Thursday, March 17, 2011

the good book

I was living in an apartment in Knoxville when I picked up Catherine Friend's memoir Hit By a Farm. I grabbed it from the shelf in Borders, mostly because Garrison Keillor had a quote on the back. I think I read it in four days. The book was about two people deciding to become shepherds in the 21st century. From clueless to buying land and picking up 50 ewes.... What a ride. It showed me that changing your life 180 degrees was possible. It was the first of many like-minded stories that made me quit my job in the city and move out west.

Last week I got an email from Catherine asking if I wanted to read her new book, Sheepish? I was thrilled and an advanced reading copy came in yesterday. I started it on my lunch break. It is wonderful. You feel like you're walking with her around the farm and she's pointing and talking about things right in front of you. It is reminding me so much, so very much, about that first read of last book. I have no doubt in my mind that Friend's story of becoming a shepherd was one of the many influences that got me to this farm. Her and other authors have filled my house with their how-to, memoirs, and novels. They were all my ticket here. The inspiration that created my reality. Sometimes a good book is all it takes.

Books have been my companion on this adventure from apartment-dweller to small holder. Some like Logsdon's Contrary Farmer have spent as much time in the pasture as I had. Wendell Berry lives in my kitchen. I have listened to Kingsolver, Pollan, and others on my ipod read to me so many days in the garden I equate certain audiobook voices with seasons. Some are funny, like the recently read Bucolic Plague, and others are just Biblical standbys, like Carla's Encyclopedia.

So what farm books have inspired you along the way? Add to my list, please!

P.S. No lambs yet. This is torture.
P.P.S. Banjo Equinox details later today
P.P.S. Anyone want to come to a sheep workshop?
P.P.P.S. That picture is from last summer. I miss green grass here...


Blogger Nuno said...

John Seymour- The Good Life and How to live It

March 17, 2011 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Nuno said...

HD Thoreau- Walden or Life in the Woods

March 17, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

I would love to come to a sheep workshop!!!!

March 17, 2011 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Rachael said...

I saw that green grass and about started to drool! I am so eagerly awaiting the spring. I've started quite of collection of homesteading books myself. Here are a few of my favorites:

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (listening to now) by Barbara Kingsolver and family.
Independence Day: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation by Sharon Astyle
Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
(both your books of course, Jenna)
Country Wisdom & Know How (Storey Books) I have 2 of these. One for living off the land, and I just picked up another on gardening. I LOVE these books. They are big, and don't really fit on my bookshelves, but the are chalked full of useful information!

I am going to look for Hit By a Farm now. That sounds wonderful and I need a good read. Thanks!

March 17, 2011 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

I am going to have to check back here to get more good book ideas. Thanks.

Can you tell me the first name of Contrary Farmer author please? And the author for Hit By a farm?

I have a few books on raising sheep, but one of my grands like to rearrage things when she comes. So any good books on sheep that people recommend would be great.

March 17, 2011 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, lambies, we can't wait to see you! I haven't read any good farm books lately, although I have been looking for some good ones. I wish I could come to a sheep workshop, even though I am a goat person.


March 17, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger M said...

I wish I had a good book to recommend but it seems we all read the same one!
And regarding lambing--patience-- the body knows what to do and when. It's an exercise in letting go. Lambs are the cutest things ever; they even smell good. Your heart will open completely.
Having said that, the romance sort of withers after you notice a globby pile of afterbirth that you have to haul away before the chickens tuck into it.

March 17, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger folk city said...

To name a few...People With Dirty Hands by Robin Chotzinoff, The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, Farms of Tomorrow Revisited by Trauger Groh and Steven McFadden, Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, as well as all of Joel Salatin's farm books.

March 17, 2011 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese by Brad Kessler

The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese by Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz

Despite their titles these books say a lot about the day to day life living on a farm.

Currently I'm reading The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.

Like most everyone, I love the Pollan and Kingsolver books. They answer most of the 'why?' of homesteading.

I don't yet have a farm, or even a chicken, wish me luck!

March 17, 2011 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger MIB said...

My husband is a big fan of Lynn Miller's Farmer Pirates and Dancing Cows (Lynn's the guy behind the Small Farmer's Journal). I haven't read the whole thing, but the essays I've read have been great. I also enjoy books that are sort of snapshots of different producers, like Shear Spirit and Women of the Harvest.

March 17, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

I'd love to come to a sheep workshop. I have read most of the same books you have, but Made From Scratch was probably my biggest influence. I learned a lot from the Geek Farm Life podcast when they had a farm in Indiana, and I read the Chickens in the Road blog, as well as yours, every day. Hope those lambs start showing themselves!

