Monthly Archives: March 2012

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Reading About!


I like books. Any of my family members could probably tell you stories of conversations they thought they were having with me just to discover that I was in another world, completely absorbed in whatever I was reading. Good fiction, historical biography, poetry (Dickinson, Byron, Tennyson, Frost… What can I say? I’m an old-fashioned girl.), and pretty much anything else that’s not got a politician or pundit on the cover.

My big weakness, though, is what I will broadly refer to as “how-to” books. When I was pregnant, for example, I had a total of five books on the subject (three borrowed from my best friend, who shares my fondness for reference material). I bought a guide to baby care (really? I have to remove the old diaper before fastening the new one?) just because it made me feel slightly less helpless.

These days, I find agricultural books similarly reassuring — even though I grew up helping my emerald-thumbed mother, the idea of tackling a large garden on my own is pretty daunting. The chickens and rabbits are easier, of course, given my twenty-odd years of experience with them, but I still have a few reference books just in case I go out one morning and find the rabbits have each grown a third eye. (Actually, I don’t think any of the books I have address that possibility. Better find one that does…)

Anyway, just in case anyone else out there shares my weakness, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

Backyard Livestock

If you’re planning to raise anything from chickens to cows, Backyard Livestock covers the basics well — choosing the right breeds and specimens for your needs, care and housing, breeding, and butchering. It isn’t really in-depth, but it’s usually the first book I pick up when I have a question about our critters.

The Joy of Keeping Chickens

The Joy of Keeping Chickens is full of useful information and, unlike many chicken books, actually enjoyable to read. The author won me over on the first page with her story about rescuing a loose hen from a commercial chicken truck, but she goes on to deal with incubating eggs and raising chicks, managing layers and meat birds, designing and maintaining a coop, and preserving and using eggs and meat. Full of personal anecdotes and color photos, it’s a “how-to” book that reads like a novel — my favorite kind!


I just found Mini Farming at Tractor Supply a few months ago, and I’m embarrassed to say that I had never heard of intensive farming — in our garden at home, we always planted in rows, and it never occurred to me that we could be using the space more effectively. We’re looking forward to applying Markham’s techniques to our new garden.


Self-Sufficiency just screamed at me from the shelf. I mean, really, isn’t that the dream? Meeting as many of our own needs as possible with minimal reliance on external sources? And I love all of the projects in this book to involve and interest kids in the process. We will be referring to it often!

Folks, This Ain't Normal

Ah, Joel Salatin. If you’ve never read one of his books, you really, REALLY should. I think of him as a sort of John the Baptist — a voice of common sense crying out in the increasingly ridiculous, out-of-touch wilderness of mindless consumerism. We are fellow graduates of Bob Jones University, both concerned with the refusal of conservative Christians to acknowledge their God-given responsibility to care for the environment. I admire his commitment to raising animals with kindness and integrity, as well as his success in making Polyface Farms profitable without the use of chemicals or government handouts! And I can honestly say that Folks, This Ain’t Normal is the first book I’ve underlined in since college.

Our library is constantly expanding, so I’m sure this won’t be the last post on the subject. Any recommendations you’d like to share?


Chicks and Bunnies and Green Growing Things


They’re here! The first batch of new chicks has been in the brooder for two weeks now, along with with one crazy duckling who somehow came along for the ride.

I had ordered six Buff Orpingtons, but ended up getting seven “just in case.” I’ve never lost a chick, but there’s always a first time, and as it turns out I do have one who doesn’t seem quite as perky as the others. Hopefully she’ll be fine, but it’s good to have a spare.

There are three baby bunnies out back, one pure white and two developing the nose smudge and dark ears their mom has. Even Ben isn’t sure we can eat them, since he’s only ever dressed and eaten wild (brown) rabbit before. To us, white rabbits = pets. Doesn’t help that they’re in that stage of impossible cuteness right now. Every time I go to feed and water them, I catch myself telling them how adorable they are and force myself to add “And you look delicious…” If I’m serious about knowing where my food comes from, I’m going to have to toughen up!

Ben also tilled our garden on Monday. We were going to put in raised beds, but I want to be able to move the chicken tractor into the garden during the winter. There are a lot of big trees around our house, and the only really sunny spot is at the top of a little slope in the backyard, so the garden is, by necessity, long and not very deep front to back. It’s much bigger than anything I’ve tended on my own before, and I’m pretty nervous, but the idea of producing a big chunk of our own food is so exciting!

There are two large raised landscaping beds in front of the house with very little in them (one dogwood each, a few shrubs, and a sprinkling of small hostas), so I planted 25 bare-root strawberries in one a few weeks ago that have already started going crazy.

At about the same time, I started seeds indoors that are now shooting up and really looking forward to getting their roots in that freshly tilled garden — a rainbow mix of heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers, eggplant, winter squash, and cucumbers. And then there are carrots, pole beans, radishes, and lettuces to be sown. I’ve been saving feed bags for growing potatoes and sweet potatoes in, my perennial herbs out front have come back with a vengeance, and the pears and blueberries are in blossom. Fingers crossed we don’t get a mid-April frost like the one that zapped us a few years ago…