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.  


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.


*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!


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.


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.


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.


*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.


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.


*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!


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.


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.


*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.


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.


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.


*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.


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?






Growing Older Joan Gussow


Learning to Be a Farmer


I love farming books that inspire and make you laugh through antidotes and stories that actually help you learn.  I love Jenna Woginrich and many others that I told you about in my post about farming books.  I started this blog to be one of them.  I would have liked a book that was more step by step.  Like, how much to water.  Basic stuff so that I could actually get further than fried seedlings and an empty chicken coop.  I wanted to write one of those books (via blog) that would inspire, teach, and make people laugh each day.  The chapters unfolding throughout the week.  I appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to read what crazy stuff we are up to on any given day.  Writers need readers.  Thank you.

So, here are the results of the experiments (some pretty nutty) that we did this year.  It may help you in your garden planning for next year (or make you shake your head in wonder).


First, water is good.  Okay.  I have discovered that you must water more than once a week and more than a few seconds in order to feed the thirsty plants.  Daily watering (beer in hand) helped Doug and I, not only relax, for twenty minutes, but also helped us keep up with any problems or triumphs in the garden.  We discovered that hand watering saves a ton of water.  We’re talking fifty bucks a month off our water bill.  We also had the opportunity to wave at neighbors, catch up on the day, and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We also learned that one can water till the cows come home (or goats, in our case) but nothing beats rain water.  We got a great amount of it this year and it was like pouring fertilizer infused water on everything.  Something our desert-like environment wasn’t used to!  Everyone’s crabgrass is still green!

flea beetle

When the flea beetles went on the buffet and began decimating cold crops, you all chimed in and identified the little gorgers.  Also giving sound advice.  Bill was right though and the flea beetles were acting as the clean up crew.  It was too late for cold crops.  They knew it.  They were apparently smarter than the farmer.  Which leads me to the conclusion that I need to start broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts indoors next year then transplant them out in early spring.  Those guys still aren’t ready to harvest.


I learned about diatomaceous earth.  I learned that when dousing plants and soil with “natural”, “organic”, and effective bug killers, that the substance cannot differentiate between flea beetles, leaf miners, and lady bugs.  Or bees.  Or all the micro-organisms I have so carefully protected.

trash can

The results of the potato barrel experiment were…um…cute.  Seven tiny potatoes in one, five in the other.  Now, I did notice that the soil and straw were very damp.  Something I would not have had to worry about in past years.  I’m betting quite a few of them already decomposed.  The ones in the ground did great!


I think mulching with straw is a brilliant idea, and I will do it more than I did this year.  We never did mulch with clothes like I considered.  Worried that I would trip, while holding my beer, while watering, while waving at passerby’s.  I have a cute farmer image to uphold here.


Goats, in all their cuteness, are a pain in the %# and can get through anything.  We’ll decide what farm animals (home bodies, I am hoping) to get next year.

The fall crops came up enthusiastically, then turned yellow and died.  I forgot where I planted most of them.  The radishes are the only plants that hurried up and became ready to harvest.  Of course, I was tired of radishes by then.  Perhaps fall crops are overrated.


I love chickens.


Next year I will use my root cellar check list to plan my seed order.  I may line the porch with five gallon buckets of tomatoes and peppers.

I planted six plants of heirloom tomatoes.  Feeling very smug about myself for growing such a eloquent crop, I watched as dozens and dozens of them became ripe after the farmer’s markets were over.  They are too watery to make into sauce or to can diced.  Next year, I will plant the less cool Roma tomato.


I have learned to grow where planted.  I have learned that I am a farmer through and through.  Still learning, granted, but enthusiastic, and in love with this life.  Turns out my husband is an unlikely farmer too.  Two kids born and raised in the city becoming the next great farmers….stay tuned…