The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan quickly made its way onto every homesteader and wanna-be homesteaders bookshelf. Full of inspiration and resources, Madigan does a fantastic job of painting a picture of what your property could be, despite its lack of space. Whether you have one-tenth of an acre or a full acre, Madigan shows you what you’re capable of producing on your land.
Homesteading isn’t just for those with five or more acres. Homesteading is for everyone.
I picked up The Backyard Homestead on a whim because of the bright cover and tagline of “produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre.” What a promise! I was instantly drawn to the book because my husband and I are working towards growing as much of our food as possible.
The book begins with designs of homesteads on different sizes of land and estimations of how much you can produce on a plot of land. Madigan claims that a quarter-acre homestead could produce:
• 50 pounds of wheat
• 280 pounds of pork
• 120 cartons of eggs
• 100 pounds of honey
• 25 to 75 pounds of nuts
• 600 pounds of fruit
• 2,000+ pounds of vegetables
That’s a substantial claim for a small parcel of land, leaving little to no space for kids to run around or space for a trampoline. You will be utilizing every bit of your land.
However, Madigan sure makes you dream about the possibilities of your land. What could your backyard produce?
A Resource Every Homesteader Needs
My copy of The Backyard Homestead is well-loved with folded pages and coffee stains because I typically read while drinking coffee. It’s a resource that every new homesteader can find useful.
The book is divided into several chapters:
• Start Your Own Backyard Homestead
• The Home Vegetable Garden
• Backyard Fruit & Nuts
• Easy, Fragrant Herbs
• Homegrown Grains
• Poultry for Eggs and Meat
• Meat and Dairy
• Food from the Wild
Her sections on gardening cover topics such as how to grow from seeds and the proper way to prune fruit bushes. She covers vegetables A to Z, although I did feel as if she didn’t include as much information on each vegetable as she could have. Some were lacking in description and information for readers.
Despite that shortcoming, her gardening sections are spot on with a gardening planning chart, the USDA Hardiness Zone charts, and the characteristics of each vegetable seed. It’s the perfect resource for a new gardener to put on their bookshelf to pull out at the start of each growing season.
She breaks down her other chapters even further. For example, the easy, fragrant herb section contains sections about growing and preserving herbs, 32 essential herbs, and how to make herbal vinegar and teas. The chapter on homegrown grains has portions about selecting the right grain to grow and how, corn, wheat, and cooking with grains.
Fruits, Bees, and Chickens – Oh My!
Madigan doesn’t stop at discussing gardening. She dives into growing fruit bushes and fruit trees as well as different types of nuts that might grow in your climate. Her book covers the basics of cidermaking and winemaking because they go hand-in-hand with growing your own fruit.
Her book includes the basics of raising a variety of animals such as chickens, bees, goats, pigs, and cattle. Of course, considering the size of this book, Madigan doesn’t go in depth for each animal. She covers the basics that you should know such as different breeds and space requirements.
Towards the back of her book, she talks about making maple syrup, foraging, and includes recipes for cheese and sausage making. Let’s not forget that recipes fill the book. She adds several recipes throughout each section from sauerkraut, blueberry pie, and mozzarella cheese.
Time to Get Started
If there is one thing I love about The Backyard Homestead is that the book makes you want to get started right away. As you read each section, you’ll want to jump up and plant all the seeds and start making cheese. It’ll drive your desire to start homesteading into further realms.
Madigan gives you enough information for you to decide where you want to get started. She started with gardening because it’s the most obvious place for a homesteader to start.
I love that the book is full of diagrams and pictures. She doesn’t just talk about starting seeds or pruning fruit bushes; she shows you how to prune the bush. The book is full of pictures and step-by-step pictures, which makes the book interesting and helpful for those who aren’t very good at DIY. Newbies need all the details possible!
The Backyard Homestead is a Bookshelf Keeper
I may think that Madigan’s dreams and plans for such a small parcel of land are exaggerated, but I can see the plan unfolding in different ways. The great thing about her book is that it’s meant for the new homesteader. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start off, and her book doesn’t dive too far into any topics. She grazes the surface, giving you a taste, and then leading you to different yet connected topics.
Her method for doing so shows you the possibilities of your land. She makes you feel and know that no matter where you live, you can try some of her suggestions. The Backyard Homestead has enough information for you to get started homesteading, giving you the ideas necessary to pick a direction to head first. At the same time, Madigan doesn’t overload you with so much information that your head starts to swim
The Backyard Homestead is a big YES for all wanna-be homesteaders and those who are working on building up their slow-growing homestead. If you’re on the fence, take the leap and give the book a chance. You’ll find that you pick it up more often than you expected.