March 17, 2011 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

In all your copious free time (next winter?) would you compile a reading list with the stuff from this post, and several months ago you listed a bunch of other books, and put them all together on a separate page or under a button or something? So I can find them later, without scrolling back through posts. I check here every morning, knowing that you'll tell us as soon as you can when there's a lamb. We're feeling your torture!

March 17, 2011 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

I haven't read too many farm books, more along the lines of pamphlets really that I can get online for free.
I too would love to come to a sheep workshop, there are not too many sheep in my part of VA so any help would be awesome to get started.

March 17, 2011 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger said...

Great post, Jenna -- thank you!

Like other folks, Pollan, Kingsolver, Nearing, Berry & Salatin helped inspire our farming/homesteading adventure.

I just finished reading Kimball's The Dirty Life and loved it.

My delight in sheep was first sparked by Canadian author Marsha Boulton's 'Letters from the Country' series, a hilarious and touching look at the adventures of a writer-turned-shepherd. It sits on my bookshelf beside Friend's Hit by a Farm. (Can't wait for Sheepish!)

Sonia Day's Middle Age Spread and Michael Kluckner's Wise Acres are two more good Canadian reads. Dan Needles (another Canuck) wrote two hilarious books, Letters from Wingfield Farm and Wingfield's Hope, which are fiction, but ring so true to rural life.

Barnyard in your Backyard was the first, of many, livestock books.

I could go on (and on and on) but I'll stop now!

March 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger karental said...

Tom MacCubbin "The Edible Landscape"
Suzanne Ashworth "Seed to Seed"
John Vivian "Keeping Bees"
Storey Books "Country Wisdom"
This blog
Anything Lynn Miller writes (someday I'll have a pair of draft mules...)
If you like history try "Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation". It's not a how-to book, but it is fascinating

I would love to come to a workshop, but I'm too far away. Maybe someday...

March 17, 2011 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and Living with Sheep by Geoff Hansen and Chuck Wooster. I also swear by Carla's Encyclopedia!

March 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

March 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Bex said...

I'd have to say that my gateway book was Traditional American Farming Techniques. I've grown quite a collection since then. I'd love to come to a sheep workshop but like others I'm too far away. Maybe you could video it?

March 17, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cidermaster of Rio Oscuro by Harvey Frauenglass (now out of print)

A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley Crawford

The Season's on Henry's Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm by Terra Brockman

The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family by Jim Minick

Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin off the Grid by William Powers

March 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I want to come to a sheep workshop but I don't have any sheep!

Currently reading "Half Broke Horses" and I love the self sufficiency of the characters in the book who farm in the 1920's and 30's.

March 17, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

"Better Off" by Eric Brende was wonderful. I have always thought i was Amish in another life so I was fascinated by this family who walked the line between an Amish-like community and the life of someone who (interestingly) graduated from MIT. From this book, I learned to think about technology (something I thought I hated) in a new way. I have also enjoyed several volumes of the "Foxfire Books" - compilations of magazine articles written by students of the Foxfire School in the mountains of Georgia back in the 1960s (it still exists today.) These show how learning the "old ways" can informyour choices today as well as serve as a method of learning for life. I just have to learn how to read and pick out my fields at the same time. Oh, wait, that's where technology can help, right? Gotta get out that Ipod and actually use it.

March 17, 2011 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese by Brad Kessler

March 17, 2011 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Irma said...

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kinsolver.

"Made From Scratch" by Jenna Woginrich.

(No, not sucking up, it's true dammit, lol!)

March 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

There is this little book called Made from Scratch...

March 17, 2011 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger whitneyparrillo said...

Jenna, I am also a new shepherd. My husband and I have 4 merino ewes and a merino lamb as well as a border leicester ewe. We have been waiting for our first lambs for weeks now, until yesterday when our border leicester, Phyllis, gave birth to a strapping ram lamb. I was there for the birth and it was an amazing experience to see what a good mother she is! My husband was at work so I had to consult Storey's Guide to Sheep on how to cut his umbilical cord and dip it in iodine as well as clear the ewe's teats of wax and help him find the udder. I was raised in the city, and I was so proud of my new midwife skills. Hope your lambs come soon, it is worth the wait. :)

March 17, 2011 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger whitneyparrillo said...

*Merino ram, not lamb!

March 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

As I'm sitting here trying to keep my baby goats from eating the house, the book that first inspired me was A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover. It's an old book, but very much loved.

March 17, 2011 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Noel Perrin - Best Person Rural

"Essays of a sometime farmer"

March 17, 2011 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Cpt McAdam said...

