This is a list of websites and books I have found to be valuable. I will update it as I recall or discover other sources. My other most used source is talking to people and when possible, checking out their setup. I ask about things at farmers markets, go to workshops and conferences, and take any opportunity to do a farm tour or a work day. If it had been an option, I would have done a longer stint working on other people’s farms to get more hands-on preparation. But maybe that’s not an option for you either. If so, check out the suggestions below and get to know your locals, because they’re indispensable.
- Eliot Coleman’s books. He’s one of the great organic gardening teachers. Although my practices vary a little, and yours will too, everything he has to say is worth keeping.
- The New Seed Starters Handboook by Nancy Bubel. Do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes. Avoid all seed starting ideas you found on Pinterest and give this book a read instead. You’ll come away with a much better grounding in the principles you’re working with and you’ll understand why those novel egg carton and toilet paper tube ideas were setting you up for failure.
- Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques by Suzanne Ashworth. Not a beginner gardening book for sure, but a beginner seed saving book when it comes time to step in that direction. If you’re so inclined. I am.
- Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow.
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens also by Gail Damerow. In the interest of full disclosure, this is the only book I’ve fully read on chicken keeping. I’ve browsed through others and I even own a few more, but I just haven’t reached the point where it was necessary. I got the general picture from this, and I really use
- BackyardChickens.Com for everything. EVERYTHING. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother with having any books at all, because I think they’re great to have as a reference and for preparation and preemptive education and power outages and whatever else. But really, if you’ve wondered about it, the people on this site have talked about it. If you’re still curious after that, you can ask them. They will always answer.
- Your Goats weirdly, by Gail Damerow, it turns out. I should find out more about this woman. I had no idea how many books I own by her. This is meant for children, but was one of my favorite resources as an adult beginner because it’s approachable, condensed to the most essential things you need to understand, and comprehensive enough to steer you straight. I also read the Storey’s guide on dairy goat keeping and found it perfectly respectable and full of the necessaries, but the brevity and approachability of Damerow’s made it just a little bit better for a total beginner IMO.
- Natural Goat Health by Pat Coleby. I was introduced to this book by my mentor, and it’s a must-have for us.
- Goat Medicine by Smith and Sherman. What really matters here is that you have some combination of good veterinary information and a good health guide for your own use. Since most areas don’t have vets with great small ruminant backgrounds, it’s helpful to have a veterinary manual. I own this one. It seems to be one of the most preferred. The other is Sheep and Goat Medicine by D.G. Pugh. (My vet uses this one.) These are not cheap, but I haven’t found a layman’s guide that’s thorough enough. I would be interested to know of one, because I hate to recommend such an expensive resource with no alternative.
- Websites: I probably use these as much as anything else, because they’re so easy to access on my phone when I need them in a hurry.
- Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissof. I understand I’m breaking the law by not listing the Ball book as THE top book, but hear me out. Over time I’ve come to believe that the first decent canning book that teaches you the principles is going to be your favorite. That’s it. After you’ve got the principles down, everyone’s really just a recipe source. And as far as that goes, I’ve made a lot of tasty things out of this book while learning the basics, and I haven’t felt compelled to make nearly as many from my giant Ball book. I will, I promise. Maybe it will be a game changer someday. Just not yet.
- Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike Bubel. Tons of great information here on keeping all kinds of things fresh in storage.
- FoodInJars.Com is my other most used source for canning recipes. I think the flavor combinations are great, the writing is accessible, and I’ve learned quite a few new tricks from trying these recipes.
- National Center For Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/ I mostly use this and the Ball canning site to confirm safety aspects of a recipe I’ve found online from an unfamiliar source.