I’ve been lucky enough to win a number of things over the course of the past six months. One of those things is a copy of Angela England’s book “Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less)”. I was really excited to have won it, because I had been eyeballing it for quite some time, tempted to buy it before the contest was over.
One of the great things about this book is that it’s broken down into 5 parts with each part covering a different facet of farming your backyard. I like that it is broken up like this because it allows you to focus on certain things within a section and always know where to look for answers to questions you may have. Angela starts the section from the beginning of the “how-to-do-it” and builds from there so you always know where to start on the journey.
The first section deals with “Living Large on a Small Scale”. It talks about why the adventure is important, how to find the land you need, and building on what you already own. When you begin to educate yourself more through the first part of this book, the rest of it makes much more sense. It explains to you the cost of the venture without specific numbers, how to maneuver through the red tape of zoning restrictions and the best way to create a workable plan – one that’s right for your family. It’s actually very refreshing to see someone publish a book that doesn’t just tell you how to build stuff, when to plant seeds, and what chickens lay the best eggs. This section actually walks you through the beginning steps – not just the main course of the backyard farming, but the appetizer, soup and salad courses, too!
Part 2 of the book is all about gardening. This is probably the first step you’d want to think about when you get your backyard farm started, so it makes perfect sense for it to be the next section. This section, like all the others in the book, are very thorough, starting with the first step – planning a garden space. You’ll learn how to figure out if you should have a square-foot garden, raised beds, or in-ground garden beds. Angela also teaches you about vertical and container gardening as well as edible landscaping. She covers the tools of the trade, how to amend your soil properly, and how to get the most from your garden. Then comes one of the sections I refer to the most – the section about the veggies themselves! This is a virtual treasure trove of information on different varieties of the things you’ll be planting. It’s not overly technical, nor is it packed with information you really don’t need to worry about. It tells you a little about the plant, then goes on to things like how to plant them, when to harvest, how much sun and water they’ll need, and a little about different varieties. It’s a thorough section without cramming too much technobabble down your throat. Just super-yummy-delicious veggie info.
The third part of the book focuses on backyard farm animals. Now, we’re not talking a herd of cattle, here… mainly just chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats and bees. This is the section that tells you what chickens are good for eggs and what are good for meat. There is information about rabbits for meat and fiber, sheep and goat breeds for milk, meat and fiber, and how to get started in beekeeping. There are pictures throughout the book, but I think this section has the cutest! (Did you know there’s a such thing as “goat cart racing”?!)
Section 4 is called “Enjoying the Bounty” and is all about managing the food that comes from your backyard farm. Angela talks about eating fresh from the garden and includes some great recipes! (I will be trying the Stuffed Tomatoes recipe this year!) She also discusses butchering and processing of the raised-for-meat animals in your back yard. She recommends if you’ve never done it before, find some local help. If you don’t have a friend that knows how to butcher animals (humanely, please), find a local butcher that will process your animals for you. My recommendation on top of that is to square-away this information long before you start looking for meat animals. It wouldn’t do you to have an animal that’s ready and not have a way to get it done. The rest of the section deals with canning, freezing, dehydrating, smoking and otherwise preserving and storing your food so none goes to waste. It doesn’t make much sense to save all that money on groceries just to let half of it rot.
Finally, Angela tells us in the last section of the book about crafting. Making butter and other dairy products, homebrewing, soap making, using the fibers from the animals, and other ways to use the harvest from your backyard are all in this section. When it comes to the fiber section, Angela goes into detail about cultivating, preparing, dying and spinning the fibers into yarns and threads. Just imagine having loads of fresh wool at your disposal to use to make your own clothing! How cool is that?!
“Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less)” is more than 400 pages of self-sufficient goodness. Whether you’re just considering how to get started, or you’re a seasoned vegetable veteran, there’s always something new to learn! With down-to-earth advice on acquiring land, using the space you have to its fullest potential, and maximizing yield on everything you do, this book is a must have for every homesteader!(All images used with permission and are copyright and property of Angela England)