How to Make Your Land More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods
One of my favorite homesteading books is The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan. It’s chocked full of useful planning tips and ideas for any size of homestead, from a small city lot to acreage. This new book by Brett McLeod, The Woodland Homestead, is that kind of book too.
He’ll teach you how to unlock the potential of your wooded land. Did you know that in one year and with one acre you could:
- Produce a face cord of firewood.
- Harvest five bushels of fruit.
- Make syrup out of maple, birch, walnut or sycamore trees.
- Save more than $200 by growing your own fence posts.
- Save more than $300 on feed for small livestock by using natural forage.
- Grow $100 worth of mushrooms.
- Grow enough willow whips to weave a basket for your bountiful harvest.
The best part of all? Brett will show you how to do all that, and much more, with clear and concise directions. I really love this book. Reading it has opened up a whole new way to look at my land.
He starts with a few case studies of typical homesteads. This one could be me: The Arnold Family (small woodlot, big results) lives in the suburbs on just under 1 acre. Their property is mostly wooded and they currently use the available sunny area as a kitchen garden. They would like to produce more of their own fruit and vegetables, keep a few laying hens, make some maple syrup each year and harvest shiitake mushrooms. They developed an action plan based on these goals and the things learned in Woodland Homestead.
Here are some of the things you will learn in The Woodland Homestead
How to take stock of the potential of your woodlot and conduct a basic inventory. This inventory will tell you if your ambitions are in line with the potential of your land. You’ll learn how to measure the woodlot, find out what kind of woodland you have, tally the results and use the data to make your decisions. If you follow the directions in the first 20 pages you will almost have a bachelor in woodlot management, Brett is that thorough. I learned things I didn’t even know I needed to know.
What are the essential tools that you need for your homestead woodlot? Splitting axe, felling axe, hewing axe and froe, just to name a few. Do you know how to restore an old axe? It’s in there. So is the anatomy of a chainsaw and its maintenance, plus how to fell a tree safely, and ideas for bucking, splitting, skidding and how to use a peavey. Luckily there’s a glossary for all these new words!
This past weekend I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the possibility of raising pigs on her property. We were talking about the best way to corral them and their various uses on the homestead. Imagine my surprise when I get to the chapter on “Pork Power for Stumps and Soil” and see the plans for how to build a pig-o-tiller. It’s a portable pen that promotes pasture improvement and is ideal for a pair of pigs to work the soil. I think that just about takes care of all the questions we raised. Brett also talks about ways to incorporate other livestock like chickens, turkey, sheep and goats in the woodlot.
Did I mention I love this book? For me the chapter on establishing a homestead orchard sealed its usefulness as a valuable home reference.
“An orchard need not be an endless expanse of large trees in perfect, long rows. Orchards and the trees that make them up come in a variety of shapes and sizes to match the land and the needs of the homestead.” Learn about orchard site design, hardiness zones, wind, elevation, and soil. Then use the recommendations for what to grow, and learn how to manage it. Now I know that there are 5 different varieties of apples that will grow in my zone 8b here in Texas. Priceless!
Who is this book for?
Anyone that has a patch of wooded land that they think is underutilized (and I can guarantee it is if you haven’t read this book) would benefit from reading The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods. If you are like me and just establishing a woodlot, there’s plenty for you too. I think it’s a homesteading reference book every landowner needs to have on the shelf. It’s published by Storey, so you know it’s top quality.
About the author: Brett McLeod is an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York. McLeod founded the Adirondack Woodsmen’s School, the Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival, and the Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes. His 25-acre wooded homestead is in Vermontville, New York.
Put your wooded land to work! This comprehensive manual shows you how to use your woodlands to produce everything from wine and mushrooms to firewood and livestock feed. You’ll learn how to take stock of your woods; use axes, bow saws, chainsaws, and other key tools; create pasture and silvopasture for livestock; prune and coppice trees to make fuel, fodder, and furniture; build living fencing and shelters for animals; grow fruit trees and berries in a woodland orchard; make syrup from birch, walnut, or boxelder trees; and much more. Whether your property is entirely or only partly wooded, this is the guide you need to make the best use of it.
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