The Backyard Homestead

The Backyard Homestead

Backyard homestead book Anyone who knows me just a little should know that a book titled “The Backyard Homestead
” is guaranteed to make me swoon!

Add in a subtitle of: “Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!” and be still. my. heart.

At the conference we attended last weekend, my darling hubby saw me practically drooling over this book, and proceeded to sneakily buy it for me and surprise me with it during one of our lunch picnics. I’ve been devouring it every since. πŸ™‚

On the back of the book, it tells you that on a 1/4 acre, you can harvest:

  • 1400 eggs
  • 50 lbs of wheat (seriously? I love that!)
  • 60 lbs of fruit
  • 2000 lbs of vegetables
  • 280 lbs of pork
  • 75 lbs of nuts

It also happens to mention that you can make dandelion wine, and inside there are a whole host of other ideas for using the wild dandelions in your yard. My husband was quick to point out that in light of this, I should be viewing spring as a season of bountiful harvest, rather than being irritated by the vast sea of yellow-ness that has spread across both my front and backyard and is about to go to great lengths to further propagate itself. Thanks honey. I’ll try.

Not every idea in the book is practical for us, because although our city lot is technically pretty close to a 1/4 acre (though the house is quite large), it is a rental and therefore I can’t start going nuts (hee, hee, no pun intended), tearing out shrubs to replace them with berry bushes, or adding a small orchard along the side of the house.

Here are a few ideas that have me seriously thinking right now, though:

  • Chickens are still technically a no-no, but due to the city of Vancouver’s possible bylaw change, my days gathering fresh eggs may not be quite as far off anymore
  • I’ve been reading up on dwarf fruit trees in barrels or large pots, and especially the fact that you can get some wonderful varieties that are self-pollinating (which means you only need one, not two, trees). Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, here I come! I need to research more and see what trees I can find locally. But it’s promising! Turns out there are actually a host of dwarf trees that you can grow in containers!
  • Starting a nut tree in a pot may also be a possibility. Perhaps something that we could replant when we buy a house.
  • Crazy as it sounds, I’m tossing around the idea of raising rabbits for meat. Now, consider the fact that I don’t think I have ever eaten rabbit meat in my life. I only know that it’s edible, that she talks about it in the book, and that it’s both legal and feasible to raise lots of rabbits in our yard. I’d rather have a sheep or a goat, but I think a goat’s out on account of too little space, and a sheep most likely on account of silly old bylaws πŸ™‚
  • Expanding my herb gardening, to provide for more of my cooking herbs, and well as for making teas and medicines. This is something I’ve been interested in for awhile, and am slowly adding to my repertoire.

Has anyone else read this fantastic book? What types of ideas have you gleaned from it and have you put any of it into action yet? And what goes through your mind when you hear the word “Backyard Homestead”?

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  1. I would love to read this book. I’m new to the homesteading concept, but it really appeals to me. The only thing I’m going to run into is that we are military, so moving around every 2-3years is in the picture for the next 10-12 years. If you ever got a chance (ha ha ;), I’d love to read a post with suggestions on how to incorporate gardening ideas that are portable or do not require a year or two of baby-ing before you see results, as I just can’t invest in that at this time in life.

    The idea of raising rabbits for food is fascinating! I’ve never had rabbit either.

    1. @Amanda,

      @ Amanda: Easy and quick: raising your own herbs in pots, which are portable and easy to manage.

      @ Stephanie: I really would discourage you from raising rabbits for meat. Rabbits need lots of mental stimulation and space to play in order to have ANY quality of life before slaughter—and I assume you want to humanely raise your meat. This makes it tough to keep them, because they need large quarters and lots of toys and human interaction, unlike a goat or chickens who will be happy grazing, hanging out with each other, and getting the occasional head-scratch from you.

  2. This is right up my alley. I keep nudging hubby towards chickens, but he doesn’t think our landlords will go for it :). I’ll have to check out this book.

  3. yeah, i think my heart stopped beating for that post…or at least skipped a beat. i have to get that book! how exciting. thank you so much for sharing!!!!! πŸ™‚

  4. This book sounds facinating! I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a copy for myself. We are starting to do more to be more self-sufficent as well, including a small flock of backyard chickens! Infact, we will be picking up our pullets this evening. I love that you mentioned dandilions and their many uses! I was noticing them in one of the pictures you posted in your potato post and was going to mention that I have a recipe for dandilion jelly that I will be trying this year. My children already know that we will be picking heaps of them soon and are quite excited to make it. I love the idea of making use of what we already have (and is FREE). If you are intrested, email me and I will send it to you.

