The Homestead Bookshelf

by Wendy

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Here’s what’s on the homestead bookshelf this spring…ok, so it’s more like stacks of books on every available surface, but a girl can dream she has a shelf…

I confess, I am a book hoarder, perhaps an addict even.  I cannot say I am reformed, or recovering, or even seeing the need too, although the stacks, boxes, and baskets overflowing with books may imply something else.  I love to read, I always have.  I love to learn, I love and value knowledge, and books embody this for me.  We won’t even talk about what’s in my cloud on my kindle app…

There have been several books that I have been wanting to read for an embarrassing amount of time, perhaps several years, but somehow in the midst of homeschooling, homesteading, and just trying to keep up, they have slipped to the bottom of the priority list.  I decided that now was the time to get these books read, and I have successfully done so.  I am so glad I did.

Enlightening, encouraging, and educational come to mind as I reflect on each title.  Each one spoke to the motivation I feel in living an intentional life.  Perfect timing to begin an active season on the homestead.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, chronicles her family’s journey back to the farm, raising their own food, and supporting other local growers, without the grocery store, for the most part.  It candidly reveals the challenges and triumphs they faced together with humor and introspection.  Barbara is a master storyteller, and the story of her family’s journey is at once highly entertaining as well as humbly authentic.  It makes sustainable seem doable.

An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, is one man’s attempt at understanding the food system which has evolved in our country.  It explains in depth how we got to where we are today with industrial agriculture, confined animal feeding operations, industrial organic, and the alternatives of small, local, beyond organic farmers, growers, and the artisan communities that are sprouting up all over our country. This book was mind-blowing.  Michael is able to intricately weave an immense amount of information as he reveals how intimately connected we really are to the food that we eat.  No matter what those choices are.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, is a lovely cookbook written by an amazing local, organic, sustainable food pioneer.  Most people have heard of her famous restaurant Chez Pannise in Berkely California, where she started the local food movement by buying her food for her restaurant from local, organic growers and producers.  The cookbook is written to help introduce people to cooking with fresh ingredients, covers the basics, and helps you to grow as a food enthusiast and cook.

Cultured Food for Health by Donna Schwenk, is a compilation of knowledge and recipes on cultured food.  Donna will guide you through the sometimes mysterious world of fermentation with clarity and confidence.  She will get you started fermenting with kefir, komboucha, and cultured vegetables, plus she includes recipes for incorporating these magical cultures into your diet and life.   I highly recommend this book for it’s ease of use, understanding, and loads of new recipes using the cultured products that you have created.

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, is the bible of food fermentation and culturing.  It is very thorough, packed with knowledge and scientific understanding of the intricate microbial environment in which we live.  Included are guides to help you learn to ferment, troubleshooting notes, and details on traditionally fermented and cultured food.  This book is a must have for the serious homestead fermenter.

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher, is an exciting volume exploring while explaining traditional Cheesemaking techniques.  It is my experience that this book is a first of it’s kind in Cheesemaking.  Most of the recipes utilize the natural flora of raw milk in each different type of cheese, rather than a monoculture known to our more modern industrial and home based Cheesemaking.  This is very exciting to me.  When I embarked on my first foray into Cheesemaking nearly ten years ago, I was a bit distressed at the lack of a more natural approach to making cheese.  It seemed at that time, so limited, unnecessarily complicated, and plastic to me, with all the paraphernalia that was associated with Cheesemaking.  I wondered that there wasn’t another way, and here it is, at long last.  Looking forward to a glorious season of making traditional cheeses from our own raw milk.

Gap Creek, and The Road From Gap Creek by Robert Morgan, was a juicy indulgence of a novel reminiscent of summer reading from my youth.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer was read novels.  I am glad that I indulged, as these books are masterfully written.  Gap Creek regales the story of a young Appalachian girl growing up on the mountain, the hardships, faith, and family ties that bind them all together weave a story of a time when hard work, faith, and family were the fabric of life.  It is an honest, raw account of daily homestead life, and the realities that went with it.

The Road From Gap Creek is the book that follows and is an amazing story all in it’s own right.  Told from the perspective of the daughter of the main character from the first book, The Road From Gap Creek brings us through the birth of the Industrial Age, The Great Depression, and World War Two, all within the context of daily life on the homestead.  It reveals the growth, emotion, and changing of times within the changing of generations.  It humbles and empowers at the same time, as it gives us a look at where we have come from and how we have grown, good and bad, as a nation and a people.

I encourage you to add some reading to your summer season.  Visit you local library when you can, many titles are available there.  Audio books are a wonderful way in a busy season to check books off your reading list.  I love listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or Ted talks when I am working in the kitchen.  It keeps me moving forward on the never-ending list of things to read, do and learn while I continue my work around the homestead.