This one is probably out of print but it is what started me down the sustainable path in 1990.
Security from Five Acres by John H Tobe
Published in **1971**, he rails against the chemical manufacturers (fertilizer makers) and the use of monoculture. The man was WAY ahead of his time.
I reread it about every two-three years to inspire me to pack more onto our 3/4 acre lot that feeds us about 50% of the time.
Except for Little Debbie's. My teenage boys' junk food of choice -- we can't grow those here!

March 17, 2011 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

Fifty acres and a farm
Fifty acres and a poodle
Sylvia's farm
A book of bees

Just a few of my favorites. Keep up the good work, I really enjoyed Made from Scratch, too!

March 17, 2011 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Whiffletree Farm said...

Green Mountain Farm by Elliot Merrick and Northern Farm; a glorious year on a small Maine farm by Henry Beston. Very influential, well written and realistic. They'll never be considered dated.

March 17, 2011 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

My first book that got me interested in homesteading and farming was the Foxfire Book.

March 17, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep Chickens
Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats
Back to Basics (1st edition that my FIL still has)
Good Wives - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (not necessarily about farming, more like historical girl power pep-talk)

March 17, 2011 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger ThiftedBliss said...

Such great book suggestions-can't wait to start looking in the library for these. Mother Earth News was my gateway read to wanting the country life. A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover-one of my most favorite books. Stillmeadow Farm by Gladys Tabor was another favorite back in the 70's for me. Anything by John Seymor. I loved The Dirty Life-really great! Karen from CT

March 17, 2011 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger goatldi said...

A Wind in the Ashtree, My Small Country Living, A Small Country Living Goes On. All by Jeanine McMullen. Wonderful, my first fall in love small holding reads.

Very tired from building new kidding pens all day. Bebes arriving almost daily very soon.


March 17, 2011 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

Jenna, have you read any Louis Bromfield? I read Pleasant Valley written in '43 and it is ahead of its time. I think if you haven't read it you would enjoy it. He also wrote The Farm.

March 18, 2011 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger kristin said...

oh i love contrary farmer. I wish i could meet Gene in real life!

March 18, 2011 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

The Foxfire books
Mother Earth News
Carla Emery's Encyclopedia
Woodswoman (Anne LaBastille) oh yeah! exciting! there's now a "Woodswoman II";
Gaia's Garden
Introduction to Permaculture (Mollison)
How To Do Things (Farm Journal compilation 1919)

AND..... not a book, but my father. I grew up on a wheat farm and he was ever-patient when I "helped" him as a child, and always encouraged curiosity.

March 18, 2011 at 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you have a sheep workshop, I'm signing up! There is literally NOTHING in my area regarding sheep or goats....or pigs or cattle....or anything farmy for that matter. I'd love to attend a sheep workshop!

March 19, 2011 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger kate said...

I have the John Seymour book that Nuno mentioned in the first comment and I love it.

That said, I imagine I will soon be looking for "left the homesteading life" books, or write one myself. I saw this phenomenon in my parents in their mid 50's, and in the people who they bought a country home from. I've followed blogs of people who loved to garden extensively until they got older, and then decided to pursue their love of city life and buy organic produce instead at farmers' markets.

In my 40's, I can feel myself between these two realities: creating a homestead, and seeing past it.

It's just on my mind today, and going to see if I can find that book. I bet it's already written. For me, the realization came after I realized I bought land in "tick central", struck with tomato blight, and lots of other problems. The ticks were the final straw. I hate them.

March 19, 2011 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Manzanita Farms said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 19, 2011 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Manzanita Farms said...

The two books that started my passion were "Made from Scratch" and "The Urban Homestead" by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. These awoke my barnheart.

March 19, 2011 at 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Seymour's The self-sufficient life and how to live it, Better Off, and any other number of books I found at work back before my mid-life career switch from librarian to nursing student...

I dream of a farm, but for now, today I turned my winter cover crop into the soil in my raised beds (not done yet, but over 1/2 through), and planted radishes, stir-fry greens, lettuce, and spinach. :)

March 19, 2011 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Oh my gosh, everyone! I just added SO MANY BOOKS to my "to read" shelf on Goodreads!! @beccaWA--there are apparently 3 Woodswoman books now (I,II, and III!). Can't wait to read all of these suggestions.

Since I think a lot of you might check back with this post for more ideas, I thought I'd ask a question of everyone: How do you think I would be most successful petitioning my town to allow chicken-keeping? My neighbor and I really want to do it but want to be effective. Thoughts?

March 20, 2011 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Emma said...

The Natural Farmer by Pat Colby. It's Australian but still relevant in the US. Talks about minerals, soil health, animal health, human health and the interrelation there of. INTERESTING STUFF

March 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM  

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