  5. This sounds great my friend and I are working on getting back to basics. Thanks I am going to link your site.

  6. Wow – this sounds like a fabulous book. I’m intrigued. I am in the process of reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where this family lived off the food they grew or that which came within a 100 miles radius for an entire year. Very impressive and inspiring. And I’ve always wanted chickens!!!

  7. Thanks for the recommendation-it sounds awesome! My hubs is from Vancouver (langley area) and we are looking to someday move back–we’re hoping wihtin the next 2-3 years after the olympics and the craze is over πŸ™‚ (and the minor detail of selling our house..hehe!)
    We have often tossed around teh idea of a hobby farm, but don’t think it is do-able in the near future for us. I wish you luck with these things, though, can’t wait to hear about the fruits of your labor” πŸ™‚
    Sarah M

  8. You are in Vancouver?? How cool, I didn’t realize that! I haven’t heard of the book but it looks AWESOME. Even though we have twenty acres most of it is sheep/horse pasture and we do pretty much everything else in the barn and the 4 acres that make up our yard. I’m all about compacting though, so I think I will have to get my hands on this!!

  9. Oh wow, I need to read that book! We aren’t settled where we live currently, but I’d love to do something like this once we move to a more permanent place.

  10. I’ve raised rabbits for meat before. It’s really easy, and they taste like chicken. Everybody says that about weird meat, but they really do–they’re mostly white meat like chicken. Maybe slightly more fatty. The joints are in odd places, though, if you serve it like fried chicken. πŸ™‚

    The only thing to be aware of is, when you butcher the rabbits, be sure you know how to do it quickly, and don’t have the kids in earshot, because they scream. They really do–it sounds like women–unless you can break their neck quick or cut their throats. That sounds awful but there is a technique where you grab their heads and jerk them quick to break their necks, and then they don’t feel anything and don’t scream. I’m sure if you investigate it you’ll find pictures. You might want to get someone who’s butchered to show you the first time, though.

    Hope this wasn’t too grim. Rabbit tastes really good–you also get the pelts, if you want to tan them, and they make wonderful slippers and lap robes!

  11. Sounds like my kind of book, too!

    Rabbit meat: I haven’t done it, but my husband has. He says it tastes pretty similar to chicken. Also, once you get practiced, you can dress a rabbit in 10 minutes (says he), so way easier to dress than a chicken. BUT — living in the city would require some serious discretion with a rabbit-eating habit. πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure that our neighbors would call in the animal-abuse people if they knew. We don’t have rabbits now, but it is something we’re considering….

  12. Kelly, I’d love that recipe! Would you email it to be, please?

    Tiffany, I just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I also loved. Yup, really inspiring. πŸ™‚

    Sarah M, good idea avoiding the olympics. We’re dreading the traffic, and the road construction has been pretty insane around here (not to mention housing prices!). We’re pretty near the Langley area. I love the acreage lots in South Langley and Aldergrove… maybe one day? πŸ™‚

    Raven, thanks for the rabbit lesson! I can take grim. Better to know what you’re getting into, right? I bet our major issue (aside from that) would be a little girl who wants to name and keep them all!

  13. I just got this book a few weeks ago. It’s wonderfu. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from it, but as yet have not been able to get going on them seriously. Unfortunately, our little suburban plot belonged to a part-time landscaper before we bought it, and it’s full of useless plants & trees (i.e. they don’t produce food!) All the trees are in the wrong places and block the sun right where I need it most. I have planted a small garden, but before I can make this into a real homestead I will have to cut down several poorly placed trees. I now wish we had bought a house with nothing in the yard. At the time the landscaping seemed great, but I now wish I had a blank slate to work with.

  14. wonderful that you are so committed to living a sustainable lifestyle. would you say that this book would have enough about vegan food sources that it would be worth my picking it up? i guess it’s always good to be educated about non-vegan sustainable living as well, so i can talk to friends/family about producing their own animal products rather than supporting factory farming.

  15. What a great book!!! I am eagerly drooling over what’s inside as well. We have started gardening this year and my family thinks I’m crazy because I would like to be self-sustained when it comes to feeding our family. We are in the process of hoping to move and get some acreage, but now it looks like I can start like this πŸ™‚

    Also, I have heard, but didn’t look to confirm that The Joy of Cooking has lots of rabbit recipes in it.
    I bet that would be a problem with naming and then attempting to eat the sweet things. πŸ™‚

  16. And one other question… what is your thought on buying potted plants and not knowing what they have used as fertilizers and such?? I inquired about some indoor avocados and they never replied when I asked. Just curious if you are having better luck or what you think. Thanks

  17. Wow. What would they say to do with a full acre in the country? How do you get so motivated? I did start chapter one and bought those green bags to put your groceries in.

