Homesteading Books: 4 Titles for 2021

Are you looking for a new, good read this year? Marissa Ames, our Senior Editor at Countryside Publications, reviews four new homesteading books. 

Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time, by Rory Groves 

Durable Trades landed on my desk as the Covid-19 pandemic turned one year old, with 25.7 million Americans still out of work. 

Even relying on homesteading to help fill the gap between paychecks and access to quality food, many still need jobs away from flocks, herds, and gardens. Families still raising children worry that their kids can find profitable careers. And then there’s the issue of the family itself. When my children were young, their ages in the single digits, I struggled to put food on the table while still fulfilling all other facets of motherhood. I found quality time while teaching my children to farm and garden, but not everyone has that opportunity. 

Rory Groves describes what my anthropologist husband also says: These times aren’t unprecedented. We’ve experienced a pandemic each century, for the past 300 years. Groves says in his Author’s Note, “But what astounds most is not the seriousness of the illness, but the fragility of the infrastructure on which our society depends — a central theme of this book.” A paragraph later, he says, “Resilient nations rely on resilient communities, which rely on resilient families.” 

What trades, historically, have stood the test of time while also supporting other crucial aspects of family life? In Durable Trades, Groves describes pitfalls of economics then details 61 different jobs. He narrates a history of each then provides a Score Summary: percentage-based grades on historical stability, resiliency, family-centeredness, income, and ease of entry. (The trade “farmer” rates family-centeredness at 100% but historical stability at 68% because of how mechanization changes old ways.) 

Overall, even if you’re not searching for potential new careers, Durable Trades is a great read, describing how our fragile economies have compromised other values in life and offers discussion on ways to refocus on our jobs, families, and communities. 

Goats Giving Birth: What to Expect During Kidding Season, by Deborah Niemann 

It’s the most wonderful (and frightening) time of the year! From normal births to problem deliveries, all new goat owners could use an experienced mentor during kidding season. Goats Giving Birth is like having a long-time goat-owning friend waiting at your fingertips. 

We were honored when New Society Publishers reached out and asked the Goat Journal team to read and review a book before its publication. We accepted, on one condition: we were going to be honest. And we weren’t disappointed. 

Deborah Niemann, longtime blogger and author of Raising Goats Naturally, guides readers through the kidding process in the same way that a veteran goat-owning friend would by inviting a new owner to their farm — but within a narrative. Instead of telling you what might go wrong, she describes real scenarios with real goats, explaining what happened and how she helped.  

Tamsin Cooper, a valuable contributor to Goat JournalBackyard Poultry, and Countryside & Small Stock Journal, reviewed, “This book is as engrossing as it is invaluable to anyone anticipating goat births. Deborah Niemann’s practical guide describes real-life experiences to complement any textbook knowledge — because so many births are not textbook cases. Instructive and sometimes poignant stories are accompanied by helpful photographs and enlightened advice.” 

When you can’t have that veteran goat-owning friend at your side, Goats Giving Birth is the next best thing. 

Homemade Yogurt & Kefir: 71 Recipes for Making & Using Probiotic-Rich Ferments, by Gianaclis Caldwell 

I made my first batch of yogurt in my slow cooker, and that’s how I’ve done it for 10 years since. Sometimes, I strained it through cheesecloth to make Greek yogurt. We used it for buttermilk biscuits when short on buttermilk, and for “sour cream” in coffee cakes. The culturing process was similar enough that they were interchangeable. But, beyond that, I was ignorant to the vast world of fermented milk. 

Skyr. It’s the buzzword these days. And it’s simple to make. How about labneh? So easy. Dahiryazhenkasữa chuamishti doi — different yogurt styles from different countries. And it’s the uniqueness and cultural significance that I love. There’s kefir, then there’s koumiss, filmjölk, viili, piimä, and matsoni. If you’re like me, the different options are exciting. I want to try them all. 

In Homemade Yogurt & Kefir, Gianaclis Caldwell doesn’t stop there. This book is about cultures and milk, and that “milk” can include plant-based milks — how to make them, culture them, and craft delicious foods with them. Coconut milk viili and drinkable almondgurt sound great right now. 

This is more than just a cookbook. Yogurt has been around for millennia, a cultured source of probiotics and a way of preserving dairy products. Caldwell goes into histories, science behind bacterial cultures, and avoiding lactose issues. And she wraps it up in the sweetest way: with recipes for yogurt crème brûlée and pumpkin yogurt mousse. 

Pokey Jr: Even Roosters Get Second Chances, by Brad Hauter 

Roosters get a bad rap. Small flocks don’t want them, cities don’t allow them. Unless he’s a prime breeding sire or flock protector, what’s a rooster to do? 

Pokey Jr, named after his mother Pokey, grew up in Illinois. When Edward, the previous protector, sacrificed his life to save his flock from a fox, Pokey Jr took up the role as the New Sheriff in Town. His half-brother, Patch, stuck to his side and learned his ways. Then, one day, Patch usurped Pokey Jr’s position and took control. Pokey Jr left the flock social structure and lived alone on the back porch until an incubator full of hatching chicks gave him new purpose. Pokey Jr later led those chicks to rejoin the flock. But Patch wasn’t ready to have Pokey Jr back.  

Creator of the Coop Dreams television show, author Brad Hauter formed a special bond with Pokey Jr. As the rooster’s rise and fall played out before him, Brad recorded it. Then he retold it as a story of hope and redemption after struggles. And, at the heart of the story, is a testament to relationships and friendships that last through the ages. 

All four books are available in our Countryside Shop!

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