Book Review: The Backyard Homestead



I know many readers are interested in setting up and running a small homestead on small acreage and The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre, can help to get you started in the right direction.

It doesn’t take a lot of land to have a self-sufficient homestead. I have five and a half acres, but use about half of that for my, garden, fruit and nut trees, henhouse, grape vines, goat lot, rabbit hutch, bee hive, compost pile, home and yard. You don’t need a lot of land.

But you do need to know how to use your small acreage efficiently, The Backyard Homestead will help you do that.

Within it’s 368 pages you’ll find easy to understand, straight forward instructions covering a wealth of information, that’ll help you get the most from a small homestead or even your backyard.

The thing that stood out most was the detailed planning diagrams and breakdowns for different sized plots, arrangements and lists of possible yields from each. Of course the actual yield harvested, would depend on many factors. But the suggestions give something to work for and compare your progress against.

The Backyard Homestead covers a range of topics, all geared toward those of us homesteading on small acreage, such as: vegetable gardening, fruit and nut trees, herbs, grains, poultry, rabbits, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, preserving, making wine, cider, vinegar, herbs, making cheese, yogurt and butter and a lot more.

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

  • 1400 eggs
  • 50 lbs of wheat
  • 60 lbs of fruit
  • 2000 lbs of vegetables
  • 280 lbs of pork
  • 75 lbs of nuts

The Backyard Homestead is a great book for anyone interested in self-reliance on a small acreage.  Copies of “The Backyard Homestead“,  “The Encyclopedia of Country Living” and “Barnyard in Your Backyard” will cover just about everything that you will ever need to know when setting up and running a small homestead.

My only complaint (I have to complain about something – no matter how trivial) is that some of the suppliers mentioned are no longer in business. This can be expected as businesses come and go and any such listing is guaranteed to become dated. This isn’t a big deal as other sources and alternatives are easy to find.

I also thought it strange that there were no plans for composting or homemade composters. This isn’t a big deal as this info is all over the web and detailed in just about any book on gardening or homesteading.

Would I recommend this book? Yes; I would. It is a gold mine of information for those of us homesteading on small acreage.

What about you? What books would you recommend for those homesteading on a small plot of land?

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Comments

  1. Hunker-Down says:

    O.K. So now we have 201 items on our Amazon wish list.

    Pack: Please send us UNEXPIRED lottery tickets!

    Thanks M.D. This book (when we get it) will help a lot in our planning.

  2. JP in MT says:

    I have this book too. Although I, as of yet, don’t have a backyard to speak of (found out yesterday that I officially have a 3,000 sq ft lot and a 1,400 square foot house).

    This is another book that I picked up in anticipation of moving and doing more with less outside help.

  3. I have this book and it stays in the ,,,errrrr,, ,,,”library” . It’s great book with a lot of ideas for those with a smallish lot.

  4. Exile1981 says:

    I have this book but I think the food production rates are overly optimistic. Everything else in the book is good and helpful. I use two other sources for figuring out potential food production rates.

    The first is a chart from a book by the Montana ag board back in the 60′s (?) and it covers 200 different “crops” done on a test farm with only hand tools and manual labor. They did the test over 5 years and always used 100 foot long rows and the chart shows how much seed was needed for that row and how much production they got on average per row per year. I’ve used this a lot over the years as it is pretty accurate for food production by hand. I find my garden is about 80% as productive as the chart says but I also don’t weed as vigilantly or water as often as they did.

    The second is an article from the Dominion of Canada back in the late 1800′s on how much land a family of 8 needed in the western territories to survive on. The recommended 160 acres, one harvest per year with a lot in pasture for the animals and that would give you enough for even in the bad years with some to sell.

  5. Sumatra says:

    Didn’t you write this review once before?

  6. I too think the estimates of food production are very ‘optimistic’.

    You can harvest 1400 eggs and 280lbs of pork IF you import feed from someplace else to raise your chickens and pig. Neither of them HAVE to have a lot of room, but they will be a lot better off if they each had about 1/4ac to roam on.

    Good book to read is “5 acres and Independence”……first published in the 30′s I think, so it’s an oldie, but a goodie.

  7. K. Fields says:

    “Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre?”
    No, you can’t (unless your last name is Jeavons) – so don’t expect this book to teach you how to accomplish that amazing feat.

