What books should I add to my wish list?

By rayne on Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 12:19pm

I am putting together an amazon wish list for the holidays and this is what I have on it so far:


Gaia's Garden by Hemenway

Mycelium Running by Stamets

Edible Forest Gardens (2 volumes) by Jacke, Toensmeier

Fresh Eggs Daily by Steele

One-Woman Farm by Woginrich

Permaculture One by Mollison


Do you have any suggestions for books or magazine subscriptions I should add to my list?  I especially need a recommendation on canning and food preservation.  Also, animal husbandry.  And bees.  Assume that I know nothing.  

We will be moving next year to a place with acreage (50+?) somewhere in New England and I will be building our homestead from scratch.  My husband travels for work 2-3 weeks a month and I am a stay at home mom with a 3-year-old and trying to have another baby.  Anyway, there will be plenty of time to study before implementations on a large scale.  We will probably hire a permaculture consultant to design a master plan that we will implement over the next 5, 10, 20 years (it never really stops right?).

This is our alternative to a 401K plan, a much more stable long-term investment!  :-)



Wendy S. Delmater's picture
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I'd recommend
  •  Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving - basic canning
  • Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving - advanced canning
  • Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables - by Mike Bubel and Nancy Bubel
  • Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times - by Steve Solomon, excellent info on seed saving


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Perennial Vegetables

Let Me Try Again.

Perennial Vegetables By Eric Toensmeier. One of my favorites. Also - http://perennialvegetables.org

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Some more suggestions

Here are some of my favorites:

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.  Especially germane to gardening in New England.

The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe.  Covers 5 survival crops in a lot of depth.  One of a few gardening books that's not the same old introductory material as every other general gardening book.

The Permaculture Handbook by Peter Bane.  Much more accessible intro to permaculture than Mollison's work, and more geared toward a North American audience.


As far as magazines go, my favorite is Backwoods Home.  Has a definite libertarian slant, goes beyond the basics.  Unlike Mother Earth News, Hobby Farm, etc, I don't get the impression that most of the articles are simply a way to highlight another set of consumer goods that are advertised on the very next page.

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And a few more

I think I have too many books.  I have all but a couple listed above and would agree with the list so far.  I would add:

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

How to Dry Foods by Deanna DeLong

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe

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hi rayne i built my homestead

hi rayne

i built my homestead from scratch. took me 7 years to get to a stopping point,,,tho there never really is a stopping point with this lifestyle.

if i can be of any help, i offer to you. it's alot of work and very rewarding...and as chris says, just do the next thing.

i have or have read the above books...i think elliot coleman th most helpful to set up infrastructure. in the north especially.

i would add build your own earth oven by kiko denzer. i built an outdoor kitchen area and used this book to understand concepts of ovens...i built a brick oven with fire brick and field stone...makes fantastic pizza! i;ve also cooked chickens, turkeys, roasts, and bread in it.  haven't tried a pie yet.!it's fun for social gatherings.

i also enjoy mother earth livng magazine which used to be called herbs. it's an nice blend of tips and receipes. easy on the eyesgood luck.

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I'll add these to the list.

Hi Rayne,

I'll add these to the already good list. On Amazon you can see how people rated the books and most the the time you can look inside the index .....  

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar,... by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante, Deborah Madison and Eliot Coleman (Apr 4, 2007)


Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, 2nd by Suzanne Ashworth, David Cavagnaro and Kent Whealy (Mar 1, 2002)


The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 10th by Emery, Carla (Mar 2, 2010)

This one is probably my favorite. Covers about everything you can imagine. 





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Small Scale Grain Raising,

Small Scale Grain Raising, 2nd Ed, Gene Logsdon


treebeard's picture
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has got to be my favorite.  His first book, it's in one of these piles somewhere is still my bible, I've forgotten the title.  I do also have his Winter Harvest and Four Season Harvest which are also great as others have mentioned.  Joel Salatin's books are great, he has two or three out, more about animal husbandry.  I have books by Fukuoka, the most inspirational is The One Straw Revolution, more spiritual than practical.  I have read Lodgesons books on grain that someone else recommended and the contrary farmer.  Those to my mind are more for the experienced farmer.

