Sunday, December 4, 2011

Put your backyard to work with the books: The Backyard Homestead and The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals

Do you eat food?  Do you eat food every day?  I'm sure you probably do, or you wouldn't be reading these words.  Perhaps you're aware that the quality of your food is important to your health.  After all your body is built out of the nutrients in the food you eat.  What you may not know is the corporatized globalized homogenized pasteurized agriculture system that gives us the food in the mainstream grocery stores, well, that "food" lacks in nutritional goodness.

There's growing interest in local fresh food eaten when the food is freshly harvested.  There's a huge difference between the normal not-quite-food shipped from a zillion miles away, and fresh local food.  This doesn't have to be just a matter of shopping hoity-toity high end organic grocery stores, and doesn't have to mean bustling with the crowds at farmers markets.  You can instead spend months and months of drudgery in your back yard growing your own fresh food.

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The drudgery part is one of those stereotypes about gardening that doesn't have to be true.  And the book being reviewed now, The Backyard Homestead, is here to make you feel like it would be extremely simple to plant a quarter acre of ground with gardens and/or orchards and/or livestock and harvest 1400 eggs a year, for example.

The book comes from Storey Publishing and says it was Edited by Carleen Madigan.  It's chock full of pencil drawings of typical garden layouts, advice on growing different plants, combinations of plants that are successful, typical growing areas and growing seasons, plus an extensive section on livestock that makes it seem impossibly realistic you could have a flock of chickens in your backyard keeping you well stocked in eggs and chicken soup.

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The book weighs in at 360ish pages and is chock full of information, drawings, written advice, reference material, and so on.

Sections cover

  • The Home Vegetable Garden
  • Backyard Fruits and Nuts (grow your own orchard!)
  • Easy Fragrant Herbs
  • Home Grown Grains
  • Poultry for Meat and Eggs
  • Meat and Dairy (other livestock)
  • Food from the Wild (honey, mushrooms, etc)

To go along with the Poultry section, the indices contain a list of backyard chicken laws from around the U.S.  In some areas it's subversive and even illegal to raise your own chickens in your backyard.  My friend who does raise chickens has a bumper sticker reading "My Pet Gives Me Eggs" .. think about it

An important section up front covers planning out your garden not only for the available space, but to minimize the work you do.  For example raised bed gardening is described as a big win because the plants are closer to you (you don't have to bend over as far) and the growing conditions can be better.  This section is also important to avoid the drudgery stereotype I mentioned above.

Speaking of which - every page in this book oozes with confidence that this is simple and easy stuff to do.  I sure got excited all over again about the thought of starting a garden or even having some chickens.

There's also a companion book, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals: Choose the Best Breeds for Small-Space Farming, Produce Your Own Grass-Fed Meat, Gather Fresh ... Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, & Bees, which I haven't read but clearly starts with the poultry and livestock section of this book and expands on it in a huge way.  That book is also 360 pages and even includes a full color pull-out chart of something or other.

Together these books should help you "Put Your Back Yard To Work" so that you could not only feed yourself and your family, but perhaps earn a secondary income growing food to sell to others.  In these uncertain economic times this could be some personal resilience that could make the difference between life or death depending on how bad things become.  On the other hand earning an income is not quite so simple nowadays thanks to food safety laws that are being used to crack down on organic farming.  Check your local laws before committing to a business plan and buying equipment.

The books are highly recommended and totally excellent.  Backyards across the country could be a backyard local food agriculture resource.  There have been times in our history where this was a matter of national importance (Victory Gardens), and there may well be a time soon when this is again highly important.