Posted on 05 March 2012 by

Book Review: The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

The Backyard Homestead is an excellent reference source that combines farming advice with good old fashion recipes.

The Backyard Homestead provides knowledge that has been gleamed from the many books on self-sufficiency produced by Storey publishing.

The premise that The Backyard Homestead is based on is raising animals, fruits, grains, and vegetables on a quarter of an acre.

The Backyard Homestead claims that on this quarter of an acre an individual can harvest 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, and 75 pounds of nuts.

The Backyard Homestead is divided into 7 chapters that cover the whole gamete of farming and more.

Chapter 1-The Home Vegetable Garden

This chapter provides the basic gardening knowledge. It covers planning, how to plan to reap more, container gardening, cool verses warm season crops, and vegetables A to Z. All in all The Backyard Homestead provides all the vegetable garden knowledge that is needed for a successful garden in the first chapter.

Chapter 2-Backyard Fruits and Nuts

In this chapter a full array of plants and care are covered. These include strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes covered in great detail. Also included are recipes and the secret to making wine.

The planting and care of fruit trees is also covered in this chapter. This includes how to plant and prune fruit trees, how to incorporate fruit trees into the edible landscape, and how to grow Subtropical fruits. Also How To directions are given on fruit wines, cider making while providing fruit vinegar recipes.

Nuts are covered in this chapter and include types of nut trees how to plant them, and ways of incorporating them into the home garden.

Chapter 3-Easy, Fragrant Herbs

In this chapter herbs are covered thoroughly. Growing herbs, drying them, and making herbal vinegars is included along with a description of 32 common herbs. In addition a great how to on herbal tea making is included. Two charts that provide growing information on herbs used for teas and herbs used for cooking also guide the gardener.

Chapter 4-Homegrown Grains

This chapter includes how to grow your own grain, and corn while providing information on the appropriate way to prepare the land for planting grain. In addition harvesting, and preserving the grain is covered along with making flour, cooking with grains, and making homemade bread and pasta.

A uniqueness of this chapter is the part on growing beer. I t includes how to grow barley and hops while providing a mini lesson in basic barley malting. Recipes are included for basic homebrew to dandelion bitter.

Chapter 5-Poultry for Eggs and Meat

This chapter covers the pros and cons associated with poultry farming. It also does a good job describing types of chickens, and poultry terms. The chapter also provides diagrams for chicken coops and how to collect and store eggs. The subject of humanly slaughtering the chicken is covered along with how to cut up a chicken into cooking pieces.

Turkeys and ducks are also covered in the same detail as the chickens. Raising, slaughter, and processing are topics covered in common language that even a novice could follow.

Chapter 6-Meat and Dairy

Goat, sheep, and cattle are in this chapter along with varieties in each species, how to care for, and milking and storing milk for each type of dairy producer. Also how to humanly slaughter and meat cuts for each group is covered. This is very informative even if the backyard homestead in not going to include livestock.

Hog production is covered along with a description of modern breeds. Also butchering and cuts are covered.

Rabbits are covered in this chapter not only from a pet aspect but also as a culinary delight. A list of basic meat breeds is included for easy selection.

Processing and preserving meat is thoroughly covered with a lesson on how to properly wrap meat using a drugstore fold before freezing. Sausage making is covered with a simple how to and recipes that range from basic sausage to country chicken sausage. Also using smokers and/or smoke houses are covered for those who want to add more flavors. The how to on making beef jerky is presented as an alternative way of preservation.

The in and outs of making homemaking cheese is covered. The differences between hard, soft, and cottage cheese are covered along with cheese making terms.

Chapter 7-Food from the Wild

This chapter provides a brief lesson in beekeeping. Foraging is also covered and concentrated on the harvesting of rose hips, dandelions, and fiddleheads. Finally a lesson in making maple syrup completes this chapter.

The end of this book is filled with additional information. First a list of resources per chapter following this is an appendix that covers the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. Next for the convenience of the backyard homesteader is a list of states with corresponding municipal codes.


The Backyard Homestead is an excellent resource for all that want to be self-sufficient. The book is a culmination of information from Storey publications.

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