18 Authors, 30 Books (Great Homesteading and Farming Books)

On day eleven of our “So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series” we are learning from other homesteaders and farmers.  Now, there is nothing like learning first hand; sitting in a kitchen watching a farm wife deftly move from task to task.  Asking a homesteader how much wood you need to get through winter (3 cords ought to do ya if you live somewhere chilly), or working with a lifelong gardener for a summer is priceless.  And as you live this lifestyle you do find yourself gravitating and meeting more like minded folks.  But overall, there isn’t a lot of us per capita.  Trial and error plays a huge part in the learning curve for all of us.  But most of my education has been through books and memoirs.

These are just a hand full of great books I enjoyed.  I gleaned bits and gems of information and ideas from the day to day lives of regular folk trying to make a living as a farmer, trying to simplify life as a homesteader, or getting back to nature and a grounded life living off grid.  I have laughed, I have cried, I have learned.  And for books and the ability to read, I am incredibly grateful.  So, here are 18 authors and 30 books to check out and enjoy over a cup of tea.  Get ready to get inspired!  (An asterisk * denotes my favorite books.  The ones that really stuck with me.)

*1- A great place to start is with Jenna Woginrich.  Her books are some of my favorites.  Made From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life is the first book I read in a long line of homesteading and farming books.  It is the book that made me go from, “Oh, that looks fun!” to “Let’s do this.”  Her series of books takes us from a rental in Idaho to her forever farm in New York with lots of lessons along the way.  Makes you want a hard cider and a fiddle.  

s-l300

2- Laura Ingalls Wilder may not have set out to be a teacher of all things homesteading when she wrote her nine books, but through these enchanting memoirs (which are mostly true, just the time lines are slightly different), the reader learns so much.  I gleaned a lot of practical farming and homesteading advice from reading these as an adult.  They are also beautifully written and hopelessly romantic.

515eStZv5KL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

*3- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying is one of the best books I have read.  Stacia Spragg-Braude writes the story of an elder in Corrales, New Mexico.  We find ourselves in her adobe kitchen with preserves covering the counters, out in the fields learning generations of farming tips and hoeing chilies.  Evelyn’s life is beautifully written out in these pages and the lessons and history are sound.  I never had squash bugs before moving to Pueblo, but I now share that sentiment as well!

51L-AuGJGXL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_

4- Goat Song by Brad Kessler taught me the most about goats and cheesemaking.  I was inspired and enchanted as I walked through the woods with his goats, their bells clanging as I turned the pages.

5- Hit By a Farm and Sheepish by Catherine Friend taught me the most about sheep.  I loved my lambs, Olaf and Sven, and I hope to have a few again.  The author holds nothing back as she recounts her life with sheep.

51TKgMSTFwL

6- The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball was a good book.  I did enjoy it and learned quite a bit from it about raising cattle, CSA’s, and the adjustment it takes to lead this kind of life.

512fsVUGCEL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

7- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the most inspiring book when it comes to local eating and sustainable farming for one’s own family.  It is filled with recipes and great advice.  Solid knowledge to help you walk away from the petroleum dripping banana and pick up a tomato start.

912L7uHQ52L

*8- The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather is not so much about homesteading or farming, but about making do and eating locally.  The story is inspiring, the recipes mouthwatering, and the wisdom will make you want a Dutch oven and a wood stove.

A1gah6bTfKL

9- Farm City by Novella Carpenter was recommended to me by one of my old farm interns.  He said I must get it and I will be wanting pigs in the front yard in no time!  I actually still have no desire to raise pigs (I will leave that to Alli and Cindy) but I was intrigued by the vacant lot farm in a rough neighborhood of Oakland and her drive to eat locally.

*10- Kurt Timmermeister’s books are genius in prose and inspiration.  Growing a Farmer gets us started and Growing a Feast inspires us to take up bee keeping, cheese making, and put on a heck of a farm-to-table dinner for friends.

