Friday, January 4, 2013

Check out the books we are currently reading to help us prepare for the spring growing season!

It's January. Thank heavens! I have been waiting for this blessed month since last spring. As winter has set in with the deep cold and snow and the holidays have passed, I finally feel like I can spend more time reading. As long as the weather has been nice I have felt obligated to be working outside on the many, many projects we have on our list, but with winter here there is not so much to do with the ground frozen solid and covered in a foot of snow. My husband and I are thinking through some changes in our lives as we consider how best to go about creating the homestead we desire for our family. We aren't sure exactly what this is going to look like yet, but we are trusting in the Lord for His guidance and relying on Him to show us the next steps we should take.

Since neither of us has a strong knowledge base in sustainable ways of growing our own food or raising our own animals for the table we are spending plenty of time researching. The spring season will be here before we know it and we have a lot of planning to still do to take the most advantage of the warmer days.

In the past, information such as what we are looking for would have been passed on from family and friends, generation to generation. But the last century has seen generational knowledge thrown to the wayside for modern convenience. It's sad how quickly we have lost much of our heritage. Not enough people have stopped to think about what it means to let go of the knowledge of forefathers. So, this leaves us looking for new sources to train ourselves and arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to find a little more self-reliance for the future.

While the internet is certainly loaded with plenty of information and a resource I use often, I prefer to have a solid core of books on the shelf for referencing as needed without running to the one computer our family shares. Frankly, I also far prefer to read a book than read on a screen... there's something about the feel of a good book in hand and a comfy chair that calls to me like a computer never will.

When in research mode, I rarely read just one book at a time. Perhaps a touch of ADD when it comes to learning! Instead my coffee table has a whole slew of books spread about on it. Right now, we are learning from the following books, all of which I am greatly enjoying and finding very useful. I am taking bits and pieces from each book and applying them to what we have in our mind and the land that we have. Some of the books do contradict one another just a bit, but overall they each fall in line and serve well in providing a wide range of ideas for creating the homestead we dream of.


Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman

I am about half-way through this book and enjoying the doors it's opening in my mind for ways we can be planning the extended gardening area we are hoping to create in early spring. The main idea behind the book is learning how to keep veggies alive outdoors in the garden during the cold winter months, while also being able to start the growing season earlier and have it end later. The book primarily focuses on gardening in zone 5, and the 45th parallel which is quite a bit South of where we reside. However the ideas can be applied to our colder area as well, perhaps with not the same success, but we shall see. After reading this book, I do see a simple green house in our very near future.
ABOUT THIS BOOK from the publisher:

If you love the joys of eating home-garden vegetables but always thought those joys had to stop at the end of summer, this book is for you. Eliot Coleman introduces the surprising fact that most of the United States has more winter sunshine than the south of France. He shows how North American gardeners can successfully use that sun to raise a wide variety of traditional winter vegetables in backyard cold frames and plastic covered tunnel greenhouses without supplementary heat. Coleman expands upon his own experiences with new ideas learned on a winter-vegetable pilgrimage across the ocean to the acknowledged kingdom of vegetable cuisine, the southern part of France, which lies on the 44th parallel, the same latitude as his farm in Maine.

This story of sunshine, weather patterns, old limitations and expectations, and new realities is delightfully innovative in the best gardening tradition. Four-Season Harvest will have you feasting on fresh produce from your garden all through the winter. 

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

While this isn't so much of a sit down and read it from cover to cover book, it's an excellent resources to have at hand if you are just learning how to grow a variety of food. It covers a wide gambit of topics and is excellent to have in hand when sitting down to plan the layout of the garden and what seeds to be purchasing for the new growing season.
ABOUT THIS BOOK from the publisher:  
Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening has been the go-to resource for gardeners for more than 50 years—and the best tool novices can buy to start applying organic methods to their fruit and vegetable crops, herbs, trees and shrubs, perennials, annuals, and lawns. This thoroughly revised and updated version highlights new organic pest controls, new fertilizer products, improved gardening techniques, the latest organic soil practices, and new trends in garden design.
In this indispensable work readers will find:
comprehensive coverage for the entire garden and landscape along with related entries such as Community Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Horticultural Therapy, Stonescaping, and more
the most in-depth information from the trusted Rodale Organic Gardening brand
a completely new section on earth-friendly techniques for gardening in a changing climate, covering wise water management, creating backyard habitats, managing invasive plants and insects, reducing energy use and recycling, and understanding biotechnology
entries all written by American gardeners for American gardeners, with answers for all the challenges presented by various conditions, from the humid Deep South and the mild maritime coasts to the cold far North and the dry Southwest Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening has everything anyone needs to create gorgeous, non-toxic gardens in any part of the country.

