We’ve all made mistakes, some minor some massive but with these 25 Epic Insider Resources to Grow your Homestead Skills we can boost the learning curve and help you reach Homesteading success faster and easier!
If I were writing a book or course outline in my preferred “order of educational priority” it would go a bit like this:
- Market Gardening
- Orchard/Tree Systems
- Farm Skills
- Animal Husbandry
- Food Preservation
So let’s just jump into my 25 Epic Insider Resources to Grow your Homestead Skills and feel free to see my extended resource list on Amamzon.com
As you might know, I am a garden designer… a Professional Permaculture Designer to be exact, which is why I think all aspiring homesteaders should begin their journey with a lesson in design. Design acts as the overarching strategy for your homestead journey. It allows you to identify resources, deficiencies and constraints so you can prioritize your efforts and stay focused.
In the design biz, we like to say 1 hour of design can save you 100 hours of wasted effort.
Permaculture is a conjunction of the words Permanent-Culture and Permanent- Agriculture the results is a design system that supports both the environment and it’s living inhabitants (both animal and human). This is a proven system to show that culture and agriculture can work holistically to support ecology, economy and the environment.
Naturally, I recommend you start your homestead education with the world of Permaculture to give you a holistic view of the world around you. My favorite Permaculture resources are as follows:
1: Geoff Lawton(Permaculture Educator): Lawton was my Permaculture instructor when I took my Permaculture Design Certification in Australia in 2010. He has years of experience and has countless videos online and even runs an online Permaculture Design Certification course, which can be taken from the comfort of your own home. While his knowledge is vast and not limited to the following, Lawton is a great resource for system’s design, tropical climates and urban/suburban homesteading.
2: Sepp Holzer(Author/Educator): If you live in a cold climate like I do, you can learn a ton from Holzer’s books and Youtube Videos. Holzer is a great resource for cold climate growing, mountain farming, and micro-enterprise. Holzer is a pro at growing crops outside of his growing zone like lemons and grapes in the Austrian Alps! While Holzer makes a living from both farming and teaching, he has an interesting take on diversified farm income and if you are looking to make a living from your farm, it’s worth it to hear what he has to say about it.
3: Ben Falk, The Resilient Farm and Homestead(Author/Book): Falk, holds a Master’s in Land-Use Planning and his teachings focus on ‘Systems Design’ or looking at your Homestead as a whole. In other words, taking a bird’s eye view of the way your homestead functions, and mapping out efficiencies, surplus and deficiencies and working to close the loop.
For example, on my little urban homestead, I was always bringing in manure or other garden additives to amend my garden each year, I’d say my site had a nutrient deficiency. Now my hens eat garden scraps and provide me with nutrient-rich manure for the garden; they have become part of the system. By identifying the deficiency in my system and by adding a few urban hens, I’ve closed the nutrient loop on my site. Wow, that’s hard, to sum up in a few sentences, perhaps I’ll write a whole article on the topic for you, yeah?
Back to Falk, his teachings are really great for anyone wanting to create a diverse healthy homestead. His book The Resilient Farm and Homestead really is a great place to start your homestead education. Find it here.
4: Amy, Tenth Acre Farm(Blog/Author): Writes really fun and practical articles on Permaculture, gardening, and Homesteading. She has a number of great step by step how to’s including her quick guide to terrace a hill. See it here.
5: Kris, Attainable Sustainable(Blog/Author): Kris is an epic garden blogger and she writes on everything from composting to perennial vegetables, she also writes on canning & preserving food. See her blog here.
6: Of course, The Hip Homestead is a great resource for continuing your Homestead education, but I’ll be the first to say I take a much more light-hearted approach. In the coming years, I will be expanding my articles to include more technical articles, but I will always still have crafts, recipes and lifestyle articles to keep you inspired and entertained while you embark on your homestead journey 😉
Gardening is the natural next step on your Homestead journey. Growing your own food is an essential homestead skill. While I find it hard to imagine that I could grow all the food we need on our own Suburban half acre, I make a full-hearted effort to supplement as much of our grocery bill with homegrown food, and what I can’t grow I do my best to buy from local organic farmers. Here are some of my favorite resources:
7: Rodale(Publishing House & Website): while there are countless gardening resources, my personal favorite will always be Rodale. Rodale is the publishing giant behind Rodale’s Organic Life, Women’s Health Magazine, and Prevention. If I was forced (by some evil villain) to own just one gardening book it would be Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia Of Organic Gardening.
8: Mary Jane, Home for the Harvest(Blog): One of my favorite garden and lifestyle blogs is Home for the Harvest. Mary Jane writes about organic gardening, natural crafts, and garden to table recipes. Her articles are so clear and easy to read, and her photos are stunning. Check out her blog here.
9: Heirloom Gardener Magazine(Website/Magazine): An off-shoot of Mother Earth News Heirloom Gardner has a great blog full of articles on Organic Gardening, Healthy Recipes, and DIY Projects including How to Make your own Soil Blocker.
