A “Root” reader recently asked me to share a list of my favorite homesteading books. Here goes… There are several books, which offer what I consider to be solid advice for novices to farming, hobby farming, and homesteading. The ones I pull off the shelf, out of the pile (books are everywhere in my home)… every winter and help me rethink what I want to grow and what needs to be done in preparation for those late spring days. I’m going to share with you the titles of these books as well as a couple from my nightstand.
First, though, about acquiring books. There are those you will want to own (think Eliot Coleman) and those you can borrow from the library. And, of course if you are in the process of learning please don’t forget about the wonderful classes U. Maine Extension offers, some of the free online resources (specialized e.g. Backyard Chickens), and the many opportunities Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association offers throughout the year. If you want to learn to grow something or keep animals, Maine is about one of the best places to live – the quality of teachers here is unbelievable (farmers, U. Maine staff…) and of course my (well the Lindgrens’) beloved Rabelais Books is in Biddeford, Maine. You can lose yourself there in the wonder of material on food, agriculture, drink…it’s a goldmine of new and used books.
I find myself reading farming and gardening stories in the form of books and online sources for pure pleasure. Curl up on the sofa in your PJs with a cup of tea and a copy of Rosamond Carr’s Land of a Thousand Hills about pyrentheum farming in central east Africa in the 1950s or Jack Lazor’s The Organic Grain Grower (bit more academic, but fascinating). Taking a break from adding pics to your “farm” or “homesteading” Pinterest board – check out the website for Kew Royal Botanic Gardens or some of the Smithsonian Institution’s sites (here’s a link to the American Museum of Natural History’s past exhibit Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture).
Without further adieu…the “list”:
The Backyard Homestead: A Guide to Farm Animals by Gail Damerow, Kelly Klober, and Carol Ekarius. Learn how to raise chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, pigs, and honey bees. *Don’t rely on this book alone for animal raising/beekeeping info. Pair up with Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile’s The Beekeeper’s Handbook, (or anything Phil at The Honey Exchange recommends), one of Storey’s dedicated guides to raising a certain type of animal (Storey is generally very reliable), and/or Keeping Chickens by Ashley English (she’s a whiz kid – I love all her books).
The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman! There is no finer book on growing one’s own food in my humble opinion. I also have a copy of his The Winter Harvest Handbook. Both published by Chelsea Green, an exemplary source in all things ag-related.
The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia for Independent Living by Nicole Faires. Easy to follow instructions, lots of photos and illustrations, and plenty of helpful notes. Homemade aftershave recipe, basket making, chicken rearing, duck breeding, food storage…everything – just use this as a starter and/or to get you excited about all the things you can learn more about.
The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production by John Navazio. Offers detailed information e.g. crop characteristics, soil and fertility requirements, climatic and geographic suitability for growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices.