I get a lot of interest from friends and followers about my homesteading skills, so I thought I would put some of my favorite reference books in one place. Although I grew up on a farm (and always kept a little garden), I didn't learn most of these skills until I left home. Nevertheless, I've been canning for more than 20 years, have kept backyard chickens for about 17 years, and I am always increasing my knowledge of local plants, herbs, and mushrooms.
It can take time, but getting on a learning kick for even a season can really increase your knowledge. Here are some of my favorite books on the subjects, starting with ...
Canning & Preserving
These are my two go-to books for home canning and preserving. The Ball Blue Book is one you'll hear about time and time again, and there are many versions with different cover art, but the information is basically the same. The other you may not have heard of is The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick. You'll find lots of great tips and not just canning! There are great methods for storing garden crops, freezing, and drying. The Short-Brine Kosher Dill Pickles is one of my most-used recipes. You can also check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation here.
When it comes to fermentation Sandor Katz is the biggest name out there. I have enjoyed going chapter by chapter and trying one method for each in The Art of Fermentation. From pickles to wine, this is a lovely book that goes well beyond recipes into the idea of "culture".
Twenty years ago, when I started learning about mushrooms, I had a terrible field guide and did not get very far. I wish I had these books back then! David Arora is a west coast-based author and covers choice edible mushrooms, as well as poisonous mushrooms, and everything in-between. All That the Rain Promises and More is the field guide version, often making reference to "MD" - the thick, elaborated version of his life's work - Mushrooms Demystified. The books are full of good information, stories, and wit.
Just be aware that the field of mycology is constantly changing and some scientific names or information may have been updated since these publications came out. Cross-reference your information when you are getting started.
Herbs & Herbalism
Herbalism may be one of the subjects with the most books out there. There are truly so many good ones and each will catalog slightly different plants, methods, and history. I've had Herbs & Things Jeanne Rose's Herbal for decades, and I love the old-school sensibility, and psychedelic pictures, although some parts seem just plain outdated.
Be a Kitchen Witch by Spellbound Herbals
is a new acquisition for me and I have to say it is perfectly concise! You could read it cover to cover in an hour or two and each entry has a different method from tinctures to hydrosols, and even making herbal pasta. This is the perfect publication for learning folk herbalist methods.
Back to the Land; Homesteading Basics
What you don't get in depth from each of these books is made up by the wide range of skills included. Everything from basket or candle making to quilting, livestock, and living on the cheap. I review Gene Logsdon's method for butchering chickens each time we raise and process birds. These are two books that will be in my library for a long time to come.
This post is not all about affiliate links, but I do have some suggestions on where to get your used (or new) books. TRY YOUR LOCALLY OWNED BOOKSTORE!
I also order from the following sites online:
And if you've got some favorite books, please share them in the comments!