Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review (and GIVEAWAY): The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading

I don't often dedicate an entire post to just one book (in fact, have I ever?), but The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading deserves it.  It was one of the many books that I read and/or flipped through (have I ever mentioned that I have the attention span of a fruit fly on crack?) during my semi-involuntary partial exile from the internet (I still had my phone....) while my computer was being repaired during most of last month.  Usually, a non-fiction book without colorful pictures for me to pine about not having a "pin it" button won't appeal to me (fruit fly thing), but this one WOWed me.  In fact, I had to put it down several times to harass the author to tell her how great it was.  Fortunately for her, it was the middle of the night and she was sleeping, so she just woke up to my gushing on her Facebook page.

Have I mentioned how much I love this book?


The text is only 297 pages (with an additional 26 pages of ultra-awesome appendixes) but the information jam packed in there is un-freaking-believable!  Granted, it doesn't go into a great deal of depth about any subject (although Appendix C contains the most thorough and best garden planning chart I've ever seen in my life, so that there would justify the purchase!), but it is a fantastic introduction to a wide variety of topics, including (but not limited to): info about zoning regulations; keeping animals even if you don't have any land including chickens, goats, rabbits, and bees; making homesteading work for you; growing food without a yard; basically Gardening 101, aquaponics; food preservation; soap making; cheese making; composting (a really, really good section on composting, I might say!); energy conservation/alternative energy; and foraging!  Obviously, there isn't enough room in 297 to teach you everything you need to know about so many subjects, but there is enough information in each area to help you at least figure out if it would be feasible for your lifestyle to do it or not and Appendix B is a resources section with books and websites pertaining to each subject so you can learn as much as you want to by checking those out.

As a super busy person (with the attention span of a fruit fly on crack, as I mentioned), I also liked how the book was broken down into short segments.  It actually occurred to me that if one spouse in a household was wanting to start doing some of this stuff, but the other was nay-saying it, this would be the perfect book for the enthusiastic spouse to leave in the bathroom (with all other reading material removed and cell-phone ban in the bathroom, so they can't escape).  No, that is not the situation in my house (besides, a cell-phone ban would never stick here), but I've had a number of people comment before that they wish their spouse would get on board with their homesteading dreams.

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I love this book so much, I wish I could keep a stack of them with me at all times to give to anyone that showed even the slightest interest in becoming an urban homesteader, but since I'm poor, that's obviously not an option.  What I will do however, is give away one copy to a lucky reader of this blog!  Yay!  Cue confetti!  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post saying what urban homesteading activities you would like to pursue, but haven't, and what is stopping you from trying.  On Friday, April 27, late in the evening (maybe I'll do a whole party thing on Facebook or something), I will randomly select one winner and post their name as shown on the comments (so don't post anonymously or I can't give it to you.  Sorry) on Facebook and Twitter.  That person has 24 hours to email me at adventuresofathriftymama at hotmail dot com (translated into an actual email address), or I will move on to select someone else.  Then that person would have 24 hours to contact me, etc, etc (because I'm doing this with the paycheck Amazon is kind enough to give me almost every month and it tends to burn a hole in my pocket if I wait too long to spend it).  Good luck and may the fermentation (or something) be with you! (Fine print: there is no way I can spring for international shipping, so I'm going to have to limit this contest to US mailing addresses only.  Sorry!)   Sorry, contest is now closed!  Congratulations, Elizabeth Walker!

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Thanks to everyone that came over from Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #22!

62 comments:

  1. oh my god. we're about to be moving around. a lot. i want to start a container garden the kids and i can can move with us. also, we need to learn to do veggies with way less water... we're moving to the desert. i'm a little excited that so i'm the only commenter. yay!

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  2. I really want to try making my own cheese, but have always been scared to mess up and waste money on the supplies. But I recently tried making my own soap and did not screw it up at all so we just ordered the cheese making supplies and will hopefully enjoying home made mozzarella next month!

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  3. I'm too scared to try the whole compost thing! We have raccoons, possums, cats, all sorts of critters here and I'd love to try it but, am a little intimidated that it will be a lot of work and those critters will get into it. And I'm thoroughly convinced that I will do it wrong anyway! lol

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  4. WOW! what a great way to introduce a urban homesteading book.
    I am not commenting to partake in the book give-a-way though. Only wanted to comment that I think it is a great idea.
    I have had to learn by personal research how to do all of these things. Which most people do not have the time to do with all of our go-go lives.