51my6RaQzoL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

*11- Off on Our Own by Ted Carns was the most inspiring book when it comes to going off grid.  I loved his laid back tone, the pond in the living room, his views on life.  It made me wish I were handier but it gave me ideas!

51tAB+cyhaL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

12- Chickens in the Road by Suzanne McMinn was a cute book filled with real life, real decisions, and a quote Doug and I still use to this day about animals having many good days and one bad day on a farm.  Factory farm animals have lots of bad days and a super bad day at the end.  Her personal memoir is lovely and filled with great tips.

51uHxpFjY6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

13- Turn Here Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley was a good book.  It was marked with fights for land and other policies, a good tome of reality and life.

51Eo0XWKI+L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

*14- Better Off was one of my favorite books.  It is high time I read it again.  I was upset when I had no more pages to read!  Eric Brende and his wife’s experiment living with the Amish was at once educational and captivating as they figured out wood stoves, pumpkin farming, and the joys of a simple life.

51CMFZhrViL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

15- The Bucolic Plague will leave you laughing and wanting to visit upstate New York.  From the Martha Stewart Show to the small (slightly drunk) turkey on the Thanksgiving table, I was mesmerized by the characters and stories that Josh Kilmer-Purcell shares in this entertaining book.

77141._UY475_SS475_

16- This Organic Life is one I need to read again.  I remember bits and pieces of it.  Her tale of local food and her passion to grow all of her food are the sentiments left with me.

51s6u1Wkl9L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

*17- Wisdom of a Radish is another favorite.  Her experiences directly helped me to be a better farmer and see what it takes to keep up.  Her prose is witty and sharp.  There is a quote in there that I use still regarding f@*k up tomatoes.  Read it!  You’ll love it.

Homestead 101 Cover

*18- Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 by Katie Lynn Sanders (What?!  I am one of my favorite authors!)  This comprehensive manual is our first two years blogging and farming with plenty of how-to’s, from cheesemaking to homeschooling to canning corn.

IMG_3396

Some of these books focus on living off grid, simply, and some of them focus on farming or ranching, while others focus on homesteading.  There are a lot of facets to living simply.  There is solar and oil lamps, sewing and crocheting, shearing and milking, chickens and ducks, medicinal herbs and growing food.  There is canning and chopping wood, letter writing, and there are great books to read and tea to be brewed.  There is a never ending learning curve and plenty of experiences to enrich your life.

There are so many books that I can vaguely remember the cover but not the title or author.  So many books I did not include here!  Here are a few more books that I discovered that I will have to get soon!  I have begun work on my own extensive farming memoir.  What are your favorite homesteading and farming books?

81ixuaB7y3L

51S8j55a3NL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

61Eu0BEDxoL._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_

711pMpmXCcL

515EXb7ExpL

Growing Older Joan Gussow

 

Supporting Local Farms (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Day 7)

It is a good idea to try and be self sufficient enough that you feel secure.  You have water in empty jars in case the water gets turned off.  You have candles, oil lamps, and matches.  You have food preserved and a bustling garden.  You have firewood.  You have some cash in a coffee can.  Going further, it is really satisfying to raise your own food, preserve all of your own food and drinks, and make steps to be more eco-friendly and simple.  We can get pretty darn self sufficient, but really it not likely to be completely self sufficient.  Mainly because we need people.  We also cannot possibly do everything ourselves.  Supporting small, local farms in your state- as close to you as possible- is a great way to build each other up, create community, eat well, ensure humane treatment of animals, and support a more environmentally friendly path.

corn

We don’t have too many flour mills here in Colorado (do we have any?), and I know no one is growing coffee and sugar, so I do need to buy those.  I can choose organic or small operations to purchase from.  I grow most of our vegetables for the summer and fall here on my urban farm, but it is always nice to head to the farmer’s market and buy some fruit or unique vegetables from the organic farmers there.  We talk about bugs, weather, family, recipes.  I can also get extra produce to preserve if I didn’t grow enough. The money stays in the community, amongst friends.

feeding time 2

Most of the homestead authors I enjoy reading started out as vegetarians.  Many of us have felt strongly about vegetarianism before.  Many of my farmer friends were vegetarians.  We care about the environment.  We care about animals.  So, once we see that tofu and bananas wreck the ozone as much as anything with all the fuel and deforestation required, and that GMO crops (the basis of many a veggie burger), and factory farming are what are destroying our health and our beautiful planet, it makes a farmgirl step back and reassess.

