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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Backyard Homestead

Knowledge is power.  The internet is a great form of power, but the old fashion written word is an older and strong power.  Unlike, sifting through, several, articles there is a greater concentration of knowledge in books.

I have a small library that contains books I often reference.  I have added The Backyard Homestead to my collection; a decision I do not regret. 

Layout included in book
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The 411 and Overview - When you are first starting a garden or your homestead it is difficult to know how much to grow.  The Backyard Homestead, by Carleen Madigan, is worth adding to your library of knowledge and references.  I had to ask a few experts about certain sections on the books; but, besides a few gloss overs and some miscategorization for animals, this information is accurate.  The book is filled with helpful illustrations, charts, and how-to-guides.  I'm very impressed with the organization and general overview of information.  This was a very easy read and a good-kind-of simple.

Gardening - The Backyard Homestead is 3/4th about soil-growing.  This book covers the bulk of what you need to know about soil gardening.  Carleen Madigan, included several charts on, yield, and when to plant.  She does go through, wide known to some less-know garden-varieties: needs and growing methods.  She includes easy to follow examples of gardens and designing your own.  The book also includes tips on getting more out of your space.  A few of the tips are: rotating your crop during the growing season, growing in patches versus row, and more.

Obviously, this book can not include everything you need to know about planting.  There is no section on pests, or amending the unhealthy soil, and not much information on compost.  However, this tells you basics and tips on growing several plants.  For this reason, alone I could suggest it, but it has a lot more information.  There is a section on dwarf trees.  There are several illustrations that explain concepts that are difficult to explain even when starting a dwarf tree.

Wheat/Flour - The Backyard Homestead, includes a detailed section on growing and processing wheat, and corn for flour.  The methods are low tech and appropriate for a micro farm.  One of the issues that plagues 'small farms' today is equipment costs.  Carleen avoids the whole plague by accepting that most of us are not growing a massive quantity.  The methods she explains, are only slightly, updated from how our grandparents' grandparents' harvested wheat.  When Dan did his research on wheat and haying he found that the older methods were more efficient by the time maintenance and equipment prep was added into labor.

There is no section on putting up feed or storing feed.

Beverages - Personally, I drink about a fourth of my calorie intake.  I can't eat enough vegetables, fruit, dairy, and even meat to meet my calorie intake.  Thankfully, there are entire sections on: wine, beer, tea, and cider making.  Unlike, ultra-pasteurized mass produced beverages your homemade drinks will have several benefits from the ingredients they were made from.

Animals - While the section on chickens is detailed.  The book does detail how to process meat and preserve throughout the year through various methods.

-If I were suggesting a book for someone trying to decide what animal to grow for meat or eggs I might suggest this book, but with more information.  There is some nuisance that isn't quite untrue, but misleading.  For example, Orpington chickens are listed as meat producers, while; many breeders would argue Orpingtons -are duel purpose.  Also, there is the tendency to gloss over the pitfalls of caring for an animal.  Chicken can become egg killers, and duck behavior can be disturbing.  The benefits are not the only factor to take into consideration when choosing an animal.

Dairy/Misc - Very general coverage of what you need to make dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.  The information is accurate and basic.  Again, great start for someone who needs an overview of what would be involved, or if they want to try something new.

This section is not my forte.  I had to ask an avid cheese maker.   They stated it was very well illustrated starting-point.  However, for homesteaders that are not pasteurizing their cheese, they would need more information.  For example, cheese made in wood buckets are less likely to have growth of bad bacteria.  Cleaning with certain industrialized cleaners can kill good bacteria or effect the taste of your cheese.