  18. The book sounds awesome! I just added it to my Amazon Wish List. So far, they’re all just wishes, (haven’t bought any yet) but at least I wont forget which ones I want once I have the money!

    Anyway, about the rabbits… Your post reminded me of this:

    I had a friend in high school that used to raise rabbits for meat. He had Flemish Giants, I think. They can get really big!

    Good luck!

  19. Sarah, about 4/5 of the book would be suitable for vegans, so it’s definitely worth it! There’s only the one major section on raising animals for meat, eggs and milk, and otherwise the focuses are on vegetables, fruit trees and bushes, nuts, grains, herbs and foraging.

    Lea, obviously it’s best if you can find plants that haven’t been exposed to conventional fertilizers, etc. but sometimes that’s just very difficult or near impossible. It’s still worth it, in my opinion, because once they’re out of the garden nursery, they will be tended to by you, and so they will be primarily “organic” from that point on. Still better than store produce, for sure!

    Jena, yay for you! I’m so thrilled to hear that you’re implementing the steps! πŸ™‚ With a full acre, they would say to add in larger animals that need more pasture space, like cows. Of course, you could always extend your veggie garden and fruit orchard then as well.

  20. We’re renting right now and the lease includes steep rent increases for animals of any sort, so raising rabbits would not be worth it at the moment (besides the fact that our property manager would be of the “call the animal-abuse department” type) BUT I’d been thinking about the idea for when we move back to our own house (away for law school). I hadn’t even mentioned it to my husband because it sounded too crazy. Glad to know I’m not quite so weird as I thought. πŸ™‚

  21. I bought this recently but haven’t had a chance to start reading it. Time to take an internet hiatus and read my book stash. LOL

  22. I too am drooling over that book! I will have to get it too πŸ™‚ By the way, if you haven’t seen the old British comedy “The Good Life” or also called “Good Neighbors” you would LOVE it. It’s about a couple who set out to live a self sufficient life in the middle of the London suburbs. This is a must see – You will laugh and see yourself in some of their antics πŸ™‚ Thank you for the wonderful blog!

  23. This topic has been on my mind for a while and now that my husband is losing his job it is time to start taking it seriously. We have a little over half and acre just begging to be put to good use with a bigger garden and some chickens. I’m thinking this book may be worth the investment even though things are tight right now simply for the information that will help us live more sustainably and inexpensively. Not to mention the extra time my dear husband will have to help get things up and running. Thanks for sharing!
    I’ve gotten tons of great ideas and information from your site.

  24. Wow! Look at all the responses on this topic, Stephanie! You certainly have struck a chord that many of us are feeling is important. I am very excited to read this book that you found and I’ve already ordered it from my public library per your recommendation. I was able to attend a beekeeping class last Saturday and I’ve ordered a hive, so soon we will be adding bees along with our chickens. Next spring we plan to add a couple of goats.

    I know that your property is on the smaller side, but do not let that deter you. The Dervaes family has been homesteading on one tenth of an acre with amazing results. Do a search and you’ll find some videos that show they’re home and yard.

  25. Oh my goodness!! I WANT this book!!! Seriously, I am going to go check the library database right now!

  26. We’ve talked about raising rabbits – we live in the suburbs, and chickens etc. are OUT for us. There is a series of videos on YouTube that show how to kill and clean the rabbit meat.

    This book looks great! I got “How to Live on an Acre” by the ag dept. from the library, and it was a big disappointment.

  27. That’s sooo ironic that you posted about this book. We had a date night two weeks ago, and I was looking at it longingly as well, but had to pass it up. On the way out of the library on Wednesday after checking out some books I saw it in the new section, but had to pass it by again…my hubby and daughter were already waiting for me. (which I’d recommend by the way…clean and green by Berthold-Bond, Healthy Child, Healthy World by Gavigan and Slice of organic life by goldsmith which is similar to ideas in organic homestead but more of an overview and not so indepth) Hope that last sentence made sense, but I’m trying ot finish this quick b/c I just got a call to head to the hospital. Pray for my uncle.

  28. Now I am drooling over this book! DH and I are currently looking into getting chickens for our backyard, we (meaning DH) are in the midst of working our veggie garden and I’m enjoying reading “Nourishing Traditions”. We are also excited at the prospect of fresh, raw milk in our future as our state has just passed a law to make it legal for purchase.