    I have 2 main complaints with this book. First is that it doesn’t maintain its premise of teaching you how to maximize your small homestead’s land past the book’s introductory drawings. How many potatoes do you “need” to maintain a healthy diet and how much space would it take to grow and store that many potatoes? How’s about corn? The book states your corn beds will need to be heavily manured the proceeding fall or a cover crop grown and plowed under – where is that much manure coming from or how can you afford (in terms of space for food production) to have a cover crop on your beds 6 months out of the year only to be plowed under?
    Second is that it grossly underestimates the amount of land necessary. One instance that stuck in my memory was the statement that you’d need an additional ¼ acre for the family to raise steers for beef! Raising steers on a quarter acre? Only if you’re following the husbandry practices of your local feed lot! OK, maybe you could raise a single cow on a quarter acre of very good pasture, but it would have to be trained to a tether and even then that ¼ acre would be dead after a couple of years. Overwintering? Forget it.

    Basically a compilation of various Storey Publication booklets (which explains the lack of continuity of premise), “The Backyard Homestead” is one of those nice books to read while you dream of a different lifestyle. Much like the present day Mother Earth News magazine (but without the Internet links for additional details), the information is good, but very, very light. If you’re still at that dreaming stage, the book may be worth the 10 bucks it would cost you to buy it used, but if you’re entering the actual planning stage, look to John Seymour’s “The Self Sufficient Life” and Carla Emory’s “The Encyclopedia of Country Living” instead.

    • I have this book and several similar. Like K. Fields says… there are parts that are really lacking. Because of this I am doing a lot of experimenting. How much oats can you get if you plant five pounds? I dunno, but I’ll find out in a month or so when I harvest the area. Same goes for corn. What would my corn output be if I planted that area in corn vs. oats?

      The book did spur a lot of dreams but left some things unanswered about homesteading on a small plot.

  8. K. Fields says:

    M.D. – You published a good article earlier this year (March?) on the amount of food/seeds a family would need to be self-sufficient. I wanted to link it with my book comment but I couldn’t get the archive link box to work.
    Is the problem just my old computer?

  9. I have read this book cover to cover several times. Although it has not been in sequence… This book is a great reference book to pull up an answer to one or more questions that pop up. I love the simplicity of information and the layout. I also purchased it on kindle to read while in Afghanistan. It’s very informative in many different realms, from gardening to husbandry and beyond. I highly suggest the book if you’re getting into homesteading or just need a quick reference book to call upon for those tasks not performed daily. Once you get your feet wet into one it more subjects you should seek a more in depth guide book for that specific subject. Buy the book!

  10. Winomega says:

    Backyard homestead. It’s not about how much space, it’s how suitable the space is.

    I’m thinking about one of my mother’s neighbors. He somehow thought that he could start a farm on a half acre. (I’m not sure about what he went through, an old family friend down the street kept chickens on the for-sale property just to keep a grandfather clause alive.)

    I saw the property back when I was a young teenager. I’ve heard his roosters, but I can’t fathom more than a half dozen chickens and a pair of pigs on that land. Apparently he had multiples somethings large and hooved.

    There is also the issue that sunlight just doesn’t happen on that side of the street. Not without managing to get a dozen trees hauled away. The only reason that he’s not backed by a subdivision is that the swamp ate some earth-mover.

  11. Sarah B. says:

    I am a backyard homesteader. AND I work 40 hours a week. Let me just pop a balloon that most people have: “It’s a lot of work.” It’s not. It’s more than a lot of work. When your veggies and fruit ripen in the garden, you have to pick them or they will go bad. When they are ripe, you need to eat them or process them within days. When an animal is sick or injured, you have to dispatch them and either throw them away (due to disease or unknown death) or be able to pay hefty vet bills, because I’ve NEVER encountered a cheap vet bill. You have to adapt when your chickens suddenly stop producing or you pull out a jar of canned veggies and the seal has gone bad.

    I highly recommend starting small, but start!!! The sooner you start, they quicker you will learn. You’ll adapt your watering, your fertilizing and how/where you plant. You’ll add to the coop or switch fencing for your hooved meat. You’ll discover what grows well in your soil and what you absolutely cannot grow no matter how much you love it.

    But, it’s more than a lot of work. It’s a second, full time job!