This is it. The book that started it all for me. Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham. It is the first non-fiction book I ever read from cover to cover without being forced to for school.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved all my years at school and most of the books I read for it. But given a choice between a dry textbook and a raunchy, fun romance novel… well. I don’t usual make the choice that’s better for my brain ;)
And that’s where Markham’s book comes in. It isn’t a dry textbook, although it is crammed with all sorts of legit “sciency” information and in-text citations. Maybe I just love his book so much because it was the first non-fiction I read on a topic I was already passionate about. But, I think his writing style is what holds my interest throughout what would normally be the less exciting sections.
Markham’s writing weaves together his own personal narrative with the intensely researched garden data he is imparting to the reader. He isn’t just telling you “compost is good for the garden.” He is giving you exact details on the different ways to compost (he even has a table of the Carbon to Nitrogen Ratios of Commonly Composted Materials), the pro’s and con’s of each method, and then he is sharing what he does himself.
So, now that I’ve gone on about my love for this book – what does it actually cover?
The book chapters are (I paraphrased some for brevity):
- Intensive Agriculture
- Mini Farming
- Raised Beds
- Soil Composition & Maintenance
- Plant Nutrients In-Depth
- Time and Yield
- Watering & Irrigation
- Crop Proportions & Sizing
- Pest and Disease Control
- Seed Starting
- Selecting and Saving Seed
- Season Extension
- Fruit Trees and Vines
- Raising Chickens for Eggs
- Raising Chickens for Meat
- The Markham Farm Chicken Plucker
- Public Domain Thresher Designs
- Preserving the Harvest
- Selling Your Produce
- Putting It all Together
For any of the chapters, he covers the topic with enough depth that you can really get going with things. Once you get going, I think the book is still a fantastic reference for anything you would need to “measure”– how much should I water, how much of each soil amendment should I add, how long should I blanche cauliflower before freezing, how long should I boil this in a water bath for canning, etc.
Markham has a later book that goes into greater depth on many common food crops, like tomatoes. It’s titled Maximizing Your Mini Farm: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. And later, he has a book that appears to put the two together, entitled the The Mini Farming Bible: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre.
I’ll confess I only perused the Mini Farming Bible briefly at the library and put it back when I realized it was most of the content of the other two books in one text. It may have been because I was rushing, with a toddler pulling on my shirt – but I thought there were some editing errors in that book, such as the wrong photo on certain page. I’ll try to borrow it to give it a better review.
I do have the Maximizing Your Mini Farm book, and I use it for reference regularly during the growing season. For me, the two original books are the best “cover all things related to mini farming” books out there. For any better information, you’ll need to get more content specific books, i.e. a book that only covers chickens or a book that only covers food preservation.
Long story, short – this book is rad. I definitely recommend it!
What’s your favorite non-fiction?