Books We Recommend

  • Preserving the Harvest VS. Put 'Em Up

    I'm sure many of you are reaping the bounty of your harvests this summer! It's always a fun and busy season when that produce starts kicking in and the “preserving” season has begun.

    It can also be a stressful time, though, and that's where a great book to guide you makes all the difference. We have 2 amazing books on food preservation - The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader AND Put 'em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton - which often leads people to wonder which they should choose.

    When we go to Garden Shows or Expos, I have been asked many times, 'What's the difference between the two?' or 'Which one do you like better?'

    So I thought I would compare the two and share what each book has to offer.

    Lets talk about PUT 'EM UP:

    1. Includes step-by-step instructions for freezing, drying, pickling, and canning.

    2. Covers 33 different vegetables and fruits.

    3. Easy referencing. For example, when you find yourself in abundance of tomatoes, you only have to look under the “Tomato” section and find recipes like “Heirloom Tomato Salsa” or "Easy Bake Tomato Paste". Just simply look up your vegetable or fruit, and find the recipe you are looking for.

    4. You can also find different preserving recipes for whichever vegetable you are working with. Just choose the method that is right for you.

    5. No need to be an expert! The recipes are easy to follow.

    6. Practical recipes with basic ingredients.

    7. Includes a great resource section in the back of the book about local, sustainable farming and home preservation.

    Now let's talk about THE BIG BOOK OF PRESERVING THE HARVEST:

    1. Tells us the best methods of preserving for over 60 vegetables and fruits,including canning, freezing, drying, cold storage, pickling, and juicing... just to name a few.

    2. Gives information on when to harvest and what to look for when produce is ready in the garden.

    3. Step-by-step instructions.

    4. Divided into sections such as “Canning” with all the instructions followed by several canning recipes. Then you'll find the“Drying” section, followed by several drying recipes, and so on.

    5. Easy to follow. Packed with a lot of “extra” information, including hundreds of “tips” throughout the book.

    6. Learn how to make your own vinegars and seasonings.

    7. Several fun ideas for gift-giving your preserved food.

    So even though both books teach us how to preserve our food, both have a unique spin and give us something special. And each one is FULL of valuable information, whether you are a beginner or an expert.

    What is your "Go-To Book" when the produce starts filling up your kitchen? What's your favorite way to preserve food?

    Leave a comment below, along with your email, and your name will be entered in our Gift Certificate Giveaway! Winner will be notified by email on September 10.

  • The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food

    If you are looking for a comprehensive book filled with detailed instructions and information for your gardens, let me highly recommend to you the Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food, by Tanya L.K Denckla. With this great resource in hand, you will not only learn what makes an organic garden so special and important, but you'll also discover how easy it can be to grow such a self-sustaining garden yourself!

    Studying the proper ways to grow veggies, herbs, fruits and nuts is only the beginning. Keep reading and you'll also find the scoop on soil and water requirements, pest and disease problems and how to fix – or better yet, prevent – them, how to harvest, how to store, companion planting, and even when to buy certain varieties.

    I found the section which covered disease and pests especially informative. As I read, I discovered many ways to rid my garden of such common problems, but the research didn't end there. I also learned how diseases spread, when symptoms most likely occur, what plants are most easily affected, how to monitor for pests, and descriptions to help me decipher each individual predator. Of course, complete organic remedies as well as Pest Control Suppliers are included.

    This book is also very easy to access. Quick referencing is important when you discover to your dismay that a problem is quickly arising in your garden. If you see that something is damaging your onions, for example, you can easily identify the pest by turning to this irreplaceable book and find what fights the onion fly maggot with organic strength.

    The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food
    cover a little bit of everything within its 496 of pages. It's one I certainly plan on having the rest of my family read, for I can testify to the help it gives a gardener, and I hope to pass that knowledge on to them, as well as to you. Let's grow together!

  • Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

    Many of us are on the journey to becoming self-reliant. There are many steps to accomplishing this, however. Why do we do it? How serious are we about this pursuit? Is it out of necessity or just a hobby? Or are we doing it because we believe it may someday become a necessity?

    I admire those who are completely committed to this adventure. Those who are doing what they can to make things work for themselves, using their own resources, skills, and energy to get things done. Living life this way means that you learn to do what you have to in order to survive. But its not just about survival. Its about living life honestly.

    I want to introduce to you our book for the month – Storey's Basic Country Skills, by John and Martha Storey. The only way I can give you a short review on this is to list some of the many things this book has to offer. It is comprehensive and seems to cover everything you would ever want to know about living self-reliant.

    This is just a taste of what this book has to offer:

    Learn how to make outdoor furniture – how to drill a well – growing herb gardens – how to make soap – putting in hardwood floors – solar electricity – felling your own trees – weatherproofing your home – putting in a new lawn – building a greenhouse – how to make a garden shed – making apple cider, maple syrup, and homemade sausage – learn how to butcher rabbits, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and beef - building a smokehouse – how to care for farm and ranch animals – beekeeping – making cheese and of course, my favorite... everything you need to know to grow your own food. From soil improvement to building compost bins to saving seed to every facet of the garden. You will find everything you need to know to turn that wonderful seed into food for your table.

