One Farmer’s Library

Check out one farmer's list of personal recommendations for books about farming and animals.

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by Unsplash/Mitchell Luo

We love to read. Our library has everything from classics, herbals, history, art, science, sports, animals, military, cooking, faith, fiber arts, writing, and philosophy, to pulp novels and how-to books. And definitely books about farming. Every time we’ve moved, I’m pretty sure the packing, moving, and unpacking of books has taken longer than the rest of the household goods put together! Homebodies at heart, even with my extroverted tendencies, we just don’t go out much. Once or twice a week, we talk about “going out” for food, but 90% of the time, that ends up being carry-out to eat at home. I take a day to do all the errands, which isn’t much of a social occasion unless I stop by the local coffee shop to do some writing. Well, I guess that isn’t very social either, is it? I do chat with the owner about the farm, so I’ll count that as a social event. We have a gaming night once a month with friends, and there are one or two other reoccurring events, but we like our life at home. We have computer and board games, streaming services for movies and a handful of television shows (any Whovians or Trekkies out there!?), and our own solo activities. And books. All those lovely books.

I usually get books from the local library, then if I like them, I will make the purchase for our library. There have been a few that I’m happy I checked out before buying, but the majority have made it to our shelves. I’ve also found several treasures just by visiting one of our local used bookstores. We’ve “outgrown” many farming books that were geared to new farmers, but were glad to have read them and gleaned useful information. Sometimes that information was a no-kidding better way to do things, and sometimes it was a “good idea, but it sure didn’t work for us.” And many times, we took the idea, modified it to meet our needs, and called it a success. Those books that we outgrew were given new homes, and I took a box full to the last OEFFA conference for their book sale table. They make a little money, and someone gets a new-to-them book – win-win!

Who has made “the cut” at the Innisfree on the Stillwater library? In no particular order, some of my favorites include: Masanobu Fukuoka, Gene Logsdon, Joel Salatin, David Kline, Eliot Coleman, Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, Tina Sams, the Foxfire series, Temple Grandin, Lynn Miller, David Hoffmann, Rosemary Gladstar, Michael Pollan, Pat Coleby, James Herriot, Juliette de Baïracli Levy. Their books cover planting, farm skills, herbalism, philosophy, poetry, history, fiction, animal husbandry, recipes, food, business, and methodologies from all over the world. I’ve read most of these several times, and get something new out of them each time. People laugh when they see James Herriot on this list since his writing is fictionalized from his life as a vet, but a lot of the animal-specific scenes are spot-on and are still relevant today.

Reading is somewhat of a seasonal activity for me. I do read all year long, but I find it harder to read from late spring through mid-fall because there is so much to do outside, and I want to get it all done before the days get shorter. I check out books from the library to skim through, and buy books as I can. Then, come winter, I’ll be curled up on the couch with some hot tea and that stack of books I collected all year, plus another pile from the library! I recently finished Pat Coleby’s Natural Sheep Care and got sidetracked by researching the “land girls” she mentioned. That led to another two books (one historical, one fiction) about land girls during World War II. I also pulled out my copy of Juliette de Baïracli Levy’s The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, because Coleby referenced her sheep care information. It’s never a straight line for me to get through a book (even fiction) – there’s always something I want to find out more about. Yes, I do typically have 3-4 books going at the same time!

I hope you’re able to add some of these authors to your reading pile or the queue on your device. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to implement all of their ideas, or that you’ll even agree with what they say, but knowledge is power, and something you read now may be the exact thing you need at some point down the road.

What authors/specific books have you read that I need to put on my reading list?