My usual M.O. with a book about living off the land is turning to the gardening chapters first. Since my move from California to Texas, I haven’t been able to grow a thing. Not even a self-respecting weed will take hold.
When Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) by Angela England arrived in my mailbox, the
gardening chapter is where I started. I was looking for any hint to make something useful come up in my garden plot. I did find some useful tidbits of information that I had forgotten or hadn’t thought about.
Next on my list were chickens. I’ve been reading a lot about chickens and beekeeping (also covered in this book) recently. I want to try my hand at both in the coming year. Sure enough, I found some additional pieces to add to my journal of information.
Each section of Backyard Farming has something that I can add to my knowledge about using my land productively and wisely. In addition, Ms. England has added how to use products from a micro-farm, such as recipes, crafts, and household products.
The book is nicely illustrated with photos from Ms. England’s own backyard farm. Throughout tidbits of information are sprinkled throughout in small sections: definitions, over the garden fence (homegrown hints), thorny matters (safety and other cautions, and more.
Nearly half the content is about gardening. Gardening is the one thing most people can do even in cramped urban areas. The section on animals is about animals that are relatively easy to raise (chickens, rabbits, goats, and sheep). These are good starter animals.
One thing to remember when reading this handy book is the definition of a backyard. Having been raised in suburbia, I still think of a backyard as a small (o.k. tiny) space behind the house. Ms. England is writing about a much larger backyard, more or less an acre.
Gardening techniques, such as vertical gardening or container gardening, that are doable even in an apartment, are presented. However, the possibilities of raising productive animals in urban and suburban areas are not covered. With more cities and neighborhoods now allowing chickens within regulated guidelines, that topic would fit the suburban backyard.
Two areas that I found lacking were details of how-to and Internet resources. In some ways these go together. For example, there’s a section on making goat milk soap. While there is detail and hints on the soap making process, there is no recipe or resource for recipes
I like Internet resources. There are books in the resource section, which is listed by chapter. But only one Internet resource is available, a video. The companion website (backyardfarmingguide.com) has downloadable resources, including plans for some nifty chicken coops. But, again lacking in links to other Internet resources.
A Homeschool Companion Guide, written by Susan Mueller, is offered as a free download with the purchase of Backyard Farming. Don’t pass up this offer just because you don’t homeschool or have children at home. The links to instructional videos are valuable to anyone starting this adventure.
Ms. England’s conversational style makes this book a keeper on my shelf. The information and details are presented in non-technical and non-farm terms that I can relate to. No matter where you are on your road to independence, this is a handy reference.