possible to eat entirely from your backyard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, you talked me into it. I rarely buy books new, but now I am heading to the bookstore to find a copy of Carleen's book. I haven't bought a new book since I bought yours! That's 2 this year year already. Anymore and I won't be able to afford to buy feed for the critters I already have.

March 10, 2009 at 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think if you setup a link to Amazon for books like this you can receive a small commission. I realize this is not the priority here but every bit can help you towards your farm purchase. Just a thought.


March 10, 2009 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Melonie said...

I agree with Tony! I'd like to be able to pick this up and throw you a little "kickback" through Amazon too. :-) This is SO right up my alley. Adding it to the Amazon list for my next round.

March 10, 2009 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I've been looking for this kind of thing lately - what to grow and how much to grow to better feed our family. Thanks for sharing this, Jenna. The timing's perfect.

March 10, 2009 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Carrie and Justin said...

Thanks for sharing this! It, along with your book, are now my next two to buy. :)

March 10, 2009 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger EJ said...

Please not Amazon. Support your local bookstore! Unless all you want left is Amazon...or you no longer have local bookstores. But then where will writers like Jenna hold their book tours?

March 10, 2009 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger C said...

I just discovered this book as well! I can't wait to get a set of pigs but that's definitely in the future. Would yours be for food?

March 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Bought it! Any time you feel like recommending a good book let me know. I reserved a bunch of Storey's books from the library.

Thanks for the title, I'll let you know how it goes

March 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Because Tony mentioned it above, your dream to own a farm.... here's a thought on that subject.

Don't rush, since you seem to have a love for every place you have been, Tennessee, Idaho, Vermont. Your farm might be in West Virginia or Maine. You might find renting suits your spirit of adventure and allows you to farm and see new places.

When you said you were going to give a big farm update, it crossed my mind that maybe the lease was up and a new farm was in the works.

Not trying to tell anyone what to do -- my own decisions are hard enough!

Just what crossed my mind from reading your blog archives.

March 10, 2009 at 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider it bought. Yay! My homesteading collection is growing. Now it's time to start doing instead of just reading.

March 10, 2009 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger TheRaspberryChicken said...


Funny I'm reading this book right now. Picked it up at the bookstore last weekend. I enjoyed your book more as it was entertaining as well as informative, but this one has lots of great info.

Wow, this is my first time entering a blog. I just stumbled onto your book a few weeks ago as I'm always reading this sort of stuff. I've been reading this blog ever since, a little at a time. I've been wanting a farm for forever and trying to get one for the past couple of years but with the economy and housing market what it is I don't know when we are going to be able to make it happen. And now Worcester won't let me keep chickens either... The kids already had them named...

March 11, 2009 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger CassandraBeth said...

Glad to find out about you. I'm a Vermonter now living in Montreal, and was just writing about the slow demise of self-sufficiency in New England on my own blog - one of your readers (EJ) sent me your link. I'll keep reading - great to hear about those peas!

March 13, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

I ordered your book on a whim, and I am SO happy I did. I enjoyed every page. I laughed. I cried (the rabbit, need I say more?), I laughed some more.
I live in Montana and have a few acres to play with. I have been wanting to become more self sufficient but didn't know where to start... heck, I didn't even know where to begin to look!
Thanks for all your insight. I am now thinking of starting with a small raised garden this spring... then maybe moving up to chickens, rabbits, and bees next year. I had never concidered bees until I read your book.
I will go and find Carleen's book this weekend. Thanks for the recommendation. I am sure it will answer many of the how-to questions I am now asking after reading YOUR book!
Thanks again for giving us such a good book!

March 20, 2009 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger klh said...

USA: TX, MS, FL, CA, AR; Mexico, Rep. Dominicana, Côté d’Ivoire, Nigeria,
Nicaragua, Honduras, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Haiti, England, India, Uzbekistan


Workshops in organic, no-till, permanent bed gardening, mini-farming and mini-ranching worldwide in English & Español

Proven Practices for Home Gardening

These are based on the internet, US & international agriculture magazines, experiences teaching agriculture in many countries, research and farmer experiences in those countries and a demonstration garden. They are ecologically sustainable, environmentally responsible, socially just and economically viable. There is unlimited, documented proof. On mini-farms the following can double the yields and reduce the labor by half compared to traditional methods. There are 200,000,000 no-till acres worldwide. ¡It works!

