When the summer heat gets to be too intense, or when I’m on vacation, I love nothing more than to sit with a good book. Some days I get sucked into a good novel, but most of the time, I’m expanding my homesteading knowledge with a book about gardening, building, caring for animals, or anything else homestead-related.
I’ve asked some of my homestead blogger friends to join me in sharing their favorite homesteading books, for all of our summer reading enjoyment!
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The Foxfire Books by Eliot Wigginton
Recommended by Susan of Learning and Yearning
“I’ve always loved The Foxfire Books which were written by high school students in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a class project, the students interviewed older family members and neighbors. This was southern Appalachia and these folks were still using old home remedies, killing hogs and using every last bit of the animal, living in log cabins and making moonshine. The project evolved into 12 great books of old-time lore”
Quarter-Acre farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed my Family for a Year by Spring Warren
Recommended by Teri of Homestead Honey
“If you love growing a garden and enjoying its bounty, this book is a celebration of being able to feed your family from your own backyard. Author Spring Warren decides to grow 75% of all the food (by weight) that she would eat, for a year. Living in Central California, she manages to feed herself quite well – for most of the year. Of course there are weeks when nothing but zucchini figures prominently into meal planning, but that is all part of the experience that Spring recounts so engagingly. A light, yet informative, fun read.”
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
Recommended by Mollie Jahner of The Jahner Farmstead
“My favorite homesteading book has to be The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. We have a small farmstead out here in the Pacific Northwest and this book really helps you understand just how creative you can get in a small space! I highly recommend reading it if you have 1/4 acre or less as it will help inspire you to different levels of farming. Like vertical gardening, raising chickens,bees and possibly fruit trees.
My favorite quote from the book: ‘From a quarter of an acre, you can harvest 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, 75 pounds of nuts.’
Who knew you could be THAT productive on 1/4 an acre. Happy reading!”
Natural Homestead: 40+ Recipes for Natural Critters & Crops by Jill Winger
Recommended by Quinn of Reformation Acres
“Natural Homestead: 40+ Recipes for Natural Critters & Crops should be on every homesteader’s “MUST-READ” list! As we learn more and more about how detrimental the methods of gardening and animal husbandry of the past 100+ years have been to the health and sustainability of our herds, flocks, fields, and soils, we need to ditch those old and uneducated ways! But our livestock and gardens still need to be managed and cared for and Natural Homestead can equip you with the recipes and ideas you need! Covering topics such as dealing with parasites, fly management, caring for your family cow, custom chicken feed mixes, treats, and money-saving ideas to feed your gals, recipes for natural cleaning and maintenance, gardening solutions, and over 40 recipes all told, I’m certain there is something in this book that you can glean from or will inspire you to manage your homestead more naturally. (Read my full review here.)”
A Little Piece of England by John Jackson
“A Little Piece of England is a tale of self-sufficiency guaranteed to make you laugh a lot and nod your head in understanding. The true story of a family that moves to a sliver of countryside within London’s commuter belt, this book tells of acquiring pets and then many different kinds of livestock, learning to build, grow food, raise meat, and become quite competent in a number of self-sufficiency skills. All the while, the family of five balances school, community, work, and homestead life. John Jackson is so forthcoming with the family’s mistakes and foibles that any homesteader will feel at ease with this book, as we can all relate to making mistakes as we learn!
I read this book quickly and contentedly over a few days’ time. The book was originally published in 1979, and most recently republished in 2014. I found myself wanting to continue on where the book left off. Luckily, an afterword fills in some of the blanks. A Little Piece of England draws you into a family’s dreams and the result is that you find yourself wanting to stay and visit a while.”
The Good Life and Complete Book of Cordwood Masonry Housebuilding: The Earthwood Method
Recommended by Karen Lynn from Lil’ Suburban Homestead
“I confess I am a ‘Homesteading Book Lover Addict,’ if there is such a thing, so it is extremely hard for me to narrow down my choices, but I chose a couple of books that have had a huge impact on my desire to lead a more self reliant lifestyle. The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing was a game changer for me. It made me realize that you have control over the life you want to lead at any age. They were hard workers and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life and a higher quality more robust life as well. Another book that I absolutely loved was Rob Roy’s Complete Book of Cordwood Masonry Housebuilding: The Earthwood Method. This book made me realize that anyone given the land and the the right planning could live off-grid and in a rather nice home at that. That being said, I still reside in suburbia and fulfill my Homesteading Adventures on 1/3 acre with our chickens and our bees but you never know what the future holds :)”
Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad (and more!)
“There’s no one book that can cover it all! I like the general homesteading books for beginners because they usually cover a little bit of everything. After you’ve been doing it awhile, you’ll need more specific information in the areas on which you decide to focus. The ones I pick up most often and continue to refer back to are: Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad, Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore, Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal by Katherine Drovdhal and (although I have so many others, I still pull out my basic) The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness. I have so many homesteady-type books that I could literally run on and on for hours but these titles continue to help me day in and day out. Each book teaches me how to run my homestead holistically and with respect for how all the bits and pieces of each activity (food production, animals, herbs, etc) truly fit together.”