    Just to be clear, this book doesn't just cover these topics. It goes into great detail on each subject. Like I said before, it is very comprehensive. It's certainly a must-have for anyone who wants to move towards the goal of being self-reliant.

    Again we want to remind everyone of the “Get Prepared Expo” coming to Springfield, Missouri on May 14-15th, 2011. If you are in town, please stop by our booth. We'd love to meet you!

  • The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest

    This month we certainly recommend to you this wonderful book to help you preserve your harvest. One of our many passions here at White Harvest is to encourage people not only to plant gardens, but also to preserve those harvests for a year-round supply of their own homegrown food. Not only do we believe this to be better for you, but in our world today, we believe it may become absolutely necessary for people to be prepared. Besides, if you are like us, you usually have more produce that you can eat fresh.

    This book goes into great lengths to teach you the process of canning, freezing, drying and pickling both fruits and vegetables. Anything from how to choose the best ingredients, step by step instructions on canning, including safe and unsafe canning practices, detailed descriptions of the four types of food drying, how to freeze herbs, meats, poultry, and dairy products, preserving jams and jellies, how to make pickles, and information on cold storage. I have canned and frozen my fruits and vegetables for years, but I have yet to try my hand at food drying.

    One of my favorite sections was the gift giving of preserved foods. Have you ever thought of giving a “living tossed salad” as a gift? Use a large clay pot, and plant with lettuce or a variety of greens and include parsley, chives, or oregano. Include a bottle of homemade salad dressing with a couple of fresh tomatoes out of your garden. Make a copy of the dressing recipe on an index card and there you go! You've got one unique gift!

    How about give a jar of your own homemade tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce with meat? Wrap up a large pasta bowl with individual serving bowls, a Parmesan cheese grater, and a variety of pastas too. It's simple and fun to give!

    The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader, is full of extra tips along the way. One is to keep your freezer well stocked. Did you know that a full freezer requires less electricity to maintain than one that is half full? Another is to keep a chart on the inside of your pantry door or kitchen cabinet, which gives the location of canned goods. This conveniently saves you more time than you'd think. One more... If your pantry is being attacked by insects, sprinkle bay leaves on the storage shelves. This will discourage their visits.

    Last, but not least, the book is FULL of recipes for each preserving method. If you're like me, who loves to try new recipes, you'll love them too! This book is full of helpful information. Whether you are experienced at preserving your harvest or you are just beginning, I know you will enjoy all it has to offer.

    On a slightly different note, since we are talking about harvesting for the future, we would like to invite any of you who might be in the Ozark region to come visit us at the “Get Prepared Expo” in Springfield, Missouri on May 14-15, 2011. It will cover topics of interest such as Survival Economics, Alternative Energy & Solar Power, Hi-Yield Gardening, Conceal and Carry Firearms Orientation, Self-Reliance, and ways to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. We will have our garden booth there and we would love to meet you! Be sure to visit their site for further details. www.usaprepares.com

  • Roots, Shoots, Buckets, & Boots

    Times have changed. I grew up on a dairy farm where hard work was just a way of life for us. Go back even a generation before that and look how children during the 40s and 50s grew up. It is not the same today.

    How can we instill the importance of gardening in our children? After all, they are the ones we are saving that seed for, are they not? Despite the hard work, we must teach them how growing your own food can also bring you great joy. They must learn that it is a privilege, not a chore.

    In reviewing this month's book, I discovered some excellent ideas! Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots, written by Sharon Lovejoy, is filled with ways for you and your children or grandchildren to use and learn to garden together. It includes several “theme garden” options to teach and inspire your children not just about gardening, but also about the world around them. There are complete instructions and advice on how to plant and care for each garden. Lots of extra tips and tidbits are included.

    My favorite was the “Living Hideaways”, such as the Sunflower House. What a great place for children to have a tea party, read, have a picnic, or just daydream. Imagine this “living classroom” with growing vines and flowers for walls. Not to mention all the little creatures they will attract. Don't be surprised if you find yourself drawn out there from time to time.

    Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots will certainly teach your children to look at plants in a different way. You too will look at your garden through fresh eyes, I guarantee it. Open up the garden to your kiddies and they'll find a bright and beautiful world at their feet.

    How I wish my three children were young again!

  • The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book

    January's Book Review

    No matter how long you have been gardening, it is always fun and helpful to learn more “tried and true” ways to grow. At a gardener's fingertips lies so much more than soil and seeds – there lies knowledge to be harvested.

    This month's book provides extensive answers to practically every question you could think of. It is formatted in a way that provides easy referencing. The answers are quick and simple to find. Perfect for the busy gardener!

