My Bookshelf: Efficient Gardening and the foraging gourmet


Mini Farming is about producing as much food as possible from as little space as possible. It covers a number of ways to produce food, including vegetable and fruit growing and raising chickens for eggs and meat. It goes into great detail about soil amendment so that your plants will grow. You may not want to garden in this precise fashion, and I’m with you there, since my own gardening methods are more slapdash. But it’s good to know some rules before you start breaking them. It is a very practical book, offering an astounding amount of information per dollar. The author has clearly done these things himself; sadly, this is not always the case in homesteading books. He is careful to tell you what you need to know. A pet peeve of mine is the number of homesteading books that purport to teach you how to raise animals for meat, then when the time comes to harvest the meat they go coy and soft-focus and say “Be sure to have an expert show you how to do the killing.” What nonsense. You may not have anyone available to demonstrate, or a self-elected “expert” may do such an awful job that you think you’ll never eat meat again. A good book can describe the process and ready you for what you will encounter every step of the way. This book tells you exactly how to kill and butcher a chicken as quickly and humanely as possible. If you are going to raise meat birds, read it even if you plan to have a more experienced person help you, so that you understand beforehand what’s going to happen. This is a great value and a good book for the serious “yard farmer.”

I do not ever accept free review copies of the books that appear on my blog. I buy them at my local independent bookstore, paying the price that you are likely to pay. Books like this make me realize why I set that policy. This is a very beautiful book, and the recipes are top-notch. But if you’re buying it because you are interested in wild foods, you need to know a few things:
1. A lot of the wild foods described are mushrooms, which many foragers prefer to avoid.
2. This is not a book about how to forage. You’ll need a couple of good foraging instructional books for that.
3. If you’re one of my local Albuquerque readers, a lot of the foods described don’t grow wild around here.
In short, this is a great coffee-table book and a fine high-end cookbook, and if you love to spend time in the kitchen trying to find the greatest height to which a foraged food can be brought, you’ll love this book. If you love to gaze upon exquisite (and expensive) glossy photos of resplendent food, you’ll love this book. I love this book. But $40 is a price that makes me stop and think hard about value for money, and I can’t honestly say that it represents great value for money. If I had gotten it free, I might unconsciously gloss over that part. I’m glad I bought it, but if your goal is to learn to forage, this is not the book for you.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Great,now I need both of these books, your not helping very much with my book addiction you know! But really, I’m not on a city lot, I live in rural Georgia on 9 acres of land. However, I think everyone should study these techniques of organic yield increase. If I can produce all the food I need on only a quarter acre of land that means more for the wildlife, and more for cash crops so I can pay my land taxes! Both excellent recommendations!

    Reply

  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on February 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Saving space for wildlife is a great point. I’m so glad to hear that people with a lot of land (by my standards!) are thinking about economical use of it.

    Reply

  3. […] he’s already written an entire book about that (and a very good one, by the way.) This and Mini Farming are my favorites of the scads of new gardening books that I’ve looked over this winter. […]

    Reply

  4. […] homestead is adding animals. Chickens are the easiest, and you can get Brett Markham’s book Mini Farming for info about how he integrates layers and meat chickens into a small operation. I have wanted for […]

    Reply

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