I want a little homestead, be it a little urban homestead, or on some space away from the city. I want to have chickens, bees, a big garden, and perhaps a goat or a cow. Sometimes I feel like it’s just a dream and it will never happen, but slowly, my husband and I take baby steps towards making those dreams come true. Right now, we live in a townhome with a backyard that is teeny tiny. I still manage to grow a fair amount of food like greens and lettuce, but the backyard is on the north side of the house, so it doesn’t get much sun, except in high summer. It makes growing most vegetables impossible.
Recently, I received a copy of Angela England’s new book, “Backyard Farming on an Acre (more or less)“, to review. Angela England is the founder of the Untrained Housewife website. She is also a freelance writer who is blessed to live on a 1/2-acre farm, where they raise dairy and meat goats, chickens, and product fruit and vegetable garden. She is passionate about helping people realize how much they can do with a small space.
Seeing that I have expressed interested in backyard farming, Angela was nice enough send me a copy. Thanks Angela!
Doing A Lot With A Little
I have long known that you can do a lot with little space. It’s all about vision and planning. I am constantly amazed at the little “farms” I see in some of the most crowded parts of Denver. Money is scarce nowadays and people are learning to make do with what they have. Starting a garden or a farm in your backyard (provided your city regs allow it), can be a great way to supplement your grocery budget and help keep costs down. My backyard is 150 square feet. About 1/3 of that, I turned into a garden. I really pack it all in there, as you can see to the left, but I am surprised at just how much I can grow in that space!
In Angela’s new book, she shows us how easy it is to start our own little backyard farm, even if we don’t have a ton of space. She teaches us how to “live large on a small scale”. The book is organized in such a fashion that it walks you through the basics, right up to the more complex. To kick everything off, Angela discusses the growing food crisis, the cost and health considerations of our food, as well as listing the many benefits of small scale farming.
When I received the book, I was surprised to see that it was over 400 pages! What a resource! Feel pressed for time? I know sitting down and reading a 400+ page book is hard to do when life is so chaotic. The nice thing about this book is that you don’t have to sit down and read it cover-to-cover. It is organized in such a fashion that you can jump around reading a section here, a section there, as it applies to your needs. I LOVE how extensive the Contents section of the book is. It makes it really easy to identify the sections you need to read right away, and which sections you can come back to later.
An Overview of Backyard Farming on an Acre
Are you like me and currently live in an apartment or condo setting, but dream of actually having a little plot of your own land someday? Chapter 2 of the book tells us how to go about locating and purchasing the perfect little plot of land. This chapter discusses some of the things that we need to take into consideration when looking at potential property, as well as how to take a look at water access and zoning restrictions. This chapter was extremely useful to me, as I am a newbie in this area.
What if you already have some land, but you haven’t done much with it? Chapter 3 offers practical advice and tips, based on how much space you have. A few helpful diagrams show you just what is possible with the land you already own, plus, Angela helps you create a workable plan that will help you meet your goals, without being overwhelming.
Once you have the land, you have to decide what you want to do with it. Part 2 of the book (chapters 4-11) will give you all of the information you need to get started, including how to figure out what you want to grow, what tools you’ll need, how to make smart decisions from the get-go, and then a TON of information on different veggies, fruits, herbs, and more.
But wait! Do you want to have some critters on your little farm too? Then Part 3 is just for you! Learn how to keep chickens on a small scale, how to raise rabbits, as well as how to keep larger animals like sheep and goats. Also included in this chapter is how to keep bees, which is something that I am really interested in. The picture of bees to the right is from my friend Steve’s hive. I think they’re gorgeous! By the way, Steve makes the most AWESOME handmade furniture from reclaimed wood and other materials. Check out his site here.
Part 4 of the book teaches you how to manage your harvest, based on the seasons, as well as how to preserve your bounty for times when you can’t garden. Here in Colorado, we have a pretty short growing season, so we have to get the biggest bang for our buck during that small window of opportunity. Preserving fresh food for cold winter months is key. New to preserving? Don’t worry! Angela will teach us how to can and freeze produce and meat, as well how to dehydrate and smoke items. Have a basement or root cellar? Learn how to use that area to preserve foods for later times.
The last part of the book, Part 5, shows us how to get crafty with the fruits of our labor. Have dairy goats or a cow? Learn how to make butter and cheese. Have a sheep and some wool? Learn how to spin your own yarn and perhaps make a sweater! She even goes into how to brew your own cider and wine (yum!) and how to make homemade soap. She gives us a ton of fun ideas for making homemade goods for our own use, as well as to potentially sell at farmers markets and craft fairs!
There is so much information in this book that I know I will refer back to it over and over. The book is already filling up with highlighted sections, dog-eared pages, and sticky notes. One day, when dear hubby and I can afford to start looking for some land, we will already be educated on the things we should look for and keep in mind. I am a planner, so it gives me encouragement to know that I really do have the ability to make my dreams of a little homestead a reality!