10: Organic Gardening Community Facebook(Facebook Group): If you like getting involved and asking questions…or showing off pictures your garden pop over to the Organic Gardening Community Facebook Group. We have a ton of fun over there with daily post threads and active members, it’s a cool place to hang out…when you aren’t in the garden. Submit your member request here and tell them that Jana sent you 😉
Market gardening can be both incredibly hard work and potentially incredibly profitable. It takes a very driven and self-motivated person to be a market gardener, and my hat is off to anyone who takes this on as their main farm income. I am eternally grateful to all of our local farmers who feed me & my family every day (from organic coffee growers in South America to my local organic farmers who grow my broccoli – because I suck at it- Thank you xo!).
If your homestead journey is going to involve market gardening then these 4 resources are all you’ll need. I’m sure there are many other great ones out there but these are my top picks!
11: Curtis Stone, The Urban Farmer(Author/Book & Workshops): A family friend and Market Gardening rockstar, Stone literally wrote the book on profitable Urban Farming. Focusing on mostly salad greens and small veggie varieties, Stone has it down to a science. He has a no BS approach to urban farming & market gardening and if you are into efficiency and production then this method of market gardening is for you. Check out his book or youtube channel or register for one of his workshops, he teaches all over the word – next stop Sweden.
12: Jean Marten Fortier, The Market Gardener(Author/Book): Another market gardening superstar, Fortier is all about the veg. His book The Market Gardner covers everything from efficient greenhouse design to the exact width your growing rows should be -down to the inch! Also covered in the book are site selection, infrastructure costs and how to direct sell your produce. You can find his fantastic guidebook here
13: Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower(Author/Book): Coleman is the grand-daddy of market gardening. He has written numerous books on Organic market gardening and has decades of experience on the subject. While Coleman does have a number of books on market gardening, my favorite of his is The Winter Harvest Handbook, its all about extending the growing season with low-tunnels, cold greenhouses, and cool houses. My favorite part of this book is the planting schedules, it takes the guess workout of garden planning. It allows you to plan your garden from early spring to late fall with ease. So much good stuff in there for anyone who has to deal with cold climate growing.
14: SPIN Farming(Website & Courses): SPIN stands for Small Plot Intensive Farming, which is a method of market gardening that is amazing for Urban Farmers/Homesteaders SPIN-Farming books are available on their website and each one models a specific crop, i.e. garlic, greens, flowers etc. and is equipped with growing and marketing guides as well as case studies of other profitable market gardens growing that crop. Check them out here
15: Erin Benzakein, Floret Farm’s The Cut Flower Garden(Author/Book): Speaking of market gardening, another profitable & popular market crop is flowers. Cut flower gardeners are working hard to fill the demand for organic, locally grown cut flowers that is popping up all over North America. Benzakein’s stunning book is more than just eye candy, it is full of essential techniques for growing organic cut flowers, including seed starting, soil amendments, and weed control. This book is full of great tips, floral craft ideas and did I mention the photos are stunning? 😉 Find it here
Orchard systems are a great addition to the homestead and believe it or not they don’t have to take up a ton of room. Espalier is a French technique for fruit growing that has been around for centuries, but we are just now seeing these techniques pop up in commercial orchard trees as spindle growing. While this type of intensive orcharding is highly productive it does have its drawbacks. Which is why many homesteaders are taking a more ecologically inspired approach to the traditional orchard system, in Permaculture we call it Food Forestry. Here are my top resources to learn more about Food Forestry:
3b: Ben Falk, The Resilient Farm and Homestead(Author/Book): As mentioned above, Falk’s book is all about systems thinking, so it really is a great resource if you are planning on including your Homestead orchard in your revenue model. This book has over 50 pages dedicated solely to food crop and orchard systems, including how to combine orchard systems and animal systems – what Falk calls Fertility harvesting and Cycling. Find it here.
16: Stephan Sobkowiak, The Permaculture Orchard(Documentary): Sobkowiak was featured in a Documentary called the Permaculture Orchard. It is his case study on converting a portion of his orchard into an integrated Permaculture Food Forest. Including, orchard rows that ripen one at a time for staggered harvest, integrating annual crops into his orchard and the importance of pollinators in an orchard system. It’s a great case study, you can find it here:
Ok, now that you are well on your way to becoming a homesteader its time to up your farm skills 🙂 As a homesteader you are going to need to do things you never thought you’d have to including chopping firewood, building a chicken coop and sharpening an axe, all of which you probably didn’t learn in Home-Ec class. The following are my top picks for farm skills resources.
17: Mother Earth News Magazine & Online(Magazine & Website): Mother Earth News has been a resource for homesteaders for decades. My parents said they turned to Mother Earth News when they left the city lights for a one-room cabin in northern British Columbia during the back to the land movement in the 70’s. Mother Earth News Magazine covers all topics homestead and sustainability from building plans for a basement cold room to herbal cold and flu remedies. Mother Earth News delivers great articles both online and offline, check it out.
