The Backyard Homestead

The book that started us on the road to self reliance and desire to build a simple farm life is “The Backyard Homestead” by Carleen Madigan. The best price (outside of second hand books) is Amazon.com.


During the summer of 2011, Paul and I were in North Bend hoping to pick blueberries at our favorite U-Pick farm… Bybee Farms. Unfortunately for us, we did not call ahead and see if they were open. Of course after a 45 minute ride with a one year old we discovered that the farm had a wedding event, and the blueberries that we so desired were just not going to be picked by us that day. To make the trip worthy, we decided to explore the town of North Bend, soon learning that although the town is pretty neat, it is also pretty small. We had lunch at a diner and then went into a local shop. There we found a book that would soon change us forever. The Backyard Homestead!! We have a backyard and a garden. How can we improve it??? Little did we know this book would allow us to realize our true passion in life; to be self reliant and feed our children pure food that we (and they) grew in our homestead. On our way home, I read the book out loud, since Paul was driving. In 45 minutes, we went through the whole book. It was very easy and pleasant reading.

This book starts with a few diagrams of potential homesteads on one tenth of an acre, then quarter of an acre and of course progressing to a half an acre. The diagrams included what kind of animals or bees and gardens would fit in each space. I did not realize that if you have a quarter of an acre you have enough room for two pigs, rabbits, a very impressive garden and two beehives. The book then goes into explaining vegetable gardening, suggesting combinations of plants that thrive together, when and how to plant them, seasonal vegetables, when to harvest and how to start the seedlings. Basically a very nice and easy to understand overview of how vegetable gardening is done.

Next section was my favorite, “Vegetables A to Z”. Starting with how to grow, care and harvest asparagus, ending with turnips and yams. In between the A through Z, when appropriate, the author also included tips on drying, canning and pickling. The veggies were followed by fruits, nuts and herbs. It was a delicious section, leaving the reader with the desire to eat a pint of strawberries, getting a few nut trees in your garden and of course, making vinegar infused with herbs.

The next few sections of the book are dedicated to growing your own grain (how cool would that be?) and using it for bread, pasta and brewing, which was of particular interest to Paul, who home-brews.

Chapters five and six were an overview of animal husbandry and the benefits of owning and harvesting your own meat. The book included poultry, pigs, goats and sheep and cows. The benefits of course, being; eggs, milk, cheese and meats not to mention the fiber from some of them.

The last chapter of the book focused on foraging from the wild. This included bee keeping, foraging for wild edible plants, mushroom hunting and maple syrup making. Just typing this up gets me super excited! I loved this book so much that I gave it as gifts to my sister and two of my friends who were starting gardens… I truly believe everyone should have a copy!

With our own backyard homestead or as we prefer it “homestead in the suburbs” we are building a library of useful books. We will continue to post reviews of all the books in our library, and new books as we read them. If you have read Backyard Homestead, we would love to get your opinion on the book or any other books that put you on the road to self reliance.

Thanks for reading!

Christmas gifts were a success!

A couple of days after canning our soups, we canned bratwurst and chicken breast. I only filled the bratwurst jars up halfway with water, so after canning, there is a thick layer of fat, with brats sticking through it. Due to their appearance and unknown spiciness, Lina made me the taster. They were great! The chicken turned out as expected, as we have canned these in the past.

These taste better than they look, honest!
These taste better than they look, honest!

To give the brats a better presentation, you could quickly brown them in a skillet, or maybe throw them on the grill. The chicken is just like store bought canned chicken, but with pride and integrity. Great for chicken salad, soup, or a sandwich.

We tried the soups the day before we gave them as gifts, which was cutting things close, if they turned out bad. Luckily, they were delicious. The split pea turned out a bit thick for soup, but after adding some liquid (water/broth) and microwaving, it was just like homemade. The whole jar (minus the lid of course) can be microwaved, for a quick meal. The navy bean was a perfect consistency. We realized after the fact that the home canned tomatoes used in the soup had been salted. We then added more salt when making the soup. This along with the ham made it a bit on the salty side. They both tasted really great, and we were proud to give them as Christmas gifts. My folks paid compliments to the chefs. If you are interested in a recipe, reply to this post!