    Now I want some dwarf fruit trees!

  29. I just put this on my amazon wishlist!!! Thanks for posting it!

    I want to raise my own chickens for eggs, but I don’t think my husband will go for it (he works in a chicken plant). πŸ™‚

  30. Cottage Comtesse, I love that you’re going to go for a bee hive! How great! It’s not so much the size of our lot that deters me (and yes, I’ve seen the Dervaes in video- amazing!), it’s more the fact that we’re renting. I’m just trying to do as much as I can with what I’m permitted to do in a yard that isn’t my own and isn’t long term.

    Faith, thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve read “A Slice of Organic Life” and it was great! I prayed for your uncle… hope everything’s ok!

    Julie, I just bought something really fun today that I think you’ll like… I’ll post about it this week! πŸ™‚

  31. That looks great! I’ll have to check it out. I actually just posted about eating dandelions on my blog last week. πŸ˜‰

  32. I bought this book for a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago. We looked through it together and In had to go buy a copy for myself. I have been devouring it and feeling very inspired to put our vastly under-utilized 10 acres to use. We already have chickens and LOVE them! One thing I’d really like to get going is honey bees, so if anyone has any advice on them I’d love to hear it. Thoughts on this are…harvesting the dandelions would be collecting a much needed and common source of pollen for the bees in the early spring. Also, I want to put in a few fruit trees, but again I’d love to hear how people keep bugs off of the fruit trees without killing the bees??

  33. Hi! I’m Spanish and rabbit is part of our diet almost on a weekly basis. It’s a delicious, lean, practically colesterol-free type of meat, whose nutritional properties are close to those of chicken meat. I definetely encourage you to give it a try. Plus, my parents raise rabbits in their backyard and, apparently, it’s quite an easy process: again, it’s similar to raising chickens.
    God bless you,

  34. Have you ever read The Good Life by Scott Nearing & Helen Nearing? It’s all about homesteading and living off the land in New England, USA. The book is extremely detailed in its approach to teaching one how to accomplish this. Check it out!

  35. I am going to have my wife look into buying this book for her mom. It seems to be “right up her alley.’

    We’ve started a homesteading lifestyle centered forum and would love to have all who share in these ideals visit and consider becoming a member and share your wisdom and thoughts with others. Our goal is to make this “your” forum.


    Doug and Sheila

  36. Have you ever heard of dwarf goats? I live on 2 acres of land, most of which is woods, and don’t have room for a large goat enclosure, but dwarf or pygmy goats are about a third of the size of regular goats. The does can provide close to a half gallon of milk a day each, and they are very lovable and friendly as pets. The initial cost can be pretty high ($200-300 for registered, maybe around $50-150 for unregistered) but if you plan to breed them (ADORABLE kids!!) then you’ll quickly make up that deficit. I’m seriously looking into buying some. πŸ™‚ Love your site, and God bless!

  37. My brother gave me this book for Christmas. And although it has been too cold (we live in Michigan) to put anything into action, my husband and I have been reading it and making some big plans for spring. I also have to say that I am so happy that looking into this book brought me to your blog. I am soooo excited to see that this sort of thinking is becoming so popular.

  38. I love this book. I just recently borrowed it from a friend and have been scheming through it. It’s not so much the gardening (that seems to be my husband’s suit) but the animal raising that I am intrigued by. We also have under a little quarter of an acre with a tiny house on it. We have three goats coming whom will have plenty of room. What she doesn’t really cover in the book are the miniature breeds like the Nigerian Dwarf. They are now a certified American Dairy Goat which, I don’t think they were when she published this book. We used to have two and we had PLENTY of room for them. They have super rich milk (highest in butter fat of all the breeds) and put out a lot of milk surprisingly for their size. They are also really clean and don’t smell nearly as bad as chickens or even rabbits. Anyway, just thought I would let you all know that goats are completely feasible in a quarter of an acre. They also have the new “mini-breeds” now where they breed a Nigerian buck to a standard sized breed like a Nubian or Saneen. This gives the connivence of the small goat but, the milk out put of little less than the standard size which can be a lot!

  39. My hubby got me this last year for Christmas and I love it! While we’re renters still, as well, I love soaking in all the facts and tips and am just waiting for the day I can plant more things than a few containers!

    My husband particularly likes the sections on how to make your own beer and wine!
    .-= Kait PalmerΒ΄s last blog ..My Seatmate, Ethel. =-.

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