Sunday, January 27, 2013
We have been living on a 3.8 acre parcel for over 5 years, and have slowly been getting into the sustainable lifestyle. I have always found that many of the resources aimed at folks like us have created a "want" for more land, more tools, and more stuff to do. I reviewed Ms. England's book Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) with the hope that it would create more answers than questions, and could possibly help to squelch the desire to do more with more (and instead help us be more efficient with what we had.)
While some have mentioned that this book may not be as practical for those with an acre (or less), I have to disagree. I had previously read the USDA's "Living on an Acre" and was disappointed with the lack of actionable content. It had dozens of ideas for using land, but little guidance on actually getting started. (And practically nothing on keeping it going, building better, etc.) Ms. England's book, however, has some excellent examples of starting small, and doing more as you get more. It also has so much more 'common sense' advice than I had expected. An example would be her take on raising baby goats and sheep: If you aren't the kind that feels like getting up in the middle of the night and bottle feeding a screeching, impatient baby (with the expectation that you still have to get up and go to work, find a sitter for the thing during the day, etc.) then raising these animals likely isn't for you.
Most books sugar-coat these aspects of rural living, and I love that she spells out the commitment for various activities BEFORE you invest time and money in them. Perhaps the best aspect of this book is the expertise. Ms. England speaks as one who was ACTUALLY done these farming activities. She constantly shares what has worked for her personally, and -- if she can -- she will not hesitate to share homemade, quality shortcuts that save time and money over some of the more commercial and expensive solutions presented in some of the homestead magazines I've read. If you can put it together with scrap wood, she won't tell you to buy it new from the store for hundreds of dollars.
In a day when "homesteading" has almost become "posh", it can be seem that backyard farming is only for the rich, the trendy, or worse yet -- those with no desire to do well with what they have. Angela's approach to create less waste, create more security, and create a new generation of responsible citizens who can add value to the small lots they are given is admirable (and most importantly, DOABLE.)
*Review copy received. Opinions are my own.
Review of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) by Angela England