Fukaoka Farm, Japan, has been no-till [rice, small grains, vegetables] for 70 years. An Indian gardener has been no-till [vegetables] for 5 years. A Malawi gardener has been no-till [vegetables] on permanent beds for 25 years. A Honduras farmer has been no-till [vegetables & fruit] on permanent beds on the contour (73° slope] for 8 years. Ruth Stout [USA] had a no-till garden for 30 years and 7,000 people visited her garden. In 2006 a Cal urban mini-farm of 1/10 acre produced 6,000 lbs. of vegetables [not organic; not no-till]. OSU/OARDC: gross $90,000 acre. Not organic; not no-till.

1. Willing to change: in the mind & in the garden.
2. Financial: Little funds are needed. A few hand tools, seed, free land available, irrigation water.
3. Restore the soil to its natural health: Contaminations: inorganic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.
4. Healthy soil: Healthy soil produces healthy vegetables, for high yields, and prevents most of the disease, pest and weed problems.
5. Feed the soil; not the crops [Inorganics feed the plants and poison the soil; organics feed the soil and promote health.]
6. Increase soil organic matter every year
7. Little or no external inputs [not necessary to buy anything, from anybody, for the garden. Certain things are recommended]
8. Leave all crop residue on the beds.
9. No-till: no tilling, no digging, no plowing, no cultivating: No hard physical labor is needed so the elderly, children and lazy people can garden.
10. Permanent beds
11. Permanent paths
12. Hand tools & power-hand tools
13. 12-months production
14. Hoophouses, row covers, shade cloth
15. Greenhouse [DIY but usually not needed]
16. Organic fertilizers [16-20 probably not needed with healthy soil]
17. Organic disease control.
18. Organic herbicides.
19. Organic pesticides.
20. Biological pest control.
21. Attract beneficials
22. Protect pollinators
23. Protect soil organisms
24. Soil always covered
25. Use mulch/green manures/cover crops.
26. Organic matter: Free. Delivered free? When economically feasible, transport to the farm. Use as mulch.
27. Composting: Not necessary except for special use. Too much time and work. Pile excess organic matter until used as mulch.
28. Vermiculture Not necessary. Worms will be in the beds.
29. Crop rotation
30. Inter-cropping
31. Drip irrigation [Purchase or DIY drip lines]
32. Muscovies and Guineas
33. Small animals in pens over beds
34. Legume/grass forages
35. Hay/silage for winter as needed
36. Grains as needed
37. Imitate nature. Most gardeners fight nature. ¡Nature always wins!


Ken Hargesheimer

When Soil is Tilled
Dr. Elaine Ingham, describes an undisturbed soil—where a wide diversity of plants grow, their roots mingling with a wide diversity of soil organisms—and how it changes when it is plowed. A typical teaspoon of native grassland soil contains between 600 million and 800 million individual bacteria that are members of perhaps 10,000 species. Several miles of fungi are in that teaspoon of soil, as well as 10,000 individual protozoa. There are 20 to 30 beneficial nematodes from as many as 100 species. Root-feeding nematodes are quite scarce in truly healthy soils. They are present, but in numbers so low that it is rare to find them.

After only one tilling, a few species of bacteria and fungi disappear because the food they need is no longer put back in the system. But for the most part, all the suppressive organisms, all the nutrient cyclers, all the decomposers, all the soil organisms that rebuild good soil structure are still present and trying to do their jobs.

But tillage continues to deplete soil organic matter and kill fungi. The larger predators are crushed, their homes destroyed. The bacteria go through a bloom and blow off huge amounts of that savings-account organic matter. With continued tillage, the "policemen" (organisms) that compete with and inhibit disease are lost. The "architects" that build soil aggregates are lost. So are the "engineers"—the larger organisms that design and form the larger pores in soil. The predators that keep bacteria, fungi, and root-feeding organisms in check are lost. Disease suppression declines, soil structure erodes, and water infiltration decreases because mineral crusts form. Dr. Elaine Ingham, BioCycle, December 1998. (From ATTRA News, July 06)

March 30, 2009 at 9:49 PM  
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