Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Book Review of "The Backyard Homestead"
The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan is a 366 page guide to growing and raising food in small spaces.
Storey publishing produces books geared toward a country lifestyle. Madigan used her experiances with Storey in order to create a beautiful manual toward those who wish to grow some of their own food.
The Backyard Homestead is based around a 1/4 acre backyard. While this is extremely large for some yards, for those in the country or on a homestead 1/4 acre is quite small. However, many of the ideas elaborated in The Backyard Homestead can easily be scaled up if necessary.
The book is divided into chapters that make sense for someone looking at raising food.
The first chapter of the book is on the Vegetable Garden. This section gives ideas on the yields of different plants, as well as information on how deep to plant, and the spacing that individual garden plants need. Madigan gives sample garden plans and example crop rotations. information on container gardening, and the manufacture of hot beds, cold frames and trellises is also provided.
After the general information about the garden, she focuses individual vegetables giving information on the varieities and how to use individual vegetable types.
The next chapter focuses on fruits and nuts. Madigan looks at fruit ranging from small fruit to full size fruit trees. She gives recommended varieties for various climate zones. She also provides pruning advice and storage times for various fruits.
In this section Madigan also gives instructions for wines, ciders, and vinegars. This gives ideas for broadening the types of food and flavors that someone can get from their small homestead.
Nuts is the second half of this section. While the section is not anywhere as large or indepth as the fruit section, Madigan does give a few ideas for different kinds of nuts that can be grown in a small space.
The next chapter of the book focuses on herbs. Herbs are extremely important to someone growing their own food as plants which take up a very small space can make a huge impact when added to the food. Madigan gives ideas on preserving herbs, and provides a list of "32 essential herbs". These herbs are both culinary and medicinal, and there are ideas for their uses both inside and outside the kitchen.
Chapter 4 is on homegrown grains. Grains are one of the last things that someone would probably think of growin in their backyard. However, Madigan provides the amount to plant and the expected harvest for 1000 sq. ft and for the acre. She provides ideas on varities to plant, as well as ideas on using your homegrown grains. Bread and Beer making are also covered in this section.
After the grains, Madigan begins to investigate the animals that can be raised on a micro-homestead. The first chapter on animals is on poultry. Madigan looks at both meat and egg breeds of chickens, as well as turkeys, ducks and geese. Madigan gives information on butchering and preparing poultry.
Chapter 6 is on Meat and Dairy. In this chapter Madigan looks at Goats, Sheep, Cattle and Sheep. She gives information on finding good milkers, and on varieties of animal and their main uses. Madigan also covers the raising of rabbits for meat. Between Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, almost any animal that can be raised on a full sized farm can be raised on a backyard homestead and Madigan shows you how.
In this Chapter Madigan gives information on butchering, sausagemaking, and smoking the meat. She also gives information on making cheese, butter, yogurt and icecream from the dairy products provided.
The last chapter of the book focuses on food from the wild. This section begins with beekeeping, and goes through edible wild plants, and even how to make your own maple syrup.
Madigan gives a list of resources broken down by chapter, making it easy to find tools and more information. In this section she also gives information on climate zones and even on laws regarding raising chickens within the limits of various U.S. cities.
Overall the book is great for anyone looking at growing some of their own food. The book is however, a very general overview in any particular section, and while this book is great as a general guide, it does not provide information that is in depth enough for someone who is really dedicated to any one aspect of the book.
Two of the main benefits of the book are its beautiful illustrations which show everything from garden designs through poultry breeds. The other great part of the book is the small side panels which give more information, or give tips that may be useful for the reader.
This is definately a book for anyone looking to grow some of their own food.
Live a hands on life,
The book can be found at www.uncommonskills.com/baho3.html