18: Readers Digest Publishing, Back to Basics(Book): This book is a classic! Go ask your parents I bet they have a copy of it in the basement 🙂 But seriously, this book has everything from ‘Carving your Homestead from the Wilderness’ to woodworking to spinning wool… Want to know how to make a Racoon Skin hat? it’s on pg 300 – umm no thanks!
19: Rootsy(Website/Online Courses), For more modern homestead skills, check out the Rootsy network blog online. Rootsy is your source for canning recipes, cute crafts and animal husbandry. Rootsy has countless great articles curated by a collection of well-known homestead and garden bloggers. Learn more about Rootsy and their workshops here.
Speaking of animal husbandry, there comes a time where every homesteader has to decide if raising animals is right for them. We waited for years to get chickens, we just didn’t have time to get organized for them… then a friend suggested we hatch some eggs, “your daughter would love to watch them hatch, and you can give them back after if you don’t want them” she said… yeah right… now we have chickens. 🙂
But really, they are an awesome addition to our urban homestead, they eat compost, bugs, and weeds then they turn our compost into black gold in half the time as before. Our 3 little hens are now part of our family and we love having them. Because we are an urban homestead there are rules on how many hens we can keep, but we are looking forward to adding 3 more hens next season.
20: Lisa Steele, Gardening with Chickens(Author/Blogger): This book comes with have reviews and Steele’s blog’s popularity is proof that she knows how to raise hens. Author at Fresh Eggs Daily, Steele writes on raising hens, flock health and of course Gardening With Chickens.
21: Allan Savory, Holistic Management International: HMI is an amazing resource for raising livestock, from intensive grazing strategies to Carbon Sequestration. If you are a cattle or other livestock farmer, please check out Savory’s work, his TED Talk and the efforts being made by Holistic Management International.
Ok so now your garden is overflowing but your pantry is empty, it’s time to put em’ up. Canning and preservation skills are essential for any homesteader to make it through the winter. While it may seem intimidating, canning really is easy, there are just a few guidelines that you must follow.
- Always can in a clean kitchen
- Follow a recipe until you feel more comfortable with the process
- If it didn’t seal correctly, refrigerate it and eat it within a week.
22: Sherri Brooks Vinton, Put ‘em Up(Book): Put ‘em Up is an updated take on canning and food preservation, while there are some classic recipes in this book, it’s mostly fun and unique modern recipes like Cherry and Black Pepper Preserve, Sparkling Rhubarb Jelly and even Cucumber Sake! Definitely a fresh take on canning and preserving your garden bounty. Find it here
Another method of preservation is fermentation, and while I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut, I do love Kombucha, Sour Dough Bread, and Fresh Yogurt! My favorite go-to for fermentation articles is the Cultures For Health website.
23: Cultures for Health(Website): Cultures for health has a massive library of recipes and how to’s to get you started on your fermentation journey. If you are just getting started, sign up for their Newsletter and they gift you a pile of great E-Books, including Kombucha, Lacto-Fermentation, and Sour Dough – all of which contain a ton of recipes and best practice information, so check them out here:
24: Herbal Academy(Website & Online Courses): If you read my stuff regularly you know I’m in love with the folks at The Herbal Academy, (I’ll chat more about why in the next section on Herbalism). This year they released an online course called The Craft of Herbal Fermentation, it’s all about Kombucha, Kefir, Mead and it even has a section on Herbal Beers!! So if this floats your boat check it out here.
Herbalism is such a great way to bring all the above skills together. While of course, herbal remedies are no replacement for medical care, there is a lot of proven scientific evidence that herbal remedies can help solve some of our everyday health woes. From stomach aches to the common cold, herbal remedies are proven to help lessen the symptoms and get us back to our chores faster than without them – wait a minute 🙁
But seriously, think about it, coffee is just a warm herbal infusion and look at how much we trust in it 😉
24b: The Herbal Academy(Blog/Website/Online Courses): Ok, I am seriously in love with The Herbal Academy, I am currently taking their Introductory Herbalism Course online and I am learning so much! At first, I thought it would be a bit fluffy – yeah chamomile tea makes you sleepy… no big news story there… in reality, I am learning about so much more than herbal tea.
I’m on unit 5 of 6 and we have already covered The respiratory system, the immune system, the Central nervous system and now I’m on to herbal skin care. Seriously, this course is so worth the time money and effort. I am feeling much more confident in my knowledge of herbal remedies and I am excited to start sharing more DIYs and Recipes with you. Learn more about the herbal academy here.
25: Rosemary Gladstar(Author/Herbalist): If you prefer books to online courses, the works of Rosemary Gladstar are for you. Gladstar is an icon in the realm of herbalism and her books below on the shelf of anyone looking to use herbalism in their daily lives. Find her work at your local library or here on Amazon.
Well, by now you are basically a Homesteading Super Hero! I’m going to leave it here for now but I had so much fun working on this list for you all that I might make it an annual thing! So needless to say, this is an ever-evolving list so please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and favorite homestead resources. I will check out your recommendations and start forming my list for next year 🙂
Thanks for hanging out everyone and Happy Homesteading!