IMG_0728

There are lovely, caring farms and ranches, many around you, that lovingly grow animals for meat and gently send them off into the night.  A world away from the pain and stench of factory farming.  My meat chickens got lots of kisses and lots of sunshine and were dead in less time than it takes to blink.  No pain.

52918050_2077553709026855_381070969042632704_n

The key to curing many of our environmental, social, and health problems can be found in our food choices.  By purchasing as much local as possible, from real people in your community, who don’t use pesticides and herbicides, who have bills to pay, and a smile to offer you, and authentic conversation, we can reverse disease, destruction, and separation.  Local is where our food should come from.  As close as possible.  Your back yard is even better.  It is possible to eat primarily local, it just takes some planning and networking on social media and at farmer’s markets to find everything you need.

IMG_1144

I despise the dairy industry and do not want to support them.  Yesterday I visited a small farm thirty minutes from mine where a gorgeous, tanned farmgirl showed me around.  She loves each and every one of the newly hatched chicks that ran by chirping, the bucks who got out and created a lot of babies this year, the old goats, the babies frolicking with their mothers, the pigs, the dogs, the land, that life.  I packed three gallons of delicious, fresh milk into my car.  Today I am making cheese and ice cream.

1524582_836539983028133_1208614485_n

Local is not more expensive.  Creating a good network of fellow farmers and ranchers is imperative to becoming a successful homesteader.

Farming Failure? (or enlightenment?)

IMG_0195

I am not sure how to tell my CSA members this week that I have more….lettuce.  Not many eggs (the girls are hiding them) and not much milk (Isabelle is giving less and I am taking more for cheese making).  Doug and I have been eating well.  We go out each evening and see what is growing.  We harvest four beets, fifteen snap peas, a large handful of beet greens, kale, spinach, and chard, four pods of peas, and ten purple snow peas.  Add some fresh garlic from the garden and a handful of chives.  This makes a really tasty dinner sautéed or roasted with a bit of goat cheese and some homemade bread.  Each day there is slightly new bounty, but not enough for a bushel extra a week to be harvested.  I keep thinking I need more space!

IMG_0219

After I read that book with the great CSA model that I wrote about last week, I was fired up.  Lord, when I get fired up, watch out.  I do everything intensely.  I give my husband a full time job with all the work I put out there for us.  I am gung ho.  But, I also just as easily see when that idea is not working and promptly put a stop to it.

IMG_0220

I was chatting with one of my friends who is one of seven kids from Miller Farms.  The work there is difficult.  That would be an understatement.  A thousand acres and a ton of farmer’s markets, crazy weather, and having to purchase food to bring to the farmers market at the beginning of the season is debt inducing and back breaking.  The kids, one by one, making their way to new fields.  Not farming ones.  Her friends who had a large farm near them just sold out and started a brewery.  Happy as can be and not nearly so tired.  This caused me to pause in my plans.

IMG_0221

I want to farm.  I want to farm and teach for life.  Can I imagine myself tilling enough fields and planting enough and hoeing enough and harvesting enough to feed even a hundred people?  Our quarter acre garden takes up a lot of time and there wouldn’t be much more to give.  When I brought produce to the market, there was very little of it.  I felt like a failure.  But, looking at the farm next to me unpack box after box of produce from Mexico and California, then stare at a customer right in the face and say they grew it made me realize, I am not a failure.  There is not a lot of produce right now.  I do not live in a climate that allows a ton of produce right now.  Also as I sold a bundle of onions for a buck, or last year with a handful of potatoes for a few dollars, I am not doing anyone any favors. I sell them the food that was supposed to feed my family, they may or may not let it rot, and then they (and we) are hungry again.