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  5. I have started a container garden this year. Living in the mountains of NE Pa. I have a back yard full of rocks and bolders, not so good for having a big garden like I was used to having years ago when I lived in southern Pa. I want to try to learn how to can and store the things we harvest from our garden this year. I am always looking for information on how to do this but, I am not real good when it comes to navigating around on the internet. I, thank goodness, accidently stumbled across your page and am thrilled that I did. You are so inspiring and informative. Thanks for opening my eyes that despite the face I live in a trailer park I can still enjoy gardening again.

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  6. Cheese making, raising chickens (maybe next year!) and canning all things....these are what I'd like to begin with! Thanks!

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  7. I would love to learn more about what I can do to be a homesteader out of my apartment! Vermicomposting, cheese making, container gardening, and I love learning the big outdoor stuff as I am pursuing a gradutae degree in Urban Food Systems and Horticultural Therapy. THis book could help me narrow my thesis! Thank you for hosting the give away!

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  8. I'm so ready to be gardening, raising chickens, goats, pigs and bees, making cheese, baking bread and canning fruits and vegetables. Just so much lined up that I'm ready to get too. We've recently moved to Austin and living in a 900sf apartment but soon to be shopping for our own little urban homestead. Can't wait to read this book.
    Christy Ruiz

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  9. What I would really like to do is plant fruit trees. The biggest thing holding me back is that we don't own the property! Why plant the trees when we will move before they start fruiting?

    But then again, I may just plant them in pots.....

    sounds like a fantastic book. Hope I win!

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    1. @Patricialynn I worked for a floral company years ago. While visiting a Very small town greenhouse I noticed something that may interest you. The owner of the greenhouse purchased trees towards the end of the season for the discounts...but because she 1) wanted to resell them 2) not stress them further 3)retain moisture and give the tree stability...she took the tree and planted them pot and all into the ground! It was so simple, yet I hadn't seen it done! Just thought it might work for you.

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  10. I'd love to learn more about raising chickens and bees. My homeowners rules don't allow it but some of the cities near me have been removing restrictions on chickens and the HOA's have to abide by the new rules of the city. I'm hoping my city does the same.

    The book sounds like a great resource!

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  11. I would have a lot more plants but my landlords are kinda uppity about a bunch of plants on my patio. I live in an apartment building. I wish I could convince them to at least give us space for a community garden.

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  12. We have been building a retaining wall so that we can have a yard for the past two years. We will finish it this spring and I can't wait to get a garden going! This will be my first attempt at gardening, so I have a lot to learn. I'd like to compost for it, but I have no idea where to start. I'm also interested in cheese making.

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  13. I need to plant some fruit trees. Rainier cherries, apricots and nectarines. I've had some trees in the past, but I managed to kill them. Sigh.

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  14. I would really like to build a chicken coop and get some chickens to raise for eggs, and also to butcher. I haven't done it yet, because my husband thinks that they will make a mess as he doesn't care for chickens. I will win this mini battle we are having... :)

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  15. I am trying to learn to be more self sufficient and "going green" ever since I was told the plant I worked at the last 23 years is closing and moving to China. I could use some more help and inspiration on what to do and how to do it.
    jherreidsr

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  16. i would love to expand the backyard flock of hens, add dwarf dairy goats and a few rabbits...whats stopping me? not ordinances, not $ (we have a hookup to get them for next to nothing)...you guessed it, my hubby! and he is a bathroom reader, so this book would definitely be beneficial!!

    Shauna Espey (Cerena al'Kamryn on FB)
    http://homesteadinintheburbs.blogspot.com

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  17. This book sounds great. We already have chickens and goats and garden space, but would like to learn how we can be better. Learning how do make cheese sounds fun too.

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  18. My baby is starting to eat solids and I would love to learn how to grow some things for her. We have a big backyard and I have no idea how to get anything growing.

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  19. I would like to put in an orchard this year so that we can actually enjoy the fruits of our labor before we die.

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  20. I would love to try more gardening but find that I don't have the right soil for it... I need to put more natural compost in I think, but I'm looking forward to trying this year!

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  21. I would love to try foraging! The reason I have not yet, except for the occasional handful of raspberries is I would need a mentor to show me the edible vs. poisonous foods. for example which barks are edible, which greens are tasty vs bitter.

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  22. what wouldn't i like to do? my current project is creating a successful worm compost, and also raise a successful movable garden. we aren't allowed to plant in the yard, so all my veggies are currently in pots, and i would love to know how to make that as successful as possible. also, my dream project - beekeeping....

