The Farmer’s Library: 8 Reads for an Expanded Land-Based Worldview

My reading list has been expanding, as is always the case when I do a lot of browsing around on the internet, read a magazine article or book, or scroll through my liked pages and groups on Facebook. Several library systems near me have inter-library loan, so my first order of business is to find which library has the book available. I’ll browse through it, then decide whether to buy it or not. As much as I would like to buy all the books, space and budget dictate otherwise, leading me to make some hard choices. At times, the book is so obscure that it’s quite challenging to find for sale at a reasonable price — those are usually the books I’d like to have the most because of the great information in them!

Looking at the titles, you may correctly guess that some of these aren’t actually “reading books” but references or occasional-use books. Those get a quick read-through to familiarize myself with the contents, then it’s added to the appropriate section in our home library. Yes, our books are organized by content —  there’s no way we could find anything otherwise! Farming, history, cooking, fiber, general art, spiritual, herbs, sci-fi/fantasy, animals/vet — everything has a section, which means I only have to scan through two to five cubes of books instead of all of them!

 Favored Titles in the Farm Library

The Little House Cookbook was a gift from dear friends of ours. Our two families share many farming and lifestyle ideals, and we also share our books. And buy each other books for Christmas. This book is a recipe book of foods mentioned in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, along with excerpts from those books, and commentary by the author. I’m not sure what it says about me that I grew up eating not a few of these foods.

The Veterinary Clinical Parasitology and Shetland Wool Week books, again, not exactly “reading” books. To put a fine point on it, I got the VCP to learn how to run my own fecal tests for the sheep and goats, and this was the text recommended for that purpose. I’ll just leave it at that! And the Shetland Wool Week? A lovely annual that corresponds to the Shetland Wool Week festival in the Shetland Islands, which is definitely on my bucket list to attend. It’s full of articles about Shetland fiber and people, along with patterns using Shetland wool.

Much Ado About Mutton (I think Shakespeare would enjoy the pun) traces the history of native sheep breeds in the UK and the role of mutton (meat of a sheep that is over two years old) in the UK and the world. It’s a fascinating read with great pictures and a nice recipe section. Mutton has a bad rap due to several factors, but prepared properly, is a delicious meat. Personally, I think it has a better and more developed flavor than lamb has. This book actually referenced another book, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which I was able to get an abridged copy of from the library, but haven’t been able to find in an unabridged version. Well, I found the unabridged version, but I could buy a lot of fence supplies for what the sellers wanted for it!

Ten Acres Enough is a telling by Edmund Morris of leaving Philadelphia for the country life in New Jersey. As the title suggests, it can be enough to have ten acres of land. In fantastic detail, he chronicles the ups and downs of establishing a productive farm/homestead in the mid-1800s. Lots of good information that can still be relevant today for those who would like to do the same, and for those who are already living the “country life.”

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a book about exactly that. This book came to my attention, along with Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule: African American Landowing Families since Reconstruction, during a virtual conference through the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. Leah Penniman writes candidly about her experience returning to the land, her commitment to ending injustice in the food system, the contributions of Black farmers throughout history, and what her farm is actively doing to network and train new Black and Latinx farmers. This is an excellent “how-to” book for small-scale farming that treads lightly on the land, and is an eye-opener to the disparities in farming and food accessibility. It’s a book that is uncomfortable to read, and vital to know about.

Wrapping things up, we have Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. I learned about this series of essays from a Farming magazine article, and the best way I can come up with to describe it is that it looks at modern agriculture through the lens of how farming is described in the Bible – how the land was to be treated by the people of Israel and how we treat the land today. It’s scholarly, a slow read, and asks if we can do better regarding our land management and stewardship.

Lots of learning with these new titles, but that’s how we grow! What’s on your reading pile right now?

Keba M. Hitzemanis an advocate, baseball fan, caregiver, chicken wrangler, daughter, farmer, fiber artist, gamer, gardener, herbalist, laborer, manager, musician, nature-lover, potter, shepherdess, and teacher. She owns and operates Innisfree on the Stillwater, a former beef cattle farm, where she currently raises sheep and goats. Read all of Keba’s posts in her GRIT series,Returning to Innisfree.

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