One of the better books on Permaculture is Robert Kourik's Designing and maintaining your edible landscape naturally.  His work predated the recent spate of Permie books and seems that they all borrowed from him heavily.  Though I don't think he has associated himself with that movement.  Another great book on edible landscaping is Lee Reich's Landscaping with fruit, practical and easy to use resource book.

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Let me try again

Perennial Vegetables By Eric Toensmeier. One of my favorites. Also - http://perennialvegetables.org

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"All Flesh is Grass"

way more than a how to book

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by Gene Logsdon

not the prophet Isaiah

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Hey Robie

Hey  Robie-

   I found 2 "Flesh Is Grass" books on Amazon, and am not sure which one you were recommending.  The 1st one is by Gene Logsdon, and the subtitle is "Pleasures & Promises of Pasture Farming".  The 2nd one is a collection of work by 38 authors, edited by Joseph Seckbach and Zvy Dubinsky.  Its subtitle is "Plant-Animal Interrelationships....". The latter book is pretty expensive, about $173 on Amazon.  Which one of those (if either) is the one you liked?


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Old books

I've read maybe 80 percent of the books listed above but none completely address the notion of agriculture in a world with no fossil fuels or zero availability of industrial inputs. The Resilient Gardener and Gardening When it Counts come fairly close but don't quite get there. Even most of the permaculture books refer to heavy machinery or other modern inputs to start.

Ussery's Small-Scale Poultry Flock has a lot of suggestions for feeding your flock sustainably and he is very aware of the Peak Prosperity type issues. It's a great book. But his advice is mostly aimed at becoming less dependent on fossil fuels/modern industry - not independent. He repeatedly mentions how his grandmother completely free-ranged her flock with no inputs at all from her, but doesn't break it down further. (He keeps saying the key was that his grandma had 100 acres. He does not explain further. Well, I now have more than 100 acres and want to do the same thing.)

Ussery also wrote that, if society collapsed and he had zero inputs available, he would probably just keep his Old English Game birds. It was an intriguing but very brief comment.

I recently decided to bolster my reading list with books written no later than the early 1900s. I think a list of good books that pre-date modern agriculture could be most helpful. Those books have their pitfalls but also contain gems.

I just read 10 Acres Enough, published in 1864. The author made a lot of interesting observations but also waged a war on earthworms, thinking they must be totally eradicated for successful agriculture. As with modern-day books, your mileage may vary.

I have watched, and re-watched, the BBC series that includes Tales From the Green Valley, the Edwardian Farm, Victorian Farm, etc (you can find them all on YouTube). The historians who revived those age-old farms relied on books published in the 1600s, 1700s, etc. They also mentioned a few book titles but I can't remember their names. I intend to go through the series again and write them down.

Anyone read useful old books? I suspect most of them can now be downloaded for free.

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To the OP


It sounds like I'm in exactly your situation, except I'm the husband in this case. We just bought in September. I've read dozens of books over the last couple of years and am now familiar with a multitude of innovative agricultural techniques and ideas. Dreams and plans abound.

But, when push comes to shove, I'm worried I won't be able to distinguish a tomato plant from a dandelion.

Better than any book, for me, has been my mom. Her ideas may not perfectly align with mine, but she's been doing this for decades. She's my ultimate go-to source.

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Its the

Gene Logsdon book.

I'm pleased someone is interested

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A Few More Ideas

I concur that you have to buy Encyclopedia of Country Living -- invaluable when starting up, and we continue to refer to it as we start new projects.

I was new to canning (and, for that matter, farmsteading) five years ago and read all sorts of web articles.  My two favorite canning books are "Canning for a New Generation" by Liana Kristoff and "The Art of Preserving" from Williams-Sonoma.  I use both of them all year long.

I recommend everything that Joel Salatin writes, but my two favorite books of his are "The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer" and "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal."


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Website with articles for small scale farming

I found this website many years ago that had a large collection of article about small scale farming


"Even most of the permaculture books refer to heavy machinery or other modern inputs to start.