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  23. I want to raise chickens. For eggs and their compostable poo. Badly. Trouble is, even though we're out in the sticks, we are not zoned to include farm animals. Some of the neighbors ignore it and have chickens anyway. I also want to start my own compost area, but don't know how to not make it unsightly without spending a fortune on a fancy-looking bin. And I would like to expand my garden to grow more edibles. That just requires better time management skills for the installation and upkeep of new beds- an obstacle in and of itself. This book would be an awesome resource for becoming more independent and living off the land!

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  24. I want to have chickens but haven't because I am still on the fence about it. Some people say they are a joy and others say they are not worth the time and mess. I would love to have the eggs and enjoyment of them though. :) I keep reading that they are very amusing and everyone could use that sort of amusement in their lives. :)

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  25. I'm trying to get a garden going but I can't seem to find wood to build the beds- I want chickens but I don't know how to keep my dogs from getting them or how to keep them alive over the winter. I'm practicing canning, but I'm afraid of my pressure canner! I'd like to make cheese, but the cheeses we eat are complicated and I don't know what to do with the ones we wouldn't eat while I'm learning.

    I have a lot of excuses, I think.

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  26. I really want to make soap this year. I made it once with a mom who's son my mom was tutoring (I was in high school at the time). It was so much fun and a wonderful feeling to use soap I had made. My girls have sensitive skin so know exactly what is in the soap would be great.
    I also want to try my hand at canning this year. I have the jars waiting for me, I just need to do it!

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  27. I just moved into a new house. First step is to get a freezer so we can start bulk buying and freezing. We have planned a small garden for this year and plan to 'grow' next season. I am really wanting to see about canning this year as well.

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  28. I just discovered your blog AND urban homesteading last week! Your blog is a little addicting :)

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  29. I have yet to start a container garden this year...wanting to learn new ideas of planning layouts of containers...and chicken hardy plants that my hens will stay away from! :)

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  30. Fruit trees. Oh how I would love to figure out how to plant fruit trees on my rocky, clay-dirt property. Now my dh says we may be moving in the next few years. You know, about the time the trees [the ones that survive] start to produce fruit. Maybe I'll try som dwarf fruit trees in containers this year.

    Also soap - I'd really like to figure out how to make soap.

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  31. Composting, gardening, chickens are just among the few ... all NOT attempted due to the lack of knowledge and how to utilize our space.

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  32. Vermiposting, bees and composting. I have some compost set up but would love to get way bigger set up. Vermiposting....no idea how to do, so we've been looking into it. Bees....terrified and it's expensive to start, plus not sure how to keep them with kids on a regular sized property.

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  33. I bet this book has a lot of great solutions. My problem is the areas on my lot with plenty of space don't have good light and the areas with good don't have enough space.

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  34. I really want live stock- couple chickens, some rabbits, and a goat. Nothing major- or at least I don't think it is. My land lord and room mate think I'm insane.

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  35. Whew, probably like to try canning as my next step since I have just tripled the size of my organic garden. Have friends with chickens and bees, but naysayer husband would probably win on this front. Cheese making sounds exciting for winter experimentating! Not sure I am composting correctly, and found that my 55gl rain barrell needs a companion for the overflow! All info would be valuable for me, I love discovering natural lifestyles and possibilities!

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  36. I would love to learn to grow a full garden - I grew tomatoes and squash last year. My zucchini's all died and I had an overabundance of squash. My daughter loved the tomatoes though, so will plant a bunch of those again. I'd love to know how to rotate crops to make the most out of my gardening space (most of my yard is shade).

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  37. I am trying to become more self sufficient on a shoestring budget. I currently make our laundry detergent and am working on making all organic/natural household cleaners, etc. I don't have the space for a garden like I want, but I am trying to find new ways to grow and preserve our food.

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  38. I love the thought of urban homesteading, especially gardening. Fingers crossed I win this one! :)

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  39. I have begun canning meats and preparing to can veggies and would like to start a raised bed garden for my own veggies. I rent and have a small space, but am eager to get started. I also started dehydrating foods.

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  40. I am a disabled person with limited income, so growing my own healthy food has become a requirement of basic survivial. Since I haven't gaRdened since I was a child, this book would be invaluable to me. Please place me in the drawing. Tresa Lamb. Tresa.lamb@ yahoo.com & I saw this on FB.

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  41. As I live in a trailer I'd love this to see what it has to say about gardening in extra small spaces and containers as that's about my only option. I'm also interested in learning about food preservation, mainly dehydration as I don't have a lot of storage room.

