Getting Started

Our family very much enjoys having other families over for dinner and giving tours of the farm. It’s particularly gratifying when the guest family has been thinking for some time about getting started with a farm of their own, and we are able to give a practical introduction to what such a farm could look like.

A few weeks ago, a close mutual friend introduced us to a family which had recently relocated to the general area from out of state. It turned out that our families had a lot in common, and we were glad when they accepted our invitation to come over for dinner. The kids immediately hit it off, and all of them were soon having a grand time tromping around the barnyard. The adults sat down to talk; in the course of the conversation, they explained that they were renting an apartment until their old house sold, at which point they planned to begin looking for a place in Michigan.

Things have been going well, and I received the following email recently:

Hey, do you have a recommendation for a couple of books on “hobby farming” or small scale farming? We’re set to close on the 10 acre house in two weeks and are starting to think about what to do first. We’re thinking big, big garden, and some animals like chickens, turkeys, or pigs. I suspect it is easy to get in over your head pretty quickly with all the excitement. [My wife] has made contact with the local 4h group, which seems to be full of Catholic homeschoolers. Anyway, I thought you’d be the guy to ask since I remember you saying that you must have read every book there was on the subject.

Indeed, the list of books in the blog’s right margin is only part of the library we’ve accumulated. But if I had to choose just one book for the aspiring homesteader, it would have to be Carla Emery’s The Encyclopedia of Country Living. As I told my correspondent, there is no single book that is as comprehensive as this one. It covers a massive amount of territory, easily enough to get you started with whatever you want to try. Once you decide that you like a particular thing (chickens, pigs, gardening, etc), you can invest in specialized books about that subject. Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I spent hours reading Carla Emery’s book, even while still living in a California subdivision, and it was a huge help in allowing us to hit the ground running in Illinois.

I’d also add, as has been stated ad infinitum on this blog, Do Not Try To Start Too Big. It’s extremely tempting to jump in with both feet and try a hundred different things at once. Slow down. Do your reading and study. And try one thing at a time — each of them on a small scale.

Blog readers, do you have any other good introductory / overview books that you could recommend to my friend (and others in a similar situation)?

4 thoughts on “Getting Started

  1. Ten Acres Enough
    anything by Gene Logsdon

    And to add emphasis, DON'T THINK BIG! Raise a half-dozen chickens before you go into the egg business. Learn to milk a goat before you start a dairy.

    Build the fences and sheds BEFORE you get the animal.

    Free animals are often overpriced.

    A strong fence is more about structure than materials.

    A good relationship with the neighbors is all about good strong fences.

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  2. Excellent suggestions, both of you. Someone loaned us Salatin's “You Can Farm” right after we bought our first country property, and we found it extremely helpful.

    I'd add that Mrs Yeoman Farmer's suggestion for an indispensible book for new (or experienced) gardeners is “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times”, by Steve Solomon.

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  3. A quick addition to what Danby said: I'll never forget the “Free” meat rabbit does someone gave us soon after we moved to Illinois. We spent a small fortune on cages, bottles, feed, and a buck rabbit to breed them. Total number of rabbits produced: ZERO. Even the one that managed to deliver a litter proved such a bad mother that all the little bunnies died.

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