Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

Book Review: The Backyard Homestead

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word “homestead”? 

I initially picture a cute farmhouse with a barn, garden, and pasture of a few animals. Maybe a windmill, a few fruit trees, or even a hayfield. I imagine a place with 10-20 acres — big enough to house a handful of things, but not like the modern production farms. I see a property where Laura Ingalls would live.

My family currently lives on 2 wooded acres, in a manufactured home. I haven’t given our place a name (like many of those I follow on Instagram) because in my mind it hasn’t seemed like the right kind of property or big enough to qualify for a “farm” or “homestead” sort of label. 

But thanks to the book The Backyard Homestead, my mindset is shifting.

The subtitle to this book is what initially caught my eye. The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!  is a claim that sounds too good to be true. I don’t have much space to work with… is a productive “homestead” actually possible for me?

The editor of the book, Carleen Madigan, explains in her initial welcome chapter: 

“Today, they [books by Storey Publishing] are being rediscovered by a whole new generation of readers who… want to learn what it takes to provide their own food. They aren’t farmers, but they have a little bit of yard (or maybe even none at all yet) and a whole lot of passion. Maybe you’re one of those people.” (p. 8-9)

And so she pulled together into one book “the best of Storey’s information about food production.” (p.9)  From the very beginning of the book, she gives practical examples of just how much you can actually produce on a very small amount of land.

Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

After some initial pages of thinking through the logistics of what you have to work with on your property, Madigan divides the book into seven large chapters:

  • The Home Vegetable Garden
  • Backyard Fruits and Nuts
  • Easy, Fragrant Herbs
  • Home-grown Grains
  • Poultry for Eggs and Meat
  • Meat and Dairy
  • Food from the Wild

Each chapter then contains multiple smaller sections, with lots of charts, drawings, bullet points, recipes, and information PACKED onto each page.

Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan
aBook Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

The Home Vegetable Garden
Sections in this chapter include:

  • Starting Off Right
  • Getting More from the Garden (planning charts, raised beds, crop rotation, succession planting)
  • A New Way to Grow Vegetables (containers, edible flowers)
  • Cool and Warm Season Vegetables
  • Extending the Season
  • Growing from Seed
  • Growing Plants Vertically
  • Harvesting Vegetables
  • Seed Saving
  • Vegetables A to Z
  • Start Canning
Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

Backyard Fruits and Nuts

Sections in this chapter include:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries & Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Fruit Trees
  • Consider Luscious Landscaping
  • Drying Fruits
  • Country Wines
  • Cidermaking
  • Vinegars
  • Nuts for the Home Garden
Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

Easy, Fragrant Herbs

Sections in this chapter include:

  • Gardening With Herbs
  • Preserving Herbs
  • 32 Essential Herbs
  • Making Herbal Vinegars
  • Herbal Tea
Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

Homegrown Grains

Sections in this chapter include:

  • Growing Grains
  • Backyard Corn
  • Plant Your Own Wheat Field
  • Cooking with Grains
  • Basics of Making Bread
  • Grow Your Own Beer
  • Basic Barley Malting
Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

Poultry for Eggs and Meat

Sections in this chapter include:

  • Keep Chickens
  • Turkeys for Thanksgiving
  • Keeping Ducks and Geese
    Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

    Meat and Dairy

    Sections in this chapter include:

    • Goats for Meat and Milk
    • Goat Milk
    • Sheep for Meat and Milk
    • Cattle for Milk and Meat
    • Raising Pigs
    • Raising Rabbits
    • Processing and Preserving Meat
    • Making Sausage
    • Smoking: Bringing Out Flavor
    • Making Jerky
    • Homemade Cheese
    • Making Yogurt
    • Making Butter
    • Making Ice Cream at Home
      Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

      Food from the Wild

      Sections in this chapter include:

          • Beekeeping
          • Foraging
          • Making Maple Syrup

      The subtitle to this book is what initially caught my eye. The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!  is a claim that sounds too good to be true. I don’t have much space to work with… is a productive “homestead” actually possible for me?

      The editor of the book, Carleen Madigan, explains in her initial welcome chapter: 

      “Today, they [books by Storey Publishing] are being rediscovered by a whole new generation of readers who… want to learn what it takes to provide their own food. They aren’t farmers, but they have a little bit of yard (or maybe even none at all yet) and a whole lot of passion. Maybe you’re one of those people.” (p. 8-9)

      And so she pulled together into one book “the best of Storey’s information about food production.” (p.9)  From the very beginning of the book, she gives practical examples of just how much you can actually produce on a very small amount of land.

      Book Review: The Backyard Homestead | Homesteaders of Michigan

      I’ll admit that while for years I’d heard people rave about The Backyard Homestead, I only just recently picked it up. Kayla, founder of Homesteaders of Michigan says: 

      “This is the book that started it all for me. I snatched it up from our local thrift store and dove into the world of homesteading. At the time, we were tip-toeing around the around of getting a few chickens.⁣ I credit this book for providing a basic understanding of many different homesteading topics; enough so that I could then dive in to research what I was truly interested in.“⁣

      After paging through, I now whole-heartedly understand the appeal of this book (and the others in the series – check out Kitchen Know-How, Building Projects, Seasonal Planner, and Guide to Raising Farm Animals). 

      The Backyard Homestead is a book BURSTING at the seams with over 350 pages of introductory information about producing your own food, whether you have a Laura Ingalls setup or just a small space that doesn’t “seem” like a homestead. 

      Maybe I’ll start thinking about a name for my 2-acre place after all.

      Have you read The Backyard Homestead? Tell us below in the comments!

      Carrie Roer | Homesteaders of Michigan

      Written by Carrie

      Carrie is a wife of a teacher, mom of 3 girls, lover of books, coffee, and Michigan's four seasons. She’s passionate about seeking simplicity and rest in our tired world. Follow her at carrieroer.com and on Instagram @carrieroer

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