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.  

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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.

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*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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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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.

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*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!

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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*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.

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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?

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Growing Older Joan Gussow

 

Farmgirl School Turns Two

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Time does scurry along, doesn’t it?  My second anniversary starting this blog came and went this week.  This blog has become a seamless beginning to my morning, an outlet to the world and new friends, and a way to share our crazy farm happenings.

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But a blog is nothing if it doesn’t have readers and I am always so humbled and grateful that I have readers.  Thank you from the bottom of my spiral scribbling, chicken hoarding, pumpkin growing heart.  It is always fun to look at the stats this time of year and see what numbers Farmgirl School has obtained.  495 followers (up 200+ from last year), 51,552 hits to my blog (up over 30,000!) and the three most popular blog posts of the year were Ten Things to Know Before Moving to a Small town, How Much is it to Have a Farm Animal, and A Visit to an Amish Home. 

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This last year was particularly eventful and you were with us every second with support and cheers of encouragement.  You learned about our journey to our first farm, dreamed with me about our invisible homestead, cried with me when my farm girl in crime and dear friend, Nancy died.  Then when our goat and other animals died too.  You were there when Maryjane turned one, when Shyanne graduated, when my son, Andy, got married, when the interns came, through the planning and skill learning of getting ready for God to grant our greatest prayer of a homestead, and the day we learned we had found one to rent, you cheered us on and sent congratulations!

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The world got smaller as I started writing to a fellow blogger and met her last week for the first time.  I have met some of my readers at farmer’s markets.  I have found a whole new set of friends and family as the spance of time and space shortened, friends around the world and the country, all from writing.

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I am so happy when I learn that I have inspired people to move to the country, pursue their dreams, become herbalists, get chickens, or that I am brightening the days of those that just want to laugh at our antics and remain where they are at!

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All these things have been a great gift to me.  I read an interview with the author of “The Alchemist” who talked about finding one’s true calling in life.  One true passion.  Not becoming a mommy, or a job necessarily, but what your one true purpose is.  It is the one thing that you do not have to fight, or think about, that comes completely naturally, that is a part of your very being.  Mine is to write.  I am a writer.  Every thought process and happening in my life floats across the screen in my mind as a blog post or poem, as a letter, in words.  A writer can write but is much more fulfilled when there are readers.

Thank you for sharing our life with us.  For following in our adventures and for letting me pursue my one true purpose.

Favorite Farm Books

We love to read around here.  We are at the library a few times a week.  Emily has already started reading daily to Maryjane.  Transporting oneself into an adventure for free and the unlimited knowledge that we can obtain from books is something I do not take for granted!  I prefer farming memoirs over “how to” farm books.  I do love The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living by Abigail Gehring.  It is a mega textbook that graces the coffee table and gets little use.  However should I ever need a reference for how to fix a fence, milk a goat, or grow raspberries, all I have to do is thumb through this trusty tower of farming wisdom.  I prefer the whimsy of tales from the farm.  Direct and full of set backs, disappointments, laugh out loud humor, and triumphs.  Teach me through your story.  I have learned everything thus far from memoirs of what others are doing and from trial and error.  These are my top ten favorite farm books.  They are entertaining, secretly educational, and great summer reading.  What are your favorite books?

wisdom of a radish coverThe Wisdom of a Radish; And Other Lessons Learned On a Small Farm by Lynda Browning

I really enjoyed this book.  I laughed about every minute of it.  Her personality is so beguiling and fun.  And the lessons learned I have already instituted on my own beginning farm!

made from scratch coverMade From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich

This is one of the first books that set me on my current path.  Her prose is easy to read, like she is an old friend with a great sense of humor.  Stories of first time bees, chickens, learning the fiddle, and inspirations from her friend’s farm made me want to farm too.

barnheart cover Barnheart; incurable longing for a farm of one’s own also by Jenna Woginrich

She is one of my favorite authors.  This is the sequel to Made From Scratch and it is again like visiting an old friend, comfortable and speckled with humor.  From her rental farm, to driving around with sheep in her Subaru and to finally getting her own farm, this book is heartwarming and fun.

sheepish coverSheepish; Two Women, Fifty Sheep and Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend

Another laugh out loud memoir where she holds nothing back.  Her personal life, the personal life of sheep, and life on a farm are all painted realistically and hilariously!  I am about to read her other book, Hit By a Farm.

growing a farmerGrowing a Farmer; How I Learned to Live Off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister

From a shock of land covered in brambles and junk to a full working farm, this story is uplifting and entertaining.

the feast nearby coverThe Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

This book isn’t so much about farming, but of eating locally.  I ended up buying the book because there were so many delicious looking recipes!  After a heartbreaking divorce the author moves to a small cabin and tells delightful stories throughout the seasons.

the town that food saved cover The Town that Food Saved; How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt

This book takes us on a journey of different farms around a town where local food and small farmers bring sustenance to the people in a small area.  A roadmap for all communities that wonder how to provide truly local food.  Inspiring.  Made me want to make cheese.

the good life book The Dirty Life; On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

A great story from city to family life on a farm, it is full of antidotes, lessons, and ideas for farming and what farming life really looks like.  A little whiny at times (Oh you poor dear, had to run off with a good looking farmer to the country and *gasp* live a freeing lifestyle…) but makes up for it in vivid writing.

animal vegetable cover Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Though I was not impressed, nor pleased with her incessant bashing of vegetarians throughout the book, the general story captivated me.  Canning, preserving, growing enough food to survive, and eating in season all inspired me to try to do so myself.

the bucolic plagueThe Bucolic Plague; How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

One of my favorites.  I never laughed so hard.  The insights of a gay man and his partner, who works for Martha Stewart, stumbling upon an old farm and purchasing it.  Full of vivid local characters, darling baby goats, and great food all make up this wonderful memoir.  Funny and sensitive, a hilarious look at becoming a farmer.