“A lot of the time, when people are beginning with their homestead, it’s difficult to know which direction to go in. One thing that’s usually pretty helpful is if you can get one good book that covers a variety of subjects in enough depth for you to give it an experimental try. The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, is one of those books. But not only is it a book, but it is also a guide that helps you plan actionable steps.”—Rural Living Today
“Bottom line is, even if you’re not ready for complete self-sufficiency, in today’s economic climate, it just makes sense to try to produce some of your own food. And this book is a great way to get your feet wet.”—Epicurious.comThe Backyard Homestead (subtitled "Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre"), Carleen Madigan offers you to opportunity to homestead a little or a lot, according to your predilections, abilities, and situation.The diagrams below show what can be done with 1/10 of an acre; the author also offers prospective plans for 1/4 and 1/2 acre.
- Find out from neighbors or experts what grows well in your area
- Keep it simple and start small (green beans are "no fail"; other relatively easy veggies to grow include yellow squash, zucchini, leaf lettuce, snap peas, Swiss chard, kale, and tomatoes.
- Start composting
- Mulch to control weeds and retain moisture (organically, of course)
- Pull weeds often
- Take notes on weather, when you planted, what pests were troublesome, and how much you harvested
Below, illustrations from the book of raised beds and a sample bed 5 feet wide.
Will I actually cultivate any vegetables or just fantasize about doing it? (Not to mention the home brewing and cheese, jam, and pickle making!) Only time will tell! How about you? If you're adventurous or hard-core, you can learn about building chicken coops, types of breeds, layers vs. lazy hens, butchering chickens, telling good eggs from bad, and all kinds of other groovy stuff—including the lowdown on keeping ducks, geese, and turkeys. Power to the people!
If you're interested in various aspects of choosing, growing, or preserving healthy, delicious food—and who isn't?—then have a look at the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate growing, making, and preserving your own victuals. Have a favorite farmers market? Send us an email email@example.com with your picks.