January 14, 2009
Since you've decided to raise chickens, you'll need a little house for them. Some people use the traditional shed style coop and some are using innovative designs such as the chicken tractor.
Carol Ekarius' book, How to Build Animal Housing, will tell you everything you need to know about building a coop. Whether it's big or small, this book has plans, sketches and dimensions for several different sizes of chicken houses. It also has 60 (yes sixty!) pages of basic construction including using a laser level, calculating lengths of rafters, installing windows, and basic electricity and plumbing. With no other training or experience, a reasonably handy person could build quite a nice structure with the information in this book.
January 13, 2009
Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens: Care / Feeding / Facilities by Gail Damerow is one of the best books on keeping chickens. She knows the subject thoroughly and describes everything well. This book covers chicks, feeding, feeders, housing, eggs, chicken health and even how to raise a bird for show.
There are many other books about raising chickens (Living with Chickens by Jay Rossier, American Poultry Association, and Geoff Hansen comes to mind) and I suggest you get two books so you can read two different approaches. As with most everything, there are many ways to get the job done and many different approaches and solutions to problems.
However, Gail Damerow's book is the best in my opinion. She has written a number of farm books and they are all excellent.
January 8, 2009
(photo courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net)
GardenSnob is busy pouring through seed catalogs, taking inventory of last year's seeds and checking germination rates for seeds we saved ourselves. You can review the catalog offerings online or ask them to mail a catalog to you. Here are a few of our favorites:
High Mowing Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Amishland Heirloom Seeds
Unless you are a farm or very experienced gardener, I suggest limiting your variety of each type of vegetable/flower to one or two. That way, you can grow more kinds of vegetables and probably won't mix up the 10 different types of tomatoes in the tray because the labels fell out. Yes, this happened to GardenSnob last year.
This year, we're planting two outstanding types of paste tomatoes from seeds that we saved and we'll also go with a slicer and a cherry. That's it - 4 varieties. We'll do several peppers - hot, medium hot and bell, and one kind of everything else. It just gets too confusing unless you are a full time gardener or farmer and have help.
I usually choose all the typical vegetables that we eat and flowers that I'm familiar with and then one unfamiliar veggie and one unfamiliar flower. It may be a keeper or it may not, but it's good to try different things and experiment.
January 5, 2009
Although there aren't any plants or weeds and you don't get dirty, Farmopoly has many of the same components of gardening and farming such as passing "grow", being sent to "drought", utilities, farm equipment and insect infestations. The tokens include a pig, a cow and a tractor and instead of houses and hotels, you put up acres and barns.
As a long-time traditional Monopoly player, I do get the properties mixed up a little (Boardwalk changed to Homestead and the railroads are now harvesting equipment) but the basic principles of the board remain and it's just as enjoyable. Highly recommended for a long winter's evening along with a bottle of your favorite homemade cider!
Available from Amazon for $19.99.
December 31, 2008
Here's the perfect winter book and a great one with which to start off the year.
While your outside garden is dormant and covered with ice and snow, you can still enjoy growing all kinds of flowers from bulbs. Bulbs for Indoors: Year-Round Windowsill Splendor by Robert M. Hays and Janet Marinelli discusses all bulbs that can be forced indoors. Available from Amazon for cheap ($.01 used or from $8.99 new).
December 1, 2008
The Art of Natural Bonsai: Replicating Nature's Beauty, by David Joyce, is an incredible book that photo documents the author's bonsai trees over a twenty year period. The book took 30 years to create. Obviously, Mr. Joyce has a long term view of things and a wealth of patience, two necessary qualities for anyone embarking on growing trees of any size. All aspects of the art of bonsai are covered including containers, cuttings, watering, wiring, pruning and propogating. The preferences and requirements of various species are detailed as well. The Art of Natural Bonsai is available from Amazon for $13.57.
November 29, 2008
Winter is the perfect time to begin mushroom growing when everything else is quiet. This book, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, by Paul Stamets, gives detailed instructions on how to grow mushrooms for home use and for small commercial enterprises. It covers 31 mushroom species with information on gardening, soil mediums, the life cycle of mushrooms, a brief history of mycology, and a section in the middle with color photographs.
This would be a great addition to the library of any small farm or homestead and could help launch a new product to sell with all those tomatoes. Can you imagine someone at a farmer's market with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and basil to sell setting up a little propane burner and sauteing everything together for customers to try? They would sell out!
Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms is available from Amazon for $29.70.
November 22, 2008
This is one of my favorite farm and garden related books. The author, Paul Correnty, gives a short history on cider, cider making and various types of apples and their attributes. The book is written in such a humorous, friendly way that you can't help wishing you knew him. There are recipes at the back of the book for the more advanced cider maker and the author makes suggestions about keeping costs down.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print! We heard from someone at Jasper's Homebrew and Winemaking in Nashua, NH that the Brewers Association owns the copyright and won't put out another edition and won't let the author do it either. This is a huge injustice to all cider makers of the world and a great disservice to the homesteading/do-it-yourself movement. So, get your pen and paper out and write to demand republication of this great book. Better yet, ask that they release the rights to the author so he can update and publish it on his own, not to mention receive well-deserved royalties from the sales.
Here's the address:
P.O. Box 1679
Boulder, CO 80306
To email them, use this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Association of Brewers lists 3 other cider books (Cider, by Proulx & Nichols, Cider, Hard & Sweet, by Ben Watson and Real Cider Making on a Small Scale, by Michael Pooley and John Lomax) but nothing about this book. Why? Is it too regional? Too good? Too funny and down to earth?
Oh, well. You'll have to settle for another book. I'm not suggesting they are inferior, it's just that I really like this one. There are a few used copies of The Art of Cidermaking through Amazon but prices start at $65.92. As a frugal Yankee, I cannot endorse that kind of spending. It is a paperback after all. You'll do better to buy one of the others,take the rest of the money and buy a carboy, yeast and some cider, and start brewing.
November 20, 2008
If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know that I'm a big fan of the Taylor Guides. This one is no exception and it is the same size as all the others. There is nothing that annoys me more about a book than to find that it doesn't fit on any shelves. The Taylor Guides all stand nicely together on the bookshelf like soldiers ready to guide or inspire me with their great photos and information.
The Taylor's Guide to Orchids by Judy White gives a good overview on orchid care from feeding to potting to humidification. Alas, it only includes the 300 orchids in this book but, then again, 300 is a lot to choose from. How many can you really fit on your windowsill anyway? Available from Amazon for $21.34.
November 19, 2008
Understanding Orchids: An Uncomplicated Guide to Growing the World's Most Exotic Plants by William Cullina, is a great book for beginning and advanced orchid growers. It explains light and soil requirements, why certain orchids need things that others don't, tools and the importance of sanitation, reproduction and humidity levels. The pictures are beautiful, the printing is of high quality and it's a hardcover so it would make a great gift for an orchid loving friend or relative. Available from Amazon for $26.40.