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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recommended Reading

A friend of mine recently took an interest in urban gardening and was asking me for books, blogs, and assorted resources for learning more. I thought I would pass along my reading list. Feel free to add your own suggestions via comments. My husband and I still have much to learn ourselves so don't skimp on any good recommendations (or shameless self-promotion.)
The first category of books I want to mention are more interested in discussing the question of why to homestead, live simply and make do with less rather than just how-to. (Though many also contain great tips.) These books helped changed my mind and made me more open to ideas that run contrary to popular consumer culture. It's hard to see the benefits of laboring over your own garden or herd if you value convenience more than quality.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
The Simple Living Guide
Better Off
Crunchy Con
Ten Acres Enough
Mary Jane's Farm Magazine-try to get ahold of the early issues.
And, of course, my study of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker Movement and Distributism helped solidify my beliefs in homesteading and self sufficiency as a something that is seamlessly woven into my faith as a Catholic. Our earthy pursuits not only feed our bodies but our souls as well. There is dignity in our work on the land and joy in sacrificing the excesses of materialism. Our choices speak about us as Catholics, not just consumers.
I also thing there's bevy of books and websites one can read to open one's eyes to role of Big Ag and our country's food supply. When you understand where the neatly packaged, heavily processed foods you've come to rely on actually come from, it becomes easier to see the value in reading labels, shopping locally and setting up a raised bed out back.
Omnivores Dilemma
The Botany of Desire
The Unhealthy Truth
The Organic Consumers Association's website is constantly updated with great articles about food, organic and otherwise.
I also recently discovered the La Vida Locavore blog which pulls great info from across the Internet and compacts it into one concise, tasty package.
And once you have bushels of fresh veggies you'll need to figure out what to make with them. I like, finding another recipe for zucchini so much easier.
The More with Less Cookbook- proves you don't need meat with every meal.
Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family
Laurels Kitchen-Laurel's Bread Book is equally awesome. I feel guilty for owning a bread machine every time I see this book on my shelf.
Once you've decided to change your lifestyle and become a creator of your food source rather than just a consumer, there are plenty of resources to help you try your hand at homesteading or urban gardening. Regardless of the size of your apartment, city lot, suburban yard or country acreage you can do it! Really. There's lots of people out there doing the same thing and learning as they go. There are so many wonderful books, blogs and magazines filled to the brim with information. You'll still make mistakes along the way but you might discover some new tricks too.
Blogs-(You can visit all these from my sidebar.)
Path to Freedom
The Yeoman Farmer
Homegrown Evolution
Mother Earth News
Backwoods Home
Urban Gardener-just discovered this new magazine and it looks pretty good.
Anything written by Joe Salatin
Barnyard in your Backyard-good overview
Storey's Guide to Chickens-great in depth book. Storey's makes many other guide books too.
(Online, you can visit Be sure to check out all their sister sites.)
The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It
Back to Basics
Compost This Book
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Root Cellaring
Preserving Food...
The New Square Foot Gardening-This is what we use for many of our veggies. Fool proof if it wasn't for our clever chickens.
The Bountiful Container - Great book or growing tons of stuff in very little space. You don't need to hang your tomatoes upside down to save room!
These are mostly books I own. There are plenty more I'd still love to read but so far, we can make do with these and the wealth of information on the Internet.
Our seed company of choice is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. And, since we only plant heirlooms, I want to get the book Seed to Seed ASAP. It's highly praised anywhere I see it so I feel confident passing along the recommendation.
I've also turned to the Instructables site for information on how to build greenhouses, rainwater collection systems and other farm improvements. (A quick peek around the site reveals DIY wood-stoves, solar power setups, compost bins and how to make a food dehydrator from a dorm fridge-cool beans!)
Lastly, be sure to check out Lehman's for some inspiration and all your non-electric needs.
The hardest thing for us with homesteading is finding time to do it all, especially given our family size and situation. And around the homestead, it's either feast or famine-the grain needs harvested, the roosters need killed and the seeds all need planted RIGHT NOW-and then you have a week of relative calm. We want to try as much as possible, but realistically, we can't and it can be hard to say no to that crop of garlic , herd of goats or whatever when you know the opportunity won't come around for another year.
So, I would say, it doesn't matter if you start small; just start something and don't be discouraged if your first attempt (or repeated attempts) fail. When you finally get around to serving your own fresh eggs for breakfast or fresh picked salad greens at dinner you'll feel great. And that feeling, plus a full stomach, will motivate you to do more, regardless of the extra work involved.

"To live in Newburgh, on the farm, to be arranging retreats, to be making bread and butter, taking care of and feeding children there, washing and carding wool, gathering herbs and salads and flowers — all these things are so good and beautiful that one does not want to take time to write except that one has to share them, and not just the knowledge of them, but how to start to achieve them." -DD, On Pilgrimage June 10