Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: Backyard Self-sufficiency

Backyard Self-sufficiency (2nd Edition), by Jackie French.

when i bought this book, i knew that Jackie French had written some of my favorite children's books ... e.g., Diary of a Wombat.   i had heard that she was into gardening and "veggie propagation" ... but did she fit the permaculture vision that i was looking for?  where did she fit in the circle of self-sufficiency.  was she a backyard farmer?  was she a cook?  sometimes gardener?  which end of the scale and where to start?   when i began looking at the contents and chapter headings my question was answered.

she is all of these ... and she is me.

i found myself unable to put this narrative story down.  because while it is a practical guide regarding many "how too's" for backyard farming and sustainability ... she weaves a story from her own life as well, and you feel as if you know her at the end of the book ... or at least are starting too.  she manages to fill the pages of this book with some pretty intense practical information, while at the same time painting a picture of her life, history and desire to live a healthy, self-sufficient life style.

she had me hooked right in the introduction.  she did all her veggies the no dig method. tick!  using nature and mimicking what it does rather than interfering ... as she says "The more you weed your garden, the more weeds appear in the bare ground.  The more you prune your trees the more you have to prune the lush new growth -- and the more you have to feed them to make up for the prunings you've taken."  tick, tick,  uhhu ... you are speaking to my permie heart!

but if you know me, you will appreciate that i love the next statement.  "Of course it is a mess.  But it's a productive mess and a beautiful mess."  sigh .... yeah .... i get this woman.  she states that many backyard farmers have too much wasted space.  that things should be packed in ... the more productive food you have, the less room their is for weeds to move in.  pretty darn practical if you ask me!

her goal in this book is to provide the reader with a tool that will get them started in their quest to providing food for their family year round.  everything from planning how you are going to put your garden together, to what to grow and when (some very good frameworks for these are provided in the book).  she even covers how to scavenge for delectables in a suburban setting and the pro's and con's of backyard livestock.

her chapter on fruit was amazing.  this is a family who obviously eats a plethora of fruit all year long.  her explanations of not just the run of the mill fruits, but the unique and untried are also included.  she is also very careful to guide the reader through the maze of what should be planted where and when because of climate and location.  her discussion on how to layer larger apple and pear trees as a canopy for the smaller bush trees was very akin to a food forest scenario and from the abundant wealth of fruit that her family appears to harvest each year i would say that she is succeeding quite well.

it is hard to describe a book that is full of narratively practical wisdom and advice, but also includes words and phrases that paint her home and life.  she doesn't fail in the cooking department either.  have all this fruit and veg?  well, gonna have to figure out how to store and use it.  recipe's dot the landscape of the book as treats for using all these delectables that she knows you will soon be plucking from your garden.

i found myself at the end of this magnetic read thinking enthusiastically about my spring harvest ... with flowering herbs, nasturtiums,  tri-coloured spinach, giant sunflowers ... you name it ... and little ducks meandering through the vegetation ... plucking bugs and merrily splashing in their pond.  and of course ... smiling because it was a beautiful mess that would feed our family sustainably.

yeah ... i give this book a big tick as a recommendation.


1 comment:

  1. It is one of my favourite books of all time. Like Linda Woodrow's book on chicken has been the very backbone of what I do in my garden. Both of these books are dogeared from over use and have little muddy thumbprints as I have raced in from the garden to look something up.Jackie French also has a website which is interesting to read as you can find out about her garden on a month to month basis.