The Weekend Homesteader book by Anna Hess
Had to share this book review previously posted on my Urban Veggucation website.

Let’s get real, it seems like everybody and their mother has published a book about growing your own food, including yours truly. Fortunately, The Weekend Homesteader, written by Anna Hess, stands out by presenting the building blocks of a real world homestead lifestyle, one weekend at a time. With a whopping forty eight homesteading activities, there is plenty for DIYers of all experience levels to wrap their heads and hands around.

The Weekend Homesteader (Skyhorse Publishing, November 2012) is organized by month – so whether it’s January or June you’ll find exciting, short projects that you can use to dip your toes into the vast ocean of homesteading without getting overwhelmed. If you need to fit homesteading into a few hours each weekend and would like to have fun while doing it, these projects will be right up your alley, whether you have a forty-acre farm, a postage-stamp lawn in suburbia, or a high rise apartment.

Hubby and I first became acquainted with Anna and her husband Mark when we bought their chicken waterers about three years ago. I’ve been a faithful follower of their back to basics exploits ever since. The Walden Effect is one of the best homesteading reality shows not on television. Anna has done an amazing job of translating their seven years of hands on experience into a monthly guide of frugal activities to help you reach your personal self-sufficiency goals.

This book is loaded with homesteading fundamentals from composting and sourcing urban and rural biomass, building rain barrels, optimum soil temperatures for spring gardens, succession planting, canning and freezing your harvest, to assembling a respectable homesteader tool kit.

As an experienced, but ‘lazy-faire’ home gardener, the 10 juiciest homesteading tidbits we’ll examine and practice over the next year include:

1. Do-it-yourself oyster mushroom propagation using corrugated cardboard;

2. The necessity of team building for sustainable homesteading;

3. Diversifying your income (and figuring out your real hourly pay);

4. The pros and cons of buying food in bulk for building an emergency food stash (Folks who are getting into ‘Prepper’ movement should take a hard look at this and other sections dealing with emergency preparedness before investing in their SHTF and bug out supplies);

5. Strawberry and bramble growing tips;

6. Step by step instructions on how to extend your growing seasons using quick hoops (I am especially excited to find a source for the quick hoops metal bender for more durable structures);

7. How to dry fruit and tomatoes using the passive heat that’s readily available in your car;

8. Determining if you need a chicken coop or a chicken tractor for your small flock (Not only does the book demonstrate 4 different chicken tractor and 3 different chicken coop designs, but I also love the added tips on supplying your chickens with access to paddocks.);

9. No-dig fruit tree planting (if you haven’t guessed yet, my ‘lazy-faire’ home gardening style has done diddly squat for our perennial fruit production); and,

10. Avoid homesteader burnout by planning long-term and ‘bite-sized’ goals and then taking on less than you can accomplish.

Another cool feature of The Weekend Homesteader is that the monthly calendar is designed to follow seasons in North America and Down Under. So when American or Canadian readers are following the November schedule, Aussies would reference the May plan.

What I admire most about Anna’s work is that the monthly undertakings are so varied that I can enlist support from my entire family. I’ve already chosen a few projects to spice up my son’s home school regimen. While one of the author’s suggestions regarding water storage will cause me to review my notes as a food safety trainer, the book is an overall success. If you’re looking for a practical homesteading guide that applies a ‘work smart, not hard’ philosophy, then you should definitely add this book to your collection.

UPDATE NOTE: Shout to everyone's favorite Lowcountry Clemson Extension Horticulture Agent, Amy Dabbs for sharing my trench composting information.  Unfortunately, when I changed the name of this blog from 'urban gardening' to 'urban homesteading(TM)' my old posts lost their link.  Given all the recent controversy on the subject, I may be renaming this blog yet again. All I'll say is that there are very few new concepts under the sun and urban homesteading (TM) ain't one of them. Anywho, here's the information on trench composting and a couple other cool methods, along with more pics from the yard.

G, I don't have time to make my own compost!  Sure you do.  Here's the first of two quick and easy compost

#1) Trench Composting

Supplies you'll need.  Garden bed or container garden; shovel; food scraps (think produce peels, coffee
grounds, tea bags, and unbleached paper plates, towels, etc.).
Optional supplies: Newspaper (unending supply from my food coupon adventures) and/or hay for the lasagna
style layering affect.

Step one: Dig a hole.
Step two: Add your food scraps.  I chopped mine up with a shovel.
Step three: Bury your food scraps. (I've added some shredded paper and hay as a compost 'coverup' that
should attract worms and keep pests from digging it up.  Like the layered garden technique I learned about
and used in my asparagus beds last year from an article on Lasagna Gardening).  My asparagus beds look
amazing right now, so let's see if my lazy variation works).  Oops, I forgot the blood and bone meal.  No
worries, I'll mix it in with the growing medium.
Step four: Get to planting.

Want to learn more about lasagna gardening?
Then go to the site that documents the authentic lasagna garden method.  Patricia Lanza's website (which lists
her as the first lasagna gardener) is loaded with step by step instructions.

Extra Lazy Urban Garden Ideas
That rosemary bush in the center of it all is actually housed inside the stump of a tree we cut down to get more
sun for growing food.  We reused pieces of the tree's small branches to form these and other beds.  After
using  bamboo we scored on Craigslist to add structure to the ginourmous newspaper pot for a dwarf
grapefruit tree, I camouflaged the tree stump in the same manner.  I'll do the same for the banana tree that's
living in the small shelf a neighbor tossed out as trash. 

#2) Worm Composting or Vermicomposting
What can be simpler than that?  Glad you asked.  I'll come back with info on making a worm compost bin that
you can keep indoors.  March 2, 2010 update: I so forgot about adding the stuff on worm composting, but here's a link to Garden Girl TV guide on worm bins to help get you well on your way to vermicomposting fabulousness.  If you want to go a whole nutha level with it, here's amyoung's worm bin bag instructable for ya. Somewhere online another guy worked this type system into a table. Pretty cool, huh?

Since I'm doing the update anyway, I had to add pics of our large scale composting efforts.  Lots o chicken poop and so little space. Taking a cue from Will Allen, my favorite gardener over 6'5" (sorry hon'), we mixed the fragrant chicken coop straw with food scraps, leaves and water to passively heat our greenhouse and literally overnight that bad boy was cooking - to the tune of 75 degrees or higher right in the middle of the last major cold snap in Charleston. So much fun to turn that joker and see smoke rising up from the poo ashes.  The pile has cooled and we're going to throw it back in the coop with lots of pine shavings and a little diatomaceous earth so the chickens do the work of breaking it down even further and keeping their coop fresher longer - deep litter method at its finest.
Last Updated December 12, 2011
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