Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Grow It Like Ya Mean It

The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, was one of those browse from time to time type of reads. It's all about growing your own food and raising your own meat on as little as a 1/4 of an acre of land. What a concept! Seeing as Chuck and I have turned out very urban patio into a garden, I was truly thrilled to get my hands on this book.

That said, because we don't have 1/4 acre of land, not all of this book applied to us. Obviously we can't keep chickens or goats in a condo--though the Rockets occasionally nibble on tin cans and other sundry throwaways and Daisy loves to eat socks--so I skimmed those parts that are wildly out of reach for us. Other skimmed parts: how to grow wheat or make one's own beer from home-grown hops. I did like that the book included multiple homestead plans based on different sized plots of land. There was a 1/4 acre plan, a 1/2 acre plan, as well as additional sizes.

Many sections of this book were highly applicable to our everyday lives now in our limited (TINY) space. I was especially fond of the herb guide since we have a slew of herbs. So far we have a whole pot of Thai basil, a pot of regular basil, a pot of mint (English and spearmint), a small pot of apple mint, and a mixed pot of herbs with curry, oregano, cilantro, tri-color sage, basil, lemon verbena, marjoram, and...you guessed it...mint! We like basil and mint, can you tell? The herb guide described the best ways to prune herbs, best climates for herbs, and a basic description of each and how they grow. Oh, and I should mention, we also have a bunch of herbs planted in the ground along our fenceline: parsley, sage, chives, dill, cilantro, a eucalyptus plant, and a serrano pepper plant. I learned a great deal from this section, and our herbs are far more plentiful for it. I'm also harvesting some of them to dry and store in the colder months. We plan to winter them inside, but who knows how that will go with limited sunlight inside and some crappy windows to work with.

Pictures of our bountiful patio coming soon!

I also really enjoyed the sections on preserving food. We find GREAT deals on fruits and veggies at the Farmers Market this time of year, and given the time I would love to preserve some of these yummies for the winter months when there's far less available. The step-by-step canning, freezing, and drying instructions were excellent, and there are a number of recipes included as well.

I'm thrilled that I bought this book for Chuck for Father's Day because it's a kick-ass reference. As I was reading, I REALLY wished we had more space to work with RIGHT NOW. But I guess I should cool my jets a bit. Not sure I could handle a paddock of pigs at the moment with everything else going on. It gives me something to aspire to. Oink!

Now that I've finished The Backyard Homestead, I'm on to The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne. I may not read it immediately, but it is lingering in my near future when I can square away some review books.

I hope the Americans had a great 4th of July, and to the rest of my bloggy readers, I hope you had a wonderful weekend and start to your week. We spent some time watching fireworks, blowing up our own fireworks (no fingers were harmed in the process), and we saw Eclipse. What have you been up to?


  1. Sounds like a book that would inspire me to get back into gardening after about a 10 year absence.

  2. If you want to preserve those herbs for the winter, make pesto. If you don't want to go all out, just puree your herbs with some oil. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then pop them into freezer bags. Throughout the winter, just toss the frozen cubes into soups, risotto, pasta sauces, etc. for a little instant summer flavor.

    BTW, I really like gardening books, but I never follow their advice. I just wing it. Works for me, but then again, I'm not growing any wheat.

  3. Surely, Kathleen. It was a really fun book.

    Thanks for the tips, Shannon! I'm one of those people who is absolutely sure from the outset that all of my plants will die if I don't do my homework. So far that's not true, but I'm still planning for plant doomsday.

  4. Will have to go check this book out. Our brand new backyard is so in need of some sort of green and I'd love to get some edible stuff in there, especially herbs. I've occasionally wandered around gardening centers but haven't dared to pick up anything yet!

  5. Olduvai, I'm finding that herbs are relatively easy! Plant 'em, water 'em, and let 'em do their thing. Ours are going crazy with the exception of dill. Dill hates me and will not grow anywhere around me. At all.

  6. I love books like this. They teach you so much. I'm definitely interested to see your patio - it sounds nice.

  7. I'm sticking to herbs in a big pot on the deck. I'd love to have a veggie garden, but my blood pressure would shoot through the roof, thanks to all the bunnies. They recently devoured all my new Black-eyed Susans! Grrrrr!

    Oh, I have basil, dill, flat-leaf parsley and Rosemary. Now to find time to plan my menu around these yummy herbs!

  8. Jennifer, I'll try to get those patio pics up ASAP. We are pretty smug about our patio. Can't believe it's growing as well as it is.

    Les, I know the feeling regarding bunnies. Our basil was mysteriously nibbled when it was planted in the ground. Turns out a bunny was sneaking under our fence and nibbling the basil on the patio. The nerve! I put out a beer trap thinking it was slugs, so we might've had one drunk bunny for a bit.

  9. i grew up on 3 acres of property and we ALWAYS had a garden. my parents never kept animals, but my sister and i were forever weeding and watering the giant garden. we grew fruits, veggies, and herbs.

    i didn't enjoy the work then and these days don't have the time to grow much more than a basil plant on my windowsill. i like to support the local farm markets instead! lol.

    that said, the book sounds like a great reference tool. :)

  10. I would love the herb section of this book. We do have a garden but my herb section could really use some help. Wouldn't it be great to actually have a chicken or two?

  11. I went and got myself basil and mint! Let's see how long they'll last...


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