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.