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Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor

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Homesteading Book Reviews

From the archives, these homesteading book reviews feature two of my favorites from the past few years. The Homemade Living Series by Ashley English is a few years old now, but her wisdom is timeless!

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Canning and Preserving with Ashley English is comprehensive guide to canning, pickling, and ‘putting up’ all types of fruit and vegetables, with both basic and fancy recipes for jams, jellies, and curds. I have never done any canning before- and while I was curious before I am crazy excited right now, wondering how I can get my hands on heaps of organic strawberries along with other cool fruits I can experiment with.

She makes very clear the whats, hows, and whys of canning, including jar selection, vegetable prep, issues about bacteria and pH and all sorts of important things you need to know before cutting up six pounds of berries or asparagus.

I have fond memories of heading to the local u-pick operation and digging in the dirt all morning for strawberries, then heading back to grandma’s house to wash, hull, and chop the strawberries that she then made into jam.  I had to give up the jam when I became a vegetarian- she faithfully used gelatin in all her jam, and would not change. It is my hope that I can make something similar- surely the results will be posted as soon as I can find some berries!

I also got Keeping Chickens! Equally charming, cute, and practical as her canning book, dealing with all manner of chicken raising- including breed selection, feed choices, and building plans for housing your chicks.  I am especially charmed that she has a chicken-joy similar to my own, raising them for love and eggs, but not for meat.

If it seems odd for a mostly vegan blogger to gush about raising chickens then I imagine you probably have not spent much time with these goofy feathered friends. Personally, I had never thought much about these chicken creatures until I began on the farm with 20 resident chickens. Though I was initially ambivalent, ‘the ladies’ worked their charm on me and I fell deeply in love; in December we got six baby chicks and I was doubly smitten. I found so much joy feeding them kale and broccoli from the fields, often doing harvests just for the ladies. I brought stale rice, beans, bread, and not-perfect vegan baked goods for them, and soon they were eating out of our hands and jumping up to steal our foods. Every morning and afternoon they would come when called, wobbling and gobbling over to me so I could feed them their scratch. I look forward to a day when I can have a few little ladies of my own.

Lady English has a lovely way with words, the design is terribly cute, and her farmhouse lifestyle is very enviable- but also very do-able. And she has a likewise charming blog, and writes all over the place too. Follow her homesteading adventures at her blog, Small Measure Blog.

A follow-up: while I was doing some canning research today I came across some warnings about the BPA in the lids of the canning jars.  Apparently only the seal has the chemical in it (the white part, specifically), and the chance of your homemade goodies getting contaminated is slight, especially if you follow her rules (and general canning rules) and leave a good amount of ‘head space-‘ so the food does not touch the lid.  If this freaks you out, there are alternatives available, including plastic lids (which look like they would fit on ball jars/mason jars, and another company that makes pretty all-glass jars (not interchangeable). Here is the link for the company that makes regular ball jars– so you can contact them and complain!

Utne wrote about it last year, Treehugger did too. For even more comprehensive information about BPA, check out Mother Earth News.

Books image from Imagine Childhood.





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