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth

One of our main goals of gardening is to lower our food costs which have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. While growing a garden can greatly reduce our food expenses, learning to save our own seeds will also help eliminate the rather costly expense of purchasing seeds each year, plus I think it's one of those lost skills that should never have fallen to the wayside. Seed to Seed goes into the technical ways of saving seeds and keeping plants from cross pollinating with one another. It's another excellent resource to have on the bookshelf.
ABOUT THIS BOOK from the publisher:
"An estimated 60 million Americans grow a portion of their own food in a vegetable garden. Their planting needs are supplied by 255 mail order seed companies, countless local outlets for seeds and plants, and the ever-present grocery store seed rack . . . There have always been a substantial minority of gardeners, however, who bypass the garden seed industry completely by saving their own seeds from year to year. Some of these seed savers, remnants of a recently lost peasant agriculture which purchased nothing that could be produced at home, are still planting the same vegetable varieties that their great-grandparents grew. Other new converts to seed saving may be trying to save something special discovered along the way, or to obtain unique plant material not available commercially. Still others have simply been touched by the powerful satisfaction that comes from a garden which is genuinely self-perpetuating." --from the Introduction
Seed to Seed is a complete seed-saving guide that describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables. This book contains detailed information about each vegetable, including its botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination, required population size, isolation distance, techniques for caging or hand-pollination, and also the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seeds.
Seed to Seed is widely acknowledged as the best guide available for home gardeners to learn effective ways to produce and store seeds on a small scale. The author has grown seed crops of every vegetable featured in the book, and has thoroughly researched and tested all of the techniques she recommends for the home garden.
This newly updated and greatly expanded Second Edition includes additional information about how to start each vegetable from seed, which has turned the book into a complete growing guide. Local knowledge about seed starting techniques for each vegetable has been shared by expert gardeners from seven regions of the United States-Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast/Gulf Coast, Midwest, Southwest, Central West Coast, and Northwest.

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips

This books covers just about everything you'd want to know about having your own orchard. It's not necessarily enough to stick your trees and plants into the ground and expect them to produce an amazing bounty each year. I will say this book requires a quiet place without a lot of distraction while reading. It has an amazing depth of knowledge in it, but not necessarily the world's easiest read. But don't let that scare you away because it truly is a well written book that is extremely helpful for learning how to create an amazing orchard.  

ABOUT THIS BOOK from the publisher: 
Many people want to grow fruit on a small scale but lack the insight to be successful orchardists. Growing tree fruits and berries is something virtually anyone with space and passionate desire can do - given wise guidance and a personal commitment to observe the teachings of the trees. A holistic grower knows that producing fruit is not about manipulating nature but more importantly, fostering nature. Orcharding then becomes a fascinating adventure sure to provide your family with all sorts of mouth-watering fruit.
The Holistic Orchard demystifies the basic skills everybody should know about the inner-workings of the orchard ecosystem, as well as orchard design, soil biology, and organic health management. Detailed insights on grafting, planting, pruning, and choosing the right varieties for your climate are also included, along with a step-by-step instructional calendar to guide growers through the entire orchard year. The extensive profiles of pome fruits (apples, pears, asian pears, quinces), stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums), and berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, currants, and elderberries) will quickly have you savoring the prospects.Phillips completely changed the conversation about healthy orcharding with his first bestselling book, The Apple Grower, and now he takes that dialogue even further, drawing connections between home orcharding and permaculture; the importance of native pollinators; the world of understory plantings with shade-tolerant berry bushes and other insectary plants; detailed information on cover crops and biodiversity; and the newest research on safe, homegrown solutions to pest and disease challenges.All along the way, Phillips' expertise and enthusiasm for healthy growing shines through, as does his ability to put the usual horticultural facts into an integrated ecology perspective. This book will inspire beginners as well as provide deeper answers for experienced fruit growers looking for scientific organic approaches. Exciting times lie ahead for those who now have every reason in the world to confidently plant that very first fruit tree!

