Ready to start homesteading but don’t know where to begin? Are you a city kid like me and have to learn all your homesteading skills from scratch? I am genuinely excited to share these homesteading titles with you as you begin your journey towards self-sufficiency. Books are among my greatest, most effective homestead mentors. Even after homesteading for a number of years, I’m still collecting great books.
Homesteading Books for Beginners
Let me first say that these suggested titles will NOT be enough to complete your education. I have so many homesteading books – I’m drowning in them. And I can’t imagine not having a single one of them because they’ve all helped me in some vital way. The titles covered here will be sufficient to get you started exploring your homesteading options.
I’ve covered the topics that I feel are basic to homesteading for a wide range of people even though it looks different for each of us. Here are my basic picks for homesteading newbies in the areas of:
- general homesteading
- foods cooking
If you’re completely new to any of those five topics, you will require more reading. (Don’t worry, I provide some suggestions for that, too.)
For basic information and inspiration, two great books are The Backyard Homestead, by Carleen Madigan, and The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency, by Anna Hess. Ms. Madigan’s book will lay out a lot of different homestead scenarios for you and provide you with lots of tangent ideas under the big umbrella of homesteading. It isn’t just one thing or one way to be. Hess will take you through each month of the year in a style that’s engaging and conversational.
Then, of course, there’s our book written on four different levels of homesteading experience to appeal to the novice and experienced homestead alike. Read to the end for more details on The Do It Yourself Homestead or click below.
Bonus – Ebooks and materials for your homestead education:
The 104 Homestead provides this e-book, Welcome to the World of Homesteading, as a freebie when you sign up for their newsletter. It’s simple, straightforward and a great place to start:
Gardening for Homesteaders
Gardening is a pretty basic skill for homesteaders but it’s not intuitive for all of us and there’s a lot to plan and think about even when you have a green thumb. Sometimes we get burned out on gardening, too, because we think it all has to take place in summer and early fall. The truth is, most of us can be gardening year round with a little planning.
My favorite book for garden planning and education on a wide range of topics is The Week by Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook, by Jennifer and Ron Kujawski. This father-daughter team put together an easy to use, workbook type garden guide. It will take you through each week of the year with information on what can be grown, how to grow it and excellent advice and how to create a thriving garden. You can pencil in the dates for your climate (don’t worry, they explain how to do it) on each week so you’ll know what you need to be doing inside starting seeds, outside in the garden and how to harvest when the time comes.
Throw in Some Permaculture
My next suggestion is maybe not the most basic gardening book but I really, really wish I’d read this book a long time ago in my gardening career. Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway, will teach you all about the connections between plants, water, sun, bugs and everything in between. Technically this book is a simple explanation of a gardening philosophy called permaculture.
If you’d like to raise produce in your own backyard and do it with as little commercial input as possible (pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers), then learn these principles. If you’re frugal and like to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, learn these principles because Gaia’s Garden will help you set up systems in your garden that will sustain themselves and keep the garden thriving without constant, backbreaking input from you.
As a really quick example, compost is great to add to garden soil but what if you could plant something around your apple tree that would produce it’s own form of compost? What if that plant also attracted beneficial insects and pollinators to your apple tree? Wouldn’t it also be great if that plant produced food or medicine for you on top of everything else?
Bonus – Ebooks and materials for your homestead gardening education:
Schneider Peeps has created this Gardening Notebook and it’s just what you need to keep track of your garden plans, what you’ve planted and how the harvests are going. There are a lot of plant profiles with information, too. If the two print books above seem like they might overwhelm you, start with The Gardening Notebook.
Every gardener knows that what you’re actually growing is good dirt. Read The Art of Gardening to do just that:
If you’re wondering how to create a garden that will actually feed your whole family, try The Family Food Garden.
Livestock for Homesteaders
Livestock seems to be a watershed issue for homesteaders – we feel like we’ve really made it if we can tend an animal, or two. Worms for vermicomposting, chickens for backyard eggs, goats for milk and onward to the world of cows, pigs and fiber animals. Many of us modern homesteaders are living our self-sufficient life in an urban setting so the animals we are allowed to raise can be limited to small stock. Other homesteaders are on acres and are looking for animals that can help us manage the land.
For those of use in municipalities, I can recommend Free Range Chicken Gardens, by Jessi Bloom. This book will teach you to garden and keep chickens in small spaces like city-sized lots. She includes garden designs that are chicken friendly and also explains how chickens can actually help you keep a successful garden. From great fencing and run designs to useful plant suggestions, Ms. Bloom can teach you how to integrate a flock into your urban homestead. Oops, slipping in one more for the beginners: Chickens From Scratch, by Janet Garmen. This is a really quick read – like Cliff’s Notes for chickens.
For those interested in learning about all kinds of livestock, I can recommend Gail Damerow’s The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Animals. You don’t have to have acres and acres of land to raise something other than chickens. Bees, which are covered in this book, are very doable on a small homestead. From dairy animals to meat animals and more, Ms. Damerow will teach you what you need to know to feel confident to begin with livestock. She’s written several books and all of them are worthwhile.