IMG_0218

I am a natural born teacher.  Even as a child I taught everything I knew.  I stayed in at recess in second grade to teach younger kids how to read.  I taught dance, modeling, and teach everything else I know from cheese making to soap making.  I am a teacher.

IMG_0222

I have become quite interested in Permaculture.  I have heard some lectures and read a bit about it and I think I will hit the library today to find out more.  I love the idea of everything growing willy nilly where it wishes and the lower impact on the earth.  The gardens I am attracted to are ones that hold a bit of spiritual magic, a place where prayer comes naturally, and the wild world lives as one, from micro-organisms to lady bugs to blue jays and squirrels.  A place I can teach my herbalist classes and homesteading classes.  Workshops and visitors, plenty of food and homemade wine, goats and chickens, and a pony for Maryjane.

IMG_0217

I do not want to quit being a farmer, ever.  But perhaps my vision of what a farmer is is being held captive, only seeing farmers as market farmers.  There are a lot of different farmers and farm techniques.  I could sell you a bundle of radishes or teach you (inspire you) to grow your own.

IMG_0162

This has been an amazing practice farm.  What a blessing to be here.  We have learned a few things.  When I started this blog we only had a handful of chickens and some sad looking plants in the garden.  We have learned how to grow food.  In the driveway, on the porch, in the side yard, the front yard, and in the raised beds.  I realized that the ants I tried to kill were taking away larvae that were eating my green beans.  I realized that the voles that Doug tried to kill were aerating the soil and that the mounds where I thought they took plants actually just covered the plants and those were the biggest under the soil.  I realize that city water is not much better than a swimming pool.  If  you set a bucket under the spigot to catch drips, the nauseating smell of chlorine rises up as you approach.  We have learned what we are good at and what we are not.  The search for a new farm to lease will be on shortly and we know what we are looking for.  We need an enchanting place to make into a learning place.  A spiritual place.  A place where we can provide for our family.  A place to learn more and more and more…..

Veggies on the Cheap

farmers table

Preserving food for the winter is a smart thing to do.  Whether a snow storm keeps you indoors or for some reason there is a tragedy and the grocery store is not available to you to buy food, you best have some stores.  You could can, dehydrate, or freeze (though watch for power outages), and store root crops.  I have plenty of posts on how to do so but where do you get the vegetables affordably?  A case of vegetables at the grocery store would be cost prohibitive.  I am farming a quarter acre but I will not have enough to eat now and get us through the entire winter.  We better head to the farmer’s market.

  • Ask for seconds.  Ask the farm early in the day to save you the slightly bruised tomatoes to make sauce with.  Or the apricots to can.  Or anything that may be still good but it is not pretty enough to sell.  You could end up taking home cases of plenty good produce!
  • Ask how much a case of something is.  If it is in season it will be cheaper.  You may be surprised that it is not as much as you would think and you are supporting a farmer.
  • Go at the end of the day and see what is left.  Farmers don’t generally want to take things home.
  • Seek out friends with gardens.  Everything is usually ready at once!  Farms come in all sizes.
  • When at the market, don’t ask how much everything is individually.  If you fill up a big bag or box with stuff then ask how much it is, you will get a better deal.
  • Start a friendship up with people at the farm.  Friends get deals, and making friends is always a great way to improve life even if you didn’t get anything!  Be a loyal customer.  Loyal customers get deals.

Now time is ticking!  Best get preserving!

