Welcome to the Farm: How-To Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead by Shaye Elliott
WELCOME TO THE FARM is based on the lessons-learned of the author, over many years. She freely admits that some things she had to learn the hard way. It some cases, it took her a lot of failures before she got it right:
"I had to learn, experience, and fail at multiple times before I knew enough to document the success."
This book is the summary of what the author learned. She wants the reader to benefit from her mistakes: "Use the guidelines, wisdom, and encouragement that fill these pages to build your own farm,"
For example, she thought it would be nice to have her chickens having free rein over the property. Well, she learned something about chickens--the hard way:
"At that moment, I hated chickens, especially free-range ones. Who would ever invite such destructive creatures onto their property?"
The author also admits that life on the farm can be a tough life: "The reality is that this lifestyle can also be painstakingly tedious and difficult. . . Farm life isn’t clean, organized, or easy."
I found it fun to look at the various chapters, and skip around to those that interested me most. I'm pretty sure I won't be raising chickens anytime soon, but I was very interested in her composting tips--especially the " Lazy Man’s Compost" method. It's simple, and involves "picking a spot on your property and piling all your garden waste, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, yard waste, and animal manure/ bedding there."
I also found the chapter and tips on "Seed Saving" really great. I like saving seeds, and the author explains how to do it for each type of vegetable. For peas and beans, "Choose some of the best pods to leave on the plant after harvesting the rest. Allow the pods to dry on the plant before snipping them off, breaking open the dried pod, and picking the seeds out."
My favorite chapter of all is the BEEHIVE chapter. I had no idea the subject was so complicated. There is also a great illustration of the construction of a beehive. There is a LOT to it!
One fun tip the author mentions is how to acclimatize the queen bee to their colleagues. Shaye suggests using a mini-marshmallow to let the colony slowly get used to the queen. "By the time she eats through that marshmallow (two to three days), the others bees will have accepted her presence, and she will release herself from the cage. Some people prefer to manually release the queen two to three days after hiving the bees, but I like the marshmallow method."
There is also a neat contraption called the "queen excluder. "This is a thin, metal sheet that fits right over the top of your brood box. It is filled with holes big enough for most of the bees to fit through, but not the big ol’ queen."
I also learned why beekeepers have a "smoker" nearby. The smoke masks the pheromone from the "guard bees," so that nobody knows the hive is "under attack." After all, "Ain’t nobody wants to get stung by bees!"
There are tons of practical tips in this book. I haven't mentioned the preserving chapters or the great recipes. The author concludes with tips on building relationships in your community:
"Start enjoying fellowship. This means inviting others over for supper and sharing the joys of your harvest!"
What a great idea, and a fitting conclusion of this book.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.