Building a Homestead Library

Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I still love bound paper books. And if the Kindle isn’t charged or accessible, physical books are even more of a must have. Sometimes technology fails (even if that failure is me chronically forgetting to charge the e-reader).

Having a reference library for all things homesteading is a really good idea, because keeping all of the information about household and garden management in one’s head can be a daunting prospect. I like to focus on five key areas – cooking, gardening, home-keeping, health/beauty care and DIY/building. Some of the classics in my reference library are –

Home Herbal Remedies

Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects

The Organically Clean Home

Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever

The River Cottage Bread Handbook

All New Square Foot Gardening

The New Organic Grower

The Backyard Homestead

The Milk-Free Kitchen

I’ve also had on my shelf for many, many months three titles by Robert Rose Inc. that I think are worthy of permanent addition to my personal library. I did receive complimentary copies for review purposes, but even if I hadn’t of I would’ve sought these titles out. Like the other Robert Rose book I’ve reviewed these books are all well-organized, comprehensive, have clear instructions/recipes/text and pictures that are both beautiful and informative.

The first of the three is The Best Natural Homemade Soaps by Mar Gomez. I’ve recently really gotten into soap making, and the step-by-step instructions in this book are great. The tone of the book is relaxed, like getting to chat with an expert one-on-one. And I really like the sidebars on most recipes with detailed information about specific ingredients, and explanations about why they work the way they do. The olive oil soap (page 51), lavender soap (page 111) and the oat soap (page 171) are all great recipes for the beginner soap maker to get started with. But with 40 recipes included in the book, there’s something for everyone, including those that have been around the block with making soaps from scratch.

The second book in the trio is The Complete Root Cellar Book by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie. I have spent year and years in mid-rise apartments dreaming of having a root cellar and now we finally own a house with a basement! When we were house hunting, I wouldn’t even consider places that didn’t have at least a partial basement – that’s how much my heart was set on creating a root cellar of my own. And what I thought was a complicated just-beyond-reach major construction project is actually quite doable, thanks to the clear options presented in this book. There are five basic root cellar options presented (in great detail, so you can actually build it and use it) – cold room, walk-in basement style, walk-in stand alone style, outdoor cellaring, and options for condos, town homes and those residing in warm climates. There are also sections on the practice of actually storing food in the cellar (including an entire chapter on pest control) as well as recipes so you can effectively cook from ingredients you’ve stored. The book is loaded with detailed diagrams and cutaways, so it’s very clear to see how to frame in walls, install ventilation and organize the room. I can’t wait to build – if we’re lucky, we’ll have our cellar situated by fall when it’s time to start storing the bulk of the harvest for the year.

The final book on the shelf is The Complete Homebrew Beer Book by George Hummel. We’ve been into home brewing for a few years now, but we haven’t done any since we moved. This book on my bedside reading table is my inspiration to pull out the brew kettle and get back in the saddle. It’s broken into three sections – beginner recipess, intermediate/advanced recipes and an entire section on “extreme” beers and other fermented beverages, including spiced beer, smoked beer, mead, cider and soda. The pumpkin ale (page 290) from this section really caught my eye – especially since I have a lot of pumpkin puree that is at it’s “best by” date that I need to find a use for. I think I just found a good solution, and now is the perfect time to start thinking about early fall brews. It only needs to condition in the bottle for four weeks before drinking, but personally I like to give it a bit more time so the flavors really develop.

So, now that I have a few weekend projects lined up for myself… I highly encourage you guys to pick up copies of these books and do the same. They’re great reads and excellent additions to any homestead library.