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  42. We're having composting issues as our dog likes to get into our pile. I'd love to get bees, but know nothing about them. I'd also love goats but they intimidate me (I have 2 of 4 children that are allergic to dairy but can handle goat milk). I really could go on and on, but I think that's enough for now. I was looking at this book on amazon this morning too!

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  43. I would like to partake in composting, I am disabled and on a fixed income, so want to be sure I will be successful. I am planting a corn garden (40 plants) this year and growing several tomatoes & peppers. I love to garden as it keeps me busy during the summer months

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  44. I took her backyard chicken keeping class this spring and really enjoyed it. I would love to learn more about urban homesteading.

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  45. I am always looking for new information on urban homesteading and would love to win the book.

    Congratulations to whoever wins!!

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  46. That book looks really cool :) We've started some projects this year, like a big garden and compost pile. Eventually I'd like to add some more animals (we have cats, a dog and a rabbit), more garden space when the puppy gets bigger so she doesn't eat everything not fenced in, and would love to learn more about foraging, food preservation and alternative energy.

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  47. I would love to do container gardening inside as my neighbors below me are being butts and throwing a fit about me maybe spilling a little dirt down the ground...

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  48. I would like to start raising Chickens in my tiny suburban backyard. I actually went to a class the author was giving just last week on raising chickens. My main concern was not knowing anything about chickens. After my class, I think I am prepared to get some baby chicks!!

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  49. I am ITCHING for a great big garden and some chickens ... but we're renters with not much access to outdoor space at all. I'm wanting to grow as much in containers as possible this season, though. I really want chickens and bees though ... that's pretty much all I think about these days. I doubt our downstairs neighbors would approve.

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  50. Awesomeness! We having been working on our homestead for awhile, but still fighting with the HOA :) Thanks for the great giveaway!

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  51. I NEED this book. I really really really want this book. Pick me Pick me! I got 4 chickens on a whim last spring and now I'm up to 13 chickens, a rabbit, a huge garden, a boat load of container vegetables too, a compost pile and composting worms.

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  52. I have dreamed of a huge garden for year's. This year out of the blue I was approached by an aquaintance, and she offered a 70x70 space on her 37 acre farm if I helped her plant a successful garden...I'm finally able to grow gourds, pumpkins, watermelon, anything I want and have always wanted.We have just this week started planting in it. A helpful book to help my new friend with alot of other things would be great. Thanks for the oppurtunity.

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  53. I want to do some raised bed gardening, expand my container gardening, build a small root cellar, lots of canning, and dehydrating, and basically learn to utilize ever available inch of the small piece of property I have. I SO need this book, as last year was my first year beginning, and now I want to do as much as possible!

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  54. I love reading your blog! I want chickens and goats and horses (ok, thats a long shot, the horses part), I want to learn to make cheese. Every year, i experiment with different veggies and take over more of my yard to do so. I want to learn to be more self sustainable, use less energy, waste, I try to buy local, try to be healthy and i neeeeeeeeeeddddd help....

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  55. Oooh compost, cheese making, container gardening, I'd love to raise chickens and bee's.
    I live in a rental right now that wont allow the compost/bees or chickens but we are planning on moving to a house that allows more freedom.
    I really want my son to grow up thinking that this is normal behavior and have these skills well learned!

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  56. Looks like just what I'm looking for. And you'd have to walk for miles to find anyone who knows less about urban homesteading.

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  57. My goal for this spring/summer is to grow as much clean and organic food as I possibly can, including trees and bushes that produce fruit every year.

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  58. I would love to have chickens, rabbits, honeybees, a fruit orchard and more land! The only thing stoping me is money and ordinance laws while I'm stuck living in town. I do have a nice compost pile going now and made a huge expansion on my veggie garden this year. Between that and the growing things from "leftovers" (ie: green onions, bok choy, romaine, and my remaining pineapple plant) I think I'm slowly getting a little closer to my dream! I know this book would certainly come in handy to help me get there. :)

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  59. Francine Freitag ProvencherApril 27, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    I've often thought about building raised beds, but I'm getting older and the whole process seems daunting, so I don't even attempt it. But sometimes I just think that's an excuse for my tendency towards doing things the way they've always been done, maybe laziness of spirit...? I do have difficulty initiating change....

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  60. I want to get a few chickens ... but I live in a city that doesn't allow "farm animals" ... but I'm working on them!

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  61. I would like to keep bees, but my husband is kinda put off by it. Hope to sway him soon.

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