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Bookshelf: New titles tackle backyard farming

February 10, 2010 |  8:58 am

Who knows if the cause is the economy or the pressure to conserve resources or general paranoia about the food supply -- but publishers are responding with new titles promoting self-sufficiency. Here are three new or upcoming releases that represent different levels of intensity. After all, some of us just want a pot of herbs in our windowsill, while others are looking into the legality of keeping goats in the yard.

Level 1: So, you want to grow some vegetables. Gayla Trail, founder of the beloved Canadian gardening blog You Grow Girl, has written a book called "Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces" (Clarkson Potter, $19.99). In this book you'll find tips on starting your first compost pile, a tutorial on using toilet rolls as seed starters, directions for making a raised bed with no bags of dirt involved (it's all compost, and I'm tempted!), and even a DIY upside-down tomato planter. There's also a section on dealing with pests (slugs hate coffee) plus recipes and harvesting tips.

Level 2: We're talking chickens. For the backyard farmer who wants to add animals, "Creating Your Backyard Farm: How to Grow Fruit and Vegetables, and to Raise Chickens and Bees" (CICO Books, $24.95) is coming to stores in March. Most of the book, by British writer Nicki Trench, is devoted to the fruits and vegetables part. A long chapter on the kitchen garden covers how to raise potatoes in grow bags, how to store apples and more. The chicken section is meant only as an introduction; there are no coop plans, for example. There are also a couple of pages on keeping goats and keeping pigs, but again, it's only an introduction.

Level 3: Off the grid. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Self-Sufficient Living" (Alpha Books, $18.95) is far less insane than the title might suggest. Writer Jerome D. Belanger promotes shopping for clothes at Goodwill rather than learning to spin your own wool. Yes, he's got tips on raising rabbits, chickens, pigs, turkeys and goats, as well as how to save seeds, but he looks beyond livestock and produce into more everyday concerns, such as how readers can save water and electricity. He also thinks repurposing an old house makes more sense than building one.

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo credits: "Grow Great Grub" courtesy of Clarkson Potter; "Creating Your Backyard Farm" courtesy of CICO Books; "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Self-Sufficient Living" courtesy of Alpha Books