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Showing 1-10 of 425 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 509 reviews
on June 25, 2011
Much of this time was spent fantasizing about one day having a 1/10th or 1/4th acre homestead. During that time, the book was eye-opening as to what is possible with that little space. Having soaked up these ideas about raised beds, chickens, dwarf fruit trees, and so on for so long, when I finally got a house recently, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, which alone is probably worth the price of the book.

But now that I have fruit trees to prune and chicks to raise, I'm not looking to this book for information. For building raised beds, I'm using the instructions from The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series), which also details composting with worms, reducing your reliance on the energy grid, and using water more intelligently -things The Backyard Homestead doesn't even mention. Or take pruning. On page 111, "Pruning a Fruit Tree in Four Steps," Step 2 says "First shorten the branch to about a foot, then undercut the branch slightly before sawing it from above. Finally, saw off the stub, leaving a slight collar to promote good healing." These are just the kind of clear-as-mud directions that would greatly benefit from an illustration; unfortunately all that is there is a drawing of a man sawing a branch with a long-handled tool of some kind, nothing to show what exactly a collar is or how much of the remaining foot qualifies as the stub or even why he selected that particular branch. So for pruning, I attended a workshop presented by my local nursery, which was far more informative and has the advantage of pertaining entirely to where I live. Regarding chickens: There are some interesting points, like letting a fresh egg age in the fridge a week before hard-boiling so it won't be difficult to peel or selecting a dual-purpose (egg laying and meat) breed because they are more disease-resistant than specialized breeds, but nothing that will in anyway get you started. For that I'm presently using the book Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying. For rabbits, you'll get two pages most of which just informs you that there are different breeds.

The only section of The Backyard Homestead that I was able to test out in my apartment days was the section on herb gardening. I killed all of them, until getting Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces), which revealed why the rosemary survived but did not grow (too small a pot), why the basil died (unrelenting exposure to wind), how all of them could have benefited from mulch, and how to make simple plant foods. It also explained terms I had seen thrown around in several gardening books, like the warning to not let your plants "bolt" (which at the time I could only imagine involved my herbs running away to a more competent home). All those other books have unhelpful charts describing the exact conditions favored by each plant (type of soil, pH, full sun vs partial shade, etc) until you believe each plant should be grown in its own meticulously placed test tube. And I spent years thinking "partial shade" meant some kind of sparse, broken shade, like under a tree. Turns out the "partial" refers to time; 4-6 hours of direct sun per day compared to 8 hours of direct sun per day for "full sun." And if you've always wanted to grow herbs, but wondered what you might do with them beyond cooking, then absolutely get Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, a brilliant DIY book on everything from making your own shampoo to beer to how to slaughter a chicken (The Backyard Homestead refers you to other books for any slaughtering instructions).

By all means, get The Backyard Homestead. Pour over it for hours in a coffee shop/bathtub/Cracker Barrel/escape-of-your-choice. Gaze lovingly at the beautiful, orderly homestead layouts at the beginning of the book. But think of it more as a course catalogue for college, that thick book (if they still put those out) that lists every class a college offers along with a brief description for each, rather than as the classes themselves. Use it to sketch out which topics you'd like to study, then find other resources (mentors, workshops, youtube demonstrations, books, meetup groups, feed stores, nurseries, magazines like Urban Farm) and go from there.
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on July 26, 2016
I bought this book at the recommendation from a friend who has her own vegetable garden. First, I checked it out at the library to see if it would be useful to me and got so excited about gardening that I decided to buy it. I had never gardened here in Virginia. I grew up in Colorado where gardening is a challenge. One of my child hood chores was weeding a garden that never produced a single vegetable. So needless to say I had a bitter root (haha) about gardening. After I heard about this book I wanted to try it for myself. This book clearly lays out what to start with as a beginner, how to do it, what to expect, and how to continue once you've got it up and running. I was totally skeptical that I could actually grow anything regardless of what this book said. I started with Spinach, red peppers, rosemary, and kaleidoscope carrots, rosemary, lavendar, bee balm, and blueberries. I did everything in pots on my deck as a trial run (will do raised beds next year now that I know I can) and my garden was a success. Now it's one of my favorite spots to be.
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on January 5, 2016
Lots of topics but little info on many of them. Not a lot of detailed information in this book. You definitely need other sources. Do not recommend purchase.
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on March 6, 2011
This is a really disappointing book. Given its title, and how its marketed, you'd think it was a comprehensive guide to intensive backyard food production. Nope! The whole "backyard homestead" thing is dealt with in two pages and three diagrams. That's right - the pages you see when you "Click To Look Inside" are pretty much it - nothing else in the book deals specifically with that topic. Boy, that's helpful!

Everything else in the book is, as has been noted, simply chunks and bits of other Storey-published books stitched together. Now, some topics like home gardens, herb growing, etc. are dealt with competently, but not in depth like a book specific to that topic. Other topics...well, the farther you go in the book, the shallower the coverage.