Farm Fresh Food

eat real food

I wanted to be a vegetarian when I was six and first found out where meat came from, but it seemed that there was no such thing as vegetarianism in my family.  I read a teen magazine at the age of twelve that indicated that there was such a thing as vegetarianism.  I was so excited.  I ran up and told my mother!  She wasn’t thrilled and I think she thought it was a phase.  That was twenty-seven years ago.  It’s not that I think it is evil (though I think factory farms are), I just can’t eat meat.  The consistency and smell and origin holds no appeal to me.  Doug went vegetarian about eight years ago for health reasons and then for compassion reasons.  We started reading books.  We became Raw Foodies for a very tumultuous year (cold food 24 hours a day anyone?).  We watched Food Inc.  We instantly became vegans.  Doug lost much needed weight and we were full of energy.  We were vegan for three years until recently when we gleefully fell off the wagon and into baked brie.

The way we are eating now feels right but we need more vegetables (come on summer!).  We likely eat too much fish and our mercury levels are probably causing us to glow.  Our cholesterol may not be so hot either.  Plants bring down cholesterol.  We are comfortably pescetarian.  We just don’t have any desire to eat our chickens.  Though if people are going to eat meat, doesn’t  it make sense to snub factory farms and their cruelty and unhealthy meat?  A chicken with his head cut off in two seconds flat and supports a local farmer makes a whole lot more sense to me than the stash of unknown meat from the grocery store.  A cow roaming happily about a pasture of green grass and doesn’t know what hit him when he becomes a side of beef is a lot nicer than the feed lots of horror.

There are so many factors for people to decide from each day.  Is a pesticide filled salad better than a factory farmed McDonald’s hamburger?  Probably.  Is an organic salad better than a pesticide filled one?  Absolutely.  Is whole grain bread better than white?  Yes.  Are organic whole grains better than non-organic, possibly genetically modified wheat?  Sure thing.  Would my cousin argue that grains are toxic and meat and vegetables are the only way to go?  Yes.

Wouldn’t our farming forefathers give us a look of absolute pity and awe at our wild confusion?

grow food

Eat from a farm.  One that doesn’t grow GMO’s.  Where the ground was fed with manure and scraps from the farm (a full circle).  Where the animals eat grass and the chickens eat grasshoppers, where the seeds are watered and grow up to be nutritious vegetables.  Where fruit is luscious and sweet, and not trucked from Peru.  Where eggs are warm from the coop and the milk is rich and sweet and raw from the goat or cow.  Where one can recognize each and every ingredient.  Corn.  Butter.  Eggs.  Cheese.  Lettuce.  Buckwheat.  Tomato.  Basil.

Part of the reason we started using Nancy’s goat’s milk and cheese was because I started reading ingredients.  What the heck are natural flavors?  From what?  Worms?  Bark?  Rum?  How do you make soy lecithin?  I haven’t seen a recipe for this.  I don’t want any more lab created ingredients.  No more boxes in my house.

Organic if possible.  Tons of vegetables and fruits, preferably from my garden, or my friend’s, the farmer’s market, or if all else fails, the health food store.  Eggs from my coop.  Milk from the goats down the street.  Cheese and butter made by me.  Bread made from grains that I ground, preferably grown locally, and baked into four ingredient loaves of steaming hot goodness.  Corn that is actually corn.  The kind great-great grandma used to eat.

This is a “diet” I can stand behind.  Real food all the time!  Food that nourishes us.  Food that supports the community.

This year Nancy and I start out on a new venture.  Growing for market.  I hope you will support your farmers this year.  Support those that don’t use pesticides and that have dirt on their hands.  Support the right to eat real food.  The government will be happy to subsidize fake food for you but if we will open our eyes and see the environmental and physical damage we are causing and start eating real food from the ground, from a farm, from our neighbor imagine the difference that would make.

eat local greens

(All artwork is from Victory Garden of Tomorrow by Joe Wirthheim. http://victorygardenoftomorrow.com/growfood2.html I have his posters hanging in my dining room as a visual inspiration.  I love them!)