Well its possible to run machinary on woodgas. its possible to raise enough food without machinery, but its very labor intensive work and you will wear out your body. Ideally you want to leverage technology and machinary where ever you can, and its possible to us alterative power system to provide power without access to modern fossil fuels as long as you have enough land and a large enough woodlot to provide a sustainable energy source to power machines using woodgas, or even external combustion energies (steam engines).

I would recommend investing time and resources to develop a system that you can use to power farming machinary. Even a small belt driven steam engine can be used. Pump water, separate grain, grind grain. etc. ideally a steam or woodgas tractor with PTO would be the best option since you can use the tractor to plow fields and haul crops off the fields and into your storage facilities. 

Permacuture is possible but not ideal, especially if you do not have a lot of land where you can rotate your land. if you research (on the internet) you should be able to find information about crop rotation. The time you need the land to rest between crops varies between crops. I believe high nitrogen depeletion crops need a rest period of 6 to 8 years between planting to avoid soil depletion. If you have farm animals that can feed on hay, you plant the fields with hay and let the animals do the fertializing for you!

During the rest period the fields are planted with legumes or other "green manure" crops that replace lost fertializers. However all crops will deplete trace minerals. These can be supplimented with wood ash, but wood ash is also very useful. 

 You could stockpile a decade or more of petro fertializers to carry you through for a considerable period. If you grow low fertializer crops you can extend your stockpile of fertializer. Since you still have access to modern fertializers, you would be foolish not to stock up. Of course you have to take care of stockpiling fertializers because they also make good explosives. Stockpile your supply in earthen bunker that is away from any building and away from any potential fire sources (ie dry brush that can catch fire).

One issue is that most the books do not discuss is long term independance. its very likely that you will have serveral years of poor weather, or perhaps disease or infestations that damage or destroy a large amount of your crops. Therefore in any given season, you will need to plant at least twice your yearly consumption so you have a sufficient supply to carry you. In modern agraculture this isn't as important since crops are distrubuted across many thousands of miles. While one area may be totally wiped out, another region will have a bumper crop. However when your own source is locally grown food it becomes a major problem. 

Another huge concern I have is what happens to the worlds 300+ nuclear reactors when most of them have very large stockpiles of spent fuel. Without a constant supply of cooling, the spent fuel pools will quickly boil and the fuel rods will catch fire spreading high radioactive materials virtually everywhere. I very much doubt there will be an acre of land anywhere, that doesn't become contaminated. You will need to figure out out a way to protect your land from exposure of radioactive fallout. I am not sure if humanity can survive this.


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Thanks, TechGuy, appreciate information

Kudos TechGuy for posting information.  I find it more helpful when posters make specific recommendations and the rationale behind it, rather than general statements.

I appreciate your stimulating our thinking about fertilizers.  While I am a big supporter of organic, your proposals make for simple, practical advice.

Good safety tips also about fertilizers.  If anyone has more details about safe storage ideas, I would greatly value hearing it.

Thanks again,


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How to Grow More Vegetables -

How to Grow More Vegetables - Jeavons

The Natural Way of Farming - Fukuoka


dcm's picture
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Thoughts on permaculture

As its name implies permaculture is about anything but crop rotation. It's also probably the best method for smaller pieces of land because of its vertical efficiency, closed organic fertilization, and natural pesticide control. There are tons of examples on the web of folks producing amazing amounts of food on small lots. It's not a perfect system for sure but it models nature who has been at it a lot longer than modern ag and has proven, by its very definition, to be a self supporting system..      

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another book

thanks to all for recommending books.  We have read most of them and own them.  One that I don't see mentioned is The Unsettling of America -  Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry, 1977.  I think most of the books listed so far are terrific for telling HOW to farm or garden but Berry tells the WHY of farming.  For me Motivation is just as important, if not more so, than Perspiration.  I found Berry's insight and logical presentation almost irrefutable.  In 1977 he was a voice in the wilderness, and now has become a prophet as most of what he describes has become true and more apparent i.e. agribusiness is commonly accepted as the norm.  It's so encouraging to read your posts and realize so many are beginning to understand the importance of learning to farm/garden.

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