Saturday, June 25, 2011

i loved these books!

There are a lot of different directions you can take homesteading, but all of them require some sort of livestock. To me, it is the animals that turn backyards into farms and suburban back lots into homesteads. Without the heartbeats you have a garden, and that is a beautiful thing in itself, but a homestead is a little scrappier, a little louder, and it comes with feathers, hooves, paws, and fur.

The Backyard Homestead's Guide to Raising Farm Animals is becoming a favorite around here. I got it because I wanted to see how it would be different than the original Backyard Homestead (the book it's a spin-off of) and was so happy with it. I think it's a fine introduction for anyone jumping into this life and already has a crate of chickens in the back of their sedan. But who I really suggest it for, is you dreamers out there—folks who have never held their own chicks or put on a bee veil. This explains in friendly detail exactly what goes into starting with poultry, cows, goats, rabbits, sheep and pigs so you have a really good idea what you're getting into. Illustrated, charted, and with plenty of easy-to-read sidebars it's what the beginner needs to digest information in understandable doses. Also, you can read it as several smaller books by animal. Not into pigs? Fine, skip to the sheep chapter. Allergic to bees? No problem, you don't need to read it to get what it takes to raise fiber rabbits. Grab it.

Another book I want to mention, for those of you who have near-Amish dreams of off grid living is Back to Basics. This book has been around forever, originally a Reader's Digest Compendium, but now it's back and better than ever. When I was ten-years-old my grandmother had a copy of this in her house and I used to page through it totally enthralled at people making maple syrup and working with horses, but after a while I would put it down and join her for tea and The Golden Girls. Flash forward a few decades later and my editor finds the same book at a book sale, and sends it as a gift. My heart melted. I made black tea the way my grandmother made it for me (two scoops lemon, two scoops sugar) and sat down to page through it again. My heart then beat like crazy. This book I read as a child, like a picture book, was now showing me things I was doing everyday of my life...

Back to Basics is out again, a newer version but the same rectangle and illustrations it always had before. This is a big ol' bible of serious homestead living. I mean, it teaches you how to make roads with a draft horse and an old metal barrel. Roads!?! I mean, what back-to-the-land book covers road construction via horsepower? It explains searching for and buying land, building a dulcimer from scratch, and how to chop up a lamb shank (and a lot more). It's another seriously great book for those of you dealing with a very primal diagnose of Barnheart. It's not anywhere near as detailed on animals as the title above, but if you're just looking through it as a catalog of inspiration, you gotta have one. Check it out from your library, or better yet, just check your grandmother's bookcase.


Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

I love stocking my bookcase with these kind of books. Right now I have "The Backyard Homestead", "The Complete Guide to Composting" (thank you Nana), "The Amish Cook at Home" (LOOOOVE IT), "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" about 3 years of Mother Earth News, and lots of pamphlet/booklet style publications on gardening. I use most of these regularly. I love that when I have a question, I can go flip through a book and find an answer that I can trust. I would spend my life savings on books if I could.

June 25, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger John B said...

My Mother-in-law gave me a copy for my birthday when I was still in the Navy. It inspired my Wife and I to buy a 60 acre farm in WV and move here after I retired. We have been here now for 25 years and we have given all the kids copies of Back to Basics. It is an inspiring book. I now blacksmith, woodwork, have a Kubota tractor and two large gardens. We can and freeze all our veggies. We also can and freeze beef and pork bought locally. The canned pork is really good with home grown sauerkraut. We grind our own deer burger mixed with about 20% bacon. We haven't had chickens in quite a few years but I think your chicken posts may get us started again. Keep up the good work. Your blog is a real treat and we enjoy reading it. If you are ever in WV look us up. John and Tina

June 25, 2011 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Back to Basics is a good one, but be wary of other homesteading books from Skyhorse Publications. They took a fairly decent book, The Deliberate Life, and republished it under the name of The Ultimate Homesteading Guide, and basically really messed it up. They have another title that I reviewed, and it's pretty evident that they are in it for the money they can wring out of homesteaders, because they clearly do not 'get it', because they emphasize all the wrong things and de-emphasize the things you need to know. But Back to Basics is a great book.

My favorite publisher for all things homesteading is your publisher- Storey Publications, because they do get it, and have for a long time. Chelsea Green is another good publisher for books of that ilk.

June 25, 2011 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger admin said...

Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve been looking for “outlets” to tide me over until I can invest in property of my own. Saving up for future endeavors has meant a move to the city to make $$, and it would be wonderful to have some bees or fiber rabbits (something I’d heard little about until now) to tend to while I endure the city life—not just a garden. Still trying to figure out the logistics of having chickens with 3 feisty dogs—one who deems anything with feathers fair hunting game.

June 25, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

I randomly picked up this book at the library a few months back. I love it! I had been trying to learn how to make wool braided rugs. I read numerous articles and how to's but this one book - with only two pages devoted to braided rugs - put it all in perspective for me and really made sense. When I returned it the librarian helped me use their new copier to copy those two pages. She told me she had the same reaction to the pages on seat weaving. It just made sense.

June 25, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

How do you scoop lemon?

June 25, 2011 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

scoop lemon?

melon baller?

June 25, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Love Back to Basics. I don't have the other one yet but I'm definitely going to pick it up based on your recommendation. I appreciate you sharing with us which ones you find most helpful. A lot of them look great, but someone who has put the info to use and recommends it means a lot.

June 27, 2011 at 1:01 AM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

I was just recently given "The Backyard Homestead's Guide to Raising Farm Animals" as a slightly early house(homestead)-warming gift from my father...
It's great!

Back to Basics, now, that sounds great... I've got quite the shelf of reference books, but that sounds like one that would fill in a few gaps!

June 27, 2011 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger Sage said...

I love what you said about "Back to Basics." My parents had that book when I was a child, and I would also read it like a picture book. I couldn't believe my luck when I found it as an adult! I also like "Living on the Earth" by Alicia Bay Laurel. It's a little hippy-ish, but nothing wrong with that!

June 27, 2011 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I love my copy of Back to Basics. I call it my apocalypse bible

June 27, 2011 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One: Your blog is my vicarious life, I just need you to know that. As someone who spends more time on other continents than in her apartment, your words are the best way to scratch my homesteading itch. Thank you so much.

Two: Have you read We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich? I am assuming yes, but if not -- she is a pioneer, progressive, and a hoot right out of the 1930s.

July 6, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

They took a relatively decent book, The Deliberate Life, and republished it below the identify with the Ultimate Homesteading Guide

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December 13, 2011 at 1:11 AM  

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