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery 

I don't believe I can write exactly how much I love this book. I have read it and re-read it over and over as I search out different information for raising the 45 chickens we have. It's a very easy, fluid read and covers just about everything you'd want to know for raising chickens and other fowl. The forward is by Joel Salatin, which can tell you just a bit about the style of animal-raising this is going to be. Get rid of the the old ideas of storing a bunch of chickens on straw in a barn and learn about deep litter, open-air coops, making your own chicken feed, and ultimately how to raise from babies some extremely healthy chickens for the table and for eggs.
ABOUT THIS BOOK from the publisher:
The most comprehensive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry for the small-scale farmer, homesteader, and professional grower. The Small-Scale Poultry Flock offers a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl, based entirely on natural systems.
Readers will find information on growing (and sourcing) feed on a small scale, brooding (and breeding) at home, and using poultry as insect and weed managers in the garden and orchard. Ussery's model presents an entirely sustainable system that can be adapted and utilized in a variety of scales, and will prove invaluable for beginner homesteaders, growers looking to incorporate poultry into their farm, or poultry farmers seeking to close their loop. Ussery offers extensive information on:
  • The definition of an integrated poultry flock (imitation of natural systems, integrating patterns, and closing the circle)
  • Everything you need to know about your basic chicken (including distinctive points about anatomy and behavior that are critical to management)
  • Extended information on poultry health and holistic health care, with a focus on prevention
  • Planning your flock (flock size, choosing breeds, fowl useful for egg vs. meat production, sourcing stock)
  • How to breed and brood the flock (including breeding for genetic conservation), including the most complete guide to working with broody hens available anywhere
  • Making and mixing your own feed (with tips on equipment, storage, basic ingredients, technique, grinding and mixing)
  • Providing more of the flock's feed from sources grown or self-foraged on the homestead or farm, including production of live protein feeds using earthworms and soldier grubs
  • Using poultry to increase soil fertility, control crop damaging insects, and to make compost-including systems for pasturing and for tillage of cover crops and weeds
  • Recipes for great egg and poultry dishes (including Ussery's famous chicken stock!)
  • And one of the best step-by-step poultry butchering guides available, complete with extensive illustrative photos.
No other book on raising poultry takes an entirely whole-systems approach, or discusses producing homegrown feed and breeding in such detail. This is a truly invaluable guide that will lead farmers and homesteaders into a new world of self-reliance and enjoyment.
Up Next: 
A couple of other topics that we hope to learn about are keeping bees, raising animals (pigs, goats, sheep) on our land for food, growing our own grain for feed without a lot of land to use and other gardening techniques that would allow us to grow the most nutrient-dense food possible for longer in our Northern climate.

Do you have favorite books that you've found useful for learning how to raise animals, garden in small or large places or creating a homestead? Please share them with me. Much of what we are learning we are doing completely alone. I would love helpful hints of things that have worked for you and resources you wouldn't do without. Share your thoughts below, or you can email me too at



  1. I just found your blog! I'm thrilled to find you - I am in the same journey but perhaps a bit behind you on the homesteading. But I've been making fermented foods, using WAPrice as one powerful way to understand nutrition, cook from scratch for my family of 5 ( with three 6 and under) and am trying to work on my gardening skills and hope to have a flock of chickens soon. Anyway, you should check out this book: The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe. I found it fascinating! I will look forward to more recommendations from you and to reading your blog. All my best, mari

    1. Hi, will also be sure to check this book out too. Love it when people share things to read!

  2. I just tripped on your blog while doing a web search. If you'd rather NOT have to weed, and be very efficient with your veggie gardening, I recommend Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening. (His latest book, All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space, will be released Feb. 2013, description of it at

    1. Hi thanks for sharing the book. I'll def. be checking it out!

  3. So glad you posted about books you're referencing. I am going to try saving my seeds this year so I will have to check out the Seed to Seed book. I'm so jealous of your land and all you're doing. Hopefully some day we'll have some land to do the same.

    If I can recommend one thing, it's not a book, but a film and you can watch it for free online. It's Back to Eden. I just started using his gardening methods last year and I LOVE IT!! Here's the site:

    1. Thanks! I have more books to share, but it's gonna have to wait until there is a bit more free time. I have seen Back to Eden and started implementing the mulch concept to our garden last year. We are going to try to take it further this year. It's a great film! And with the weather we are having I can use all the help I can get and mulching as mentioned in the film really makes a difference.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.