Bonus – Ebooks and materials for your homestead livestock education:
If you already use herbs and natural remedies for your family, then you’d probably like to use them on your livestock, too. Try Natural Homestead:
Preparedness for Homesteaders
There are so many topics we could read about that touch on the idea of being self-sufficient and prepared for anything on our homesteads. From home health to food storage to survival skills, preparedness is a matter of course for most homesteaders. It’s just the way we live. No tin foil hats, just good, common sense.
The Survival Savvy Family is a thorough, all-around great preparedness book that will get you organized in matters of food and water storage, emergency checklists, evacuation plans and emergency drills, as well as simple tips for living providently and safely.
Prepare in Other Ways
Preparedness isn’t just about surviving, it’s also about being able to care for yourself and your family on your own homestead. People these days are really interested in herbs and essential oils to augment their personal health programs but many of us don’t know where to begin.
To get you started, with no hype or brand-selling, I heartily recommend Chris Dalziel’s The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils. I’ve been using the recipes in this book for several months now for both health and cleanliness around my home and it’s wonderful. One of my goals this year was to kick my commercial cleaners out of my house and this book is helping.
Bonus – Ebooks and materials for your homestead preparedness education:
How to Embrace and Off Grid Lifestyle is a gem written by a true off-grider, Tammy Trayer. Another off grid homesteading book I recently read and loved was Creating Your Off Grid Homestead, by Teri Page. You may not be planning to go off-grid, or even know yet what that means, but these will be a fascinating read and will get your mind working on what it really means to live off the land and be prepared.
Also of enormous benefit, especially if you’re already interested in herbs, would be the beginner’s herbal course at The Herbal Academy. Everything is online and so user-friendly. A membership to their Herbarium site might also be useful to you – it’s like an online herbal encyclopedia and is, in a word, cool. Just click on the picture directly below to be taken to their site and nose around a bit.
Real Foods Cooking for Homesteaders
The point of so much of our homestead labor is to produce wholesome food to nourish our families. Learning how to prepare meals from our bounty is an imperative skill. Many of us didn’t grow up learning to cook from our busy parents and we need all the guidance we can get. Plus, some of what we think we know about health and nutrition isn’t necessarily what’s best for our bodies. I own way, way too many cookbooks and so narrowing down just two to mention to you is making my brain cramp. I’ll do my best.
The book I wish I’d had when I first started cooking on my own is Nourishing Traditions. It’s not the most basic cookbook just because there’s a lot of the science and the wisdom of traditional foods explained and outlined. You’ll be grateful you made the effort to read it, though, and so will your body. The recipes in this book lend themselves well to a homestead because they’re all about fruits, vegetables, nuts, seed, bone broths, healthy meat and even offal and organ meat recipes. So many of the questions you have about the health of grains (worrying you might need to go gluten free?) will be answered by this book, too.
Other Real Food Cookbook
If Nourishing Traditions just seems to intimidating and/or you’d like to learn how to turn meals you already enjoy into healthier selections, I can heartily recommend The Feel Good Cookbook, by Jonell Francis, and/or The Elliot Homestead: From Scratch, by Shaye Elliot (she has a new one out this year, too – can’t wait to get my hands on it!). Yes, I did just sneak in an extra book – pretend you didn’t notice. Both of these books are fantastic for families, those seeking a healthier way to prepare familiar dishes and a good, old fashioned helping of nourishing yumminess.
Bonus – Ebooks and materials for your homestead foodie education:
Soups and simple foods are an easy way to get started in the kitchen because they don’t expect a lot from you. Here are two good books to use:
There are two courses that might appeal you, too. One is from Kathie at Homespun Seasonal Living and is set to begin this spring. This is a very low-pressure, online learning opportunity that covers wholesome foods, tips and information that nourish both your body and your soul.
The other is from Tiffany Crumbs at Don’t Waste the Crumbs and is designed to teach you how to provide healthy meals for your family without breaking your budget or losing your mind. Both are wonderfully educational and helpful.
So, did I miss anything? One of your favorites perhaps? Be sure to set me straight in the comments and tell me why your selection should make our short list for newbie homesteaders.
Of course, I have one last suggestion!
I own or have read all these books and I love them. In fact, they’re all recommended reading in my own homesteading title, The Do it Yourself Homestead! As homesteaders, you already know a lot of important skills but sometimes it’s hard to know how best to apply them from day to day, especially if you feel like there’s still so much to learn. The Do it Yourself Homestead is here to help with information, action items and DIY suggestions on four different levels of homesteading. The levels aren’t scientific, of course, just a general distinctions between the newbies getting into compost and the old hats who are calculating how many meat animals to grow out for their families each year.
Because networking with like-minded people is so important, we also include suggestions for building the homestead community wherever you are, including inside your own family. We’ve also provided extensive resource suggestions (like the books outlined above) over the eight topics covered in the book:
- The Homestead Garden,
- The Homestead Kitchen,
- Green Living,
- Livestock Wherever You Are,
- Homestead Finances,
- Family Times,
- The Homestead Community
- and The Prepared Homestead.
The Do It Yourself Homestead is now available for sale! If you’d like to purchase your own copy of the print or electronic version, simply visit this link: Homestead Lady Shop.