The holidays are just around the corner. My book, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook, which is a full homesteading guide in addition to a cookbook, won’t be out until March, 2015 (but is available for pre-order now). However, I’d love to share with you some of my favorite resources for the beginner homesteader. In addition to this list, don’t forget to check out my podcast, The Modern Farmgirls, which I co-host with my friend, Liz Wolfe.
I really love flipping through Modern Farmer. I think it’s the perfect gateway magazine for those who want a better understanding of food systems but don’t need too much technical detail often offered in magazines geared towards professional farmers. Each issue covers the new food culture, telling all kinds of fascinating stories about what we consume, how to build a four-season garden, why wild pigs are taking over the world, or where to find the best farmstays around the world. From how-tos to farmer profiles to pop culture pieces, Modern Farmer is the first publication to explore the agricultural lifestyle.
The Vegetable Garden:
I’m a big fan of The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, by Eliot Coleman. He’s a seasoned grower with great tips for the serious beginner.
Not sure what gardening books the person on your gift already has? How about expanding their knowledge on the fascinating world of compost? The Rodale Book of Composting is the “composting bible”. It explains all you would ever want to know about how soil works, and how to make great compost.
This Compost Tumbler is a great gift for someone living in an area that can’t support a big compost system (urban and small suburban plots). Composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to cut down on your trash while creating fertility for your vegetable garden.
Does the person on your list already have a composter and a garden plot? Welcome to home gardening 2.0 – worm farming! We have one of these in our mudroom in the winter, and grow our own worms with coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps. Worms are a vital part of a sustainable garden to help create healthy soil. The Worm Factory 360 comes with multiple trays, an instructional DVD, and everything else you need to get started.
For many, chickens are the “gateway” animal to get your feet wet in the world of farm animalkeeping. They’re relatively easy to care for, and it doesn’t cost much to get started. I recommend Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens as a great primer on chicken keeping.
Need a chicken coop? Roots, Coops & More has great coops, either fully built (if you live near Maine) or available as shippable kits. I really like the quality of these coops, and they also happen to be really cute. I really like how this one below is small and mobile. Perfect for the starter backyard flock!
Curious about bees? They are incredibly fascinating to learn about and the word needs more beekeepers. This book, Beekeping for Dummies, is actually a fantastic guide to the basics of beekeeping. From how to set up your hive, to common bee diseases to be on the lookout for, this is a great tool to get someone comfortable with starting their own hive.
Does your Secret Santa want to begin keeping bees this spring? Beekeeping is a hobby that someone living in a city can easily do (rooftop bees) or by keeping them on a nearby farm. This set has everything needed to get started. You get two 8-dram wooden supers, a hive tool, a bee veil, gloves, a smoker, and all of the necessary accessories to get going with your very own bee hive for the spring.
Sheep, Goats and Cattle:
If the person on your list is ready to take the plunge into larger animals, Small Scale Livestock Farming: A Grass-Based Approach for Health, Sustainability and Profit is the first step to learning more. Carol Ekarius’ natural, organic approach to livestock management produces healthier animals, reduces feed and health care costs, and maximizes your profit. Includes case studies of successful farmers, nitty-gritty details of every facet of livestock farming, and fascinating insights on how to work with nature instead of against it.
Want to read more about agriculture philosophy? Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture is the book that my husband Andrew read that really made him decide to become a professional farmer. In the book, Berry explains that because Americans are divorced from the land, they mistreat it; because they are divorced from each other, they mistreat those around them. Berry, writing in a prophetic mode, argues that if Americans are to heal the environmental wounds their land has suffered, they will also need to create more meaningful work, and sustain happier and healthier lives.
Other books that I love on goats, sheep, pigs, cattle and how to build animal housing are also great gifts for the beginner or aspiring homesteader on your list. Are there books that you’ve read and loved? Have a question? Leave a comment below.