Five Acres and Independence, The Joy of Gardening, and On Food and Cooking
Recommended by Emily at Life From Scratch
Five Acres and Independence by Maurice Grenville Kains: “I will warn you this book has some outdated information and methods, especially regarding pesticides but its so full of awesome information its still worthy of a permanent place on your shelf! Do you know what a ram pump is, or how to make a refrigerated room without electricity? Those are just the sort of skills Five Acres and Independence is full of.”
The Joy of Gardening By Dick Raymond: “As a teen this was my gardening bible. I read my copy many times over and even though I come from a long line of gardeners I learned a ton from this book. Dick teaches wide row, intercropping methods that I still use. Rototilling is heavily promoted in this book which I’m not a fan of and very quickly realized isn’t all its cracked up to be so take his tilling methods with a grain of salt. This book also has good sections covering produce storage, harvest, seed starting and insect identification and management.”
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee: “This book is for the foodies, the scientifically minded and the generally curious. I love this book because I can go to it with most of my food and kitchen pondering and find an answer. If you’ve ever wondering how eggs turn into meringue or how flour turns into bread you will thoroughly enjoy this book.”
The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch (and more!)
Recommended by Jess from the 104 Homestead
“Homesteading is on the rise and for so many great reasons. With this rise comes a great supply of reading materials dedicated to we non-traditional farmers that live in small spaces. There are many great books out there, but I have a few that focus on small-scale high-production gardening have become staples in my library.”
Read about Jess’s favorites in her blog post, 4 Must-Reads for the Small Scale Homesteader.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Recommended by Lee Ann Perez from One Ash Plantation Homestead
“Anyone who wants to grow their own food should read Fast Food Nation. It will definitely transform thinking about eating out.”
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Conquering your Kitchen by Annemarie Rossi
Recommended by Chris Daziel of Joybilee Farm
Chris recently reviewed the new Untrained Housewife guide, Conquering your Kitchen. In her review, Chris writes, “If you’ve made a commitment to cook from scratch, avoid GMOs, and stay within your budget, you’ll love the friendly voice and experience expressed in this book, a beacon on your journey to getting the most out of your food budget.” You can read Chris’s full review here.
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Home Sweet Homegrown by Robyn Jasko
Recommended by Andrea Pommer of Little Big Harvest
“There really is no shortage of homesteading and gardening books out there. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information. I have many different books for different needs, but this cute little book seems to get picked up the most around here, usually right before I go to sleep, or during those moments when I need a quick little tip or inspiration. I can skim through it in 20-30 minutes. It has all the good stuff: tips on specific plants, simple projects for the garden, practical tips and natural sprays that are easily made at home, and even …drumroll…recipes! I am a sucker for garden books that include recipes. I guess because I love to cook, I love to garden, and I can’t see how the two are separate. The recipes have enough of a twist from the usual (including a method for kraut that seems simpler than any method I’ve seen so far) to have me intrigued and ready to try them out. Since I can read this book in one sitting, maybe if I read it enough times, the information will stick and I can give the impression I know what I’m talking about. Ha!”
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What homesteading book would you add to this list?
Karen Lynn says
Thanks for the mention! I love your list too it’s diverse and shares a lot of different perspectives!
Thanks for the ideas! Some I’ve heard of (and read), but some are new, and that’s always a welcome thing 🙂
My addition would be Up Tunket Road by Philip Ackerman-Leist. I read it not too long ago and really enjoyed it: about a couple who purchase some land in VT and over almost a decade, build a homestead and start a family. It’s interesting just for their story, but he is also a professor who teaches a class on homesteading, and so he weaves in his thoughts and ponderings on what “homesteading” really means, and the different forms it takes, etc.
Teri Page says
Up Tunket Road is on my To-Read list. Thanks for reminding me to follow up on that and get a copy reserved! One of my good friends recommended it to me; he was her professor!
Lindsey @HalfDimeHomestead says
That Spring Warren book was SO good. I find myself going back to it again and again. Mostly for recipes.
I would add “This Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. Autobiography of her transition from city to farm life following her Husband. She’s a writer, so it’s a good read.
Teri Page says
Great, Thanks Lindsey! I’ll see if my library can get it for me!
Ha! I love the title of the Quarter-Acre one… definitely must add it to our list! 🙂
Teri Page says
It’s a fun one!
What a great list, and thanks for sharing! Total book junkie yet I haven’t read most of these, so I look forward to checking them out. I did recently finish Spring Warren’s book, Quarter-Acre Farm, and though I enjoyed the entertainment value, it just didn’t have enough “meat” for me. Plus, I felt she maybe didn’t tell the whole story. To get it all going from scratch and to feed herself after only one season is hard to do, even for the experienced gardener. Even if it was a lot of zucchini, it still made me think “Hmmmm.” 🙂 I am reading Sara Simmons McDonald’s book right now, One-Acre Homestead, and I’m finding it fascinating. Her section on home economics and homestead budgeting is a real eye-opener!
Teri Page says
My take home message from “Quarter Acre Farm” was that it was only possible because she had gardened previously (although I think she added some new beds), and that she lived in Central California! The mature fruit trees certainly helped too! I think it would be really challenging for me to do what she did in NE Missouri!
Thanks for the recommendation of One-Acre Homestead. I’ll have to check it out!