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.
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 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!
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?