Our little homestead is in its infancy on our two acres. We have lots of ideas and hopes, but it’s all a process and who knows what it will look like tomorrow, let alone five years from now. We may or may not add a couple of acres for animal pasture, but our current two acres could easily be enough for our family, assuming we use them wisely.
When we began to let people in on the fact that we wanted to quit jobs, work with our hands, and grow food there were a lot of "How many acres?" questions. There were also a few "What crops are you going to grow?" and "Farmers can’t make a living these days."
To which I mentally respond "I’m okay with that."
You see, what we are after is not selling large crops once a year to "make a living". We’re more interested in creating a self-sustaining piece of land that produces enough food to feed ourselves and any neighbors who might be in need. More importantly, we’re interested in the benefits that are given in the process of working the land with our hands.
But as far as cash-cropping goes, no thanks. Bartering for a neighbor’s butter with an abundant harvest? Sure. Growing a gigantic field of corn that we can’t even eat straight from the field? Boy, I hope not.
Despite all of my talk about the work needed to turn these two acres into productive, life-giving acres, I really do believe that this small space should be enough to maintain the life of one family who is willing to do the work necessary.
When we decided on two acres we figured it would take us years to really put it into full productivity and if the Lord willed us to have more then we would. In the meantime, though, two acres would keep us plenty busy. And it has. The Dervaes family is an example of people doing a fine job of feeding themselves (and others) in far less space than we have.
Angela England thinks it’s enough too, given that her new book is titled Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less). Can I be totally honest and say that when I said "yes" to her request to send me the book for review I was a little more than skeptical and cynical? I’ve made a policy of taking books for review and only posting those reviews if I really thought that book could be useful to people.
So the fact that you are seeing this review at all means that I was wrong. Backyard Farming could be a real help to anyone looking to really work on making their acre or two productive. In Backyard Farming, England covers things such as:
- how to use the space you have for producing food
- raising bees, rabbits, chickens, and goats in a small area
- how to garden smart by building the soil via natural methods
- growing fruits and nuts in a small space
- how to use all of those foods and products in the kitchen and home
I found myself pleasantly surprised by snippets of information and ideas in the book that I had not read in other books on gardening and animal husbandry. For that reason and the fact that it covers a variety of needful topics, this book may be a help to you in getting started in a lot of areas on your small homestead.
England talks a lot about sustainability in raising animals and plants on the same homestead and using each to feed the other. But to be fair, she estimates that her family grows 40% of their food on their little homestead. That’s way more than we are producing at the moment and she says they are making more strides each year to bump that number up, but obviously they aren’t self-sufficient yet and this book may not get you to that place without some outside assistance.
The most glaring topic that I found missing in a book that uses the word sustainable a lot, is the practice of lacto-fermentation in the section on food preservation. Freezing, canning, and drying are all mentioned but I didn’t find a single comment about this age-old preservation practice, which was disappointing.
Those two things aside, I would recommend Backyard Farming to anyone thinking of homesteading on just a couple of acres or for those who are just getting started, as we are.
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