Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Five acres and a dream - book review

Starting a homestead, or just living more sustainably where you are, is a daunting project.  There are so many factors to think through.  First you might get chickens to provide eggs, but then you have to think about what you will feed them, do you want to rely of store bought feed or try to grow your own?  Are you going to hatch your own to replace the layers as they get old?  With an electric incubator or a broody hen?  Are you going to kill and eat the older hens or the roosters?  Each decision leads to another, and gradually you piece together a sustainable life that meets your needs.




Fortunately there are many great blogs and books around that step through the thought processes of other homesteaders.  One that I have particularly enjoyed recently is Leigh Tate's book called 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead (affiliate link here).  Leigh also writes a blog called 5 Acres & A Dream, which details their progress towards self-sufficiency.

The book is not really a "how to" book, but more about the planning stage of homesteading.  Leigh explains all the aspects of life that they considered as they set up their property and the decisions that they made, with chapters such as "defining our goal" and "developing a master plan".  Most of these decisions will not suit everyone, but everyone can work through the same process and find the best way to set up their own homestead.

There is plenty of detail in the chapters on self-sufficiency in food (people and animals), energy and water.  Again, not every decision that Leigh and her husband made will work for your situation, but its the thinking process that is important.  Leigh also shares both what worked for them and what didn't work.  There are some very sad stories about plans, and even animals, that didn't make it for various reasons, and Leigh shares the lessons learnt from these unfortunate incidents and experiments in a matter-of-fact and open manner.

Usually I say that US books don't suit our climate, but for once I think Leigh is working in quite a similar climate as she doesn't get snow.  A root cellar is not a sensible idea for either of us, but its cold enough for a woodstove.  I think its interesting to consider why a root cellar (or a woodstove) is a wonderful idea in some climates, but ridiculous in others, and rather than blindly following all homesteading or permaculture concepts, try to understand where they are appropriate, and use or adapt the ones that make sense for our climate and situation.  Personally I don't think its worth us making a huge effort to preserve food as we can grow food all year round, but for those who get snow, preserving is an important part of self-sufficiency.

Leigh's book sets out a template for anyone who is thinking about self-sufficiency, and describes how to assess each area of life and how you might provide for yourself from your own property.  She also discusses how its not possible for them to do everything and that work must be prioritised to avoid being overwhelmed.  They have town water connected, so rainwater is not a priority.  Similarly for us, we have electricity connected, so we haven't tried to go off-grid.  Having a clear understanding of the goals for your homestead helps to prioritise projects and finish one at a time rather than having many half-finished projects in the shed (guilty!).

Have you read any good homesteading books lately?  Do you love Leigh's blog too?

PS Leigh didn't actually send me the book to review, I bought this one myself because I wanted to support her efforts and I think its amazing that she published her own book!  I have included affiliate links in case you want to buy it through my Amazon links because then I get a small percentage of the sale.


2 comments:

  1. Hi Liz, I have followed Leigh's blog for some time and I find their approach very measured, planned and sensible. I'm sure the book would be the same. Thanks for your review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am glad the book gives some balance - farming of any size is not all joy and happiness all the time - there certainly are some heart-breaking moments especially those involving animals

    ReplyDelete

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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