Example - chicken rearing is covered somewhat well, if not particularly thoroughly (only 17 pages), but it at least gives you an idea of what's involved. Now, how about rabbits? Rabbits, which are easy to raise, easy to butcher, healthy meat, and quiet - all ideal characteristics for someone thinking of rasing meat animals in a suburban area? One of, if not the FIRST animals often recommended for backyards and hobby farmers?

2 pages. A good portion of which is taken up by a chart showing us that rabbit meat is low in fat. The rest is fluff about how awesome rabbits are and a short list of breeds, which is probably outdated by now anyway. Nothing about building hutches. Or breeding. Or feeding. Or butchering.

Why? I don't know - they could have copy&pasted from Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits just like they did for all the other sections of the book. I guess they needed more room for the long lists (of breeds and plants and herbs and grains and and and) they seem to love plumping up the page count with.

Long stor(e)y short - this book is only useful as an INDEX of what you'd want to know about intensive backyard/small space food production. On any particular topic, it simply doesn't offer enough information to be a practical guide. And since you'd need to buy another book on that specific topic to actually be able to do it - what's the point of having this book at all?

I'd really like to read a book all about backyard homesteading. This isn't it.
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on September 12, 2009
As someone who wishes to be as self reliant as possible but who also has a full time job, I found this to be a great book. The book covers most everything one needs to know about small scale gardening and raising of certain livestock. It is well illustrated (not vague photos like some but rather well drawn pictures) and is written for the layman. Even if you are an experienced gardener you will likely find some good tips in this book.
It is not an "encyclopedia" type book where you can look up anything you wish and find specific instructions or advice. Instead it is an excellent overview that gives you the basics (and some advanced) information you need to start gardening and/or raising livestock on a small scale from scratch. The author was obviously careful not to overwhelm the reader with information that can make the basics hard to pick out. There is enough information to start successfully and of course once you know what you are starting with, you can do further research for very specific questions. One of the most useful pieces of information is the sections on how to properly rotate plantings for maximum growth which was very specific and makes planning a LOT easier. There is also a great chapter on propagating your own seeds which is a huge boon to those into long term self sufficiency.
I was also impressed at how the author recognized that one probably can't or won't want to do everything mentioned in the book. She offers logical advice on how to prioritize and plan for what you need, can realistically use and can realistically handle. If you are interested in starting gardening or need advice on how to plan a garden, orchard or small scale livestock setup for your family, then I would highly recommend this book.
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on August 31, 2016
Transparency: do not homestead, do not intend to homestead (at least not at this current phase of life), but I loved this book for informational purposes. Very well written, explained. Illustrations are a mega plus. If you even want to know just a little of what homesteading is like, this book is great. Loads of information. I enjoyed from cover to cover. I even grew up on a farm, and learned things I'd never knew or had ever heard of.
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on February 11, 2014
It covers tons of things to do, but only briefly giving reasons for/against/why/how so you can decide what to dig further into in other more detailed books. For example, it explains that I need to choose between chickens and turkeys because due to diseases you can only have one or the other on a particular small farm; based on the book, I'll go with home grown turkeys because it explains that I can raise endangered heritage breeds that aren't suitable for commercial production and I know already that high quality chickens and eggs are commercially available year round. Lots of references that are new to me - both websites and books. Storey publishing at its best. I love it! Fast and easy to read, I covered it in a day, and will re-read and study applicable sections as needed.
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on April 8, 2012
As an lifelong avid gardener, backyard food grower (on 1/4 acre) and one who keeps fairly good track of how much I grow, I found the book's claims about how much food can be produced from a 1/4 acre to be irresistible. When my copy arrived, I combed through the entire text in search of some bit of data or information to substantiate these claims and found none. When I looked at how much I was growing, as well as publications by the various agricultural universities for crops it was obvious that the claims made by the author were highly unlikely if not downright impossible. The production numbers for fruits and vegetables were reasonable, but given the area dedicated to vegetable growing described in the book, expecting 2000 lbs of vegetables to be produced in a single season is, well, astounding. Perhaps one must use enormous amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to achieve such Herculean results? I wholeheartedly disagree with the author's claims on the basis of reasonable and realistic grounds, and would challenge the author to provide some proof. Otherwise, remove these claims from the book. I am very supportive of growing your own food and assisting people in their efforts to do so. The book's claims seem to be unfounded, although they may make for better book sales. The rest of the content is pleasant, but mostly impractical beyond the basics because everyone's growing conditions are different. If you are new to the whole idea of growing your own food, this book contains a variety of topics you will be interested in. If you are already beyond that stage, I suggest consulting your local agricultural extension agent instead. There you will find realistic advise about what can reasonably be grown in your specific area.
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on February 5, 2016
Lots of detail about planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving everything. I'm not a beginner, but there was a lot in this that I didn't know. Looking forward to warm weather so I can try some new techniques!
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on May 8, 2017
This book is a great introduction to homesteading. It has things everyone can do to be little more self sufficient. It is easy to understand and answers a lot of practical questions for us beginners.
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