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Book Review (The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan)

"The garden is the poor man's apothecary." ~German Proverb

The Backyard Homestead was released by what is quickly becoming my favorite gardening publishing company, Storey Publishing, which is located at This book was a gift from my Father and Mother-in-law on Christmas and I have not been able to put it down since. I can honestly say this is by far the best book I have ever read in regards to all things gardening and the self-sufficient lifestyle, and believe me when I say that I have read a few.

Just under 370 pages this book moves quickly from subject to subject with enough basic knowledge to get the novice started on a number of projects while wetting their appetite to learn more. With that said though this book is not only for the beginner it contains information that is valuable to all grades and levels, from the hobbyist to the professional.

It would be a task to find a subject that this book does not cover in one fashion or another. It deals with raising vegetables, fruits and nuts. It covers cold-frames to canning, using your harvest to make your own beer or wine, and how to use your herbs for vinegars, broths and teas. It gives information on growing grains and making bread, raising chickens or even meat rabbits, from making sausage to making yogurt it is in this book. Home made maple syrup, bee keeping and foraging are all covered as well. It really is an amazing volume of work and I have barely touched upon all of the information offered from front to back cover.

There are some interesting facts within the book as well that really help to motivate one to become more self sufficient and take an active role in their family's food consumption. For example the nearly 280 million turkeys required in the U.S. and Canada for holiday products are owned by only three multinational companies and 99% of the breeding stock can no longer breed naturally. Even something as simple as ice cream which used to be a mixture of milk, sweetener,flavoring and maybe an egg is now what they describe as a "frozen chemical soup of more than 60 additives".

The Backyard Homestead, which I should mention is really aimed at individuals with a quarter acre or less, is beautifully illustrated and has some really helpful graphs to go along with some traditional recipes and identification techniques, whether you are trying to identify a particular maple leaf or pork cuts it is in this book.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are interested in making a purchase that will help you get your foot in the door on a wide variety of subjects take the time to go to your local library and get The Backyard Homestead, if you don't just go out and buy it for your own collection.

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here


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