    The advice and ideas are prolific throughout. Tell me, have you ever thought of doing more than simply creating a mound for your melons? Go the extra mile and first dig a hole, add compost, then make your mound on top of that. This will offer much-needed extra nutrients to be soaked up by your thirsty and hungry plants.

    The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book, written by Barbara W. Ellis, contains 432 pages of fun and factual information for us to glean from. For example, are the garden pests you commonly deal with larger than your average cucumber beetle or tomato worm? If you struggle keeping deer or rabbits from your garden, learn how to solve this fixable problem quickly. Growing your plants is one thing. Protecting them is yet another responsibility and just as important.

    In addition to its 100% organic wisdom, this book is very easy to carry with you wherever you go. For that matter, just stuff it in a pocket on your way out. Then when you're trying to identify what's chewing holes in the leaves of your plants, you'll be able to decipher the culprit and find the solution then and there.

    Do you have questions about planning and planting accordingly? Any questions about your soil and how to properly compost? What about wanting to know how to daily care for your garden? Some of these questions may seem simple, but each holds their own merit.

    It's no surprise that I fell in love with this book rather suddenly. It didn't take long for me to start wishing it were June rather than January. That tends to happen this time of year. Needless to say, I'm anxiously awaiting a few weeks more before I can start some seedlings inside. I'm ready to begin it all over again with this handy helper in tow, of course.

    The best part of the book in my opinion, was the “Crop by Crop” section in Part 2. The author gives “Secrets for Success” for each individual veggie. We promise you that even your favorite vegetable has secrets left to share and teach you.

    Have you ever asked one of these questions?

    My tomatoes are rotting on the bottom, but the tops look great. What's going on?

    What is the best way to dig potatoes?

    What causes cucumbers to be misshapen?

    Why are my carrots always green on the tops?

    I planted a big row of corn and the plants grew beautifully, but the ears only had a few kernels. What happened?

    When I'm harvesting broccoli, is there a way to encourage side shoots to form?

    Don't worry – just start digging for the solution. If you're in need of a second opinion, the Veggie Gardener's Answer Book makes a great companion! It may be small in size, but it is big on answers. If you have it in hand, you'll never be gardening with another excuse again!

  • Carrots Love Tomatoes

    December Book Review

    Every gardener has a large assortment of tools they never go without. The list is usually long and varying, depending on the gardener. When I think of my gardening tools, many come to mind – a spade, hoe, rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow are just a few. However, there is another wonderful tool a gardener must not forget – books!

    A handful of helpful, gardening books have served as a lifeline for us many times. Whether we needed a quick fix for another pest problem, information on how to save our seed, or more ideas for our expanded garden layout, we always turned to a book for answers. The internet may offer quick solutions, but for old-fashioned folks like us, we much prefer having a book with the answers right there in our hands.

    The first time I read “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte, I discovered just how much I still had to learn. That tends to happen, doesn't it?  The saying really is true that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know!

    This great book was what initially introduced me to the importance of companion planting and to the easy and countless methods there are for growing practically anything in your garden! Learn how to do it right! I look back to years ago when I would plant my tomatoes near my corn and then wonder why I had such trouble with corn earworm and tomato fruitworm.

    Find out which plants grow well together, which plants repel insects, and even which plants repel other plants. Harvest as much information you can from this book before you start outdoors and the improvements will be impossible to miss!

    Many gardeners grow more than just veggies, adding herbs and flowers to their soil. This is even better! Certain types can compliment your vegetable garden so nicely they should be considered family. Did you know that basil helps tomatoes fight insects and disease and helps to promote growth and flavor?  So does Bee Balm! Did you know that when peppermint is planted among cabbage, it will repel the white cabbage butterfly?  And one more, geraniums are known to help against the Japanese Beetle. (Every June, these beetles plague us here in Missouri.) Also learn what herbs andflowers can create a problem, instead of a cure. For example, those of you who want to grow fennel, be sure to plant this herb far away from the garden as it will inhibit growth on such veggies as tomatoes and bush beans.

    Carrots Love Tomatoes is certainly a book I believe needs to be in every gardener's library. Other helpful chapters include medicinal advantages of particular herbs, gardening techniques, suggested garden plans, pest control, and soil improvement. If you're planting grasses, field crops, blackberries, fruit trees, black walnut, or even oak trees, you will find valuable information to grow all these things in harmony.

    Did you know that weeds can be an asset to your garden?  I know many of you are thinking I must be crazy here! But weeds can be our most important companion plant. Weeds can help condition the soil, help determine what your soil may be deficient in, help accumulate nutrients in which the soil is lacking, and assist in breaking up the subsoil to allow the roots of crop plants to dig deeper for water and nutrients.

    I'm like you. If I see a weed growing in my garden, I pull it up.  But this book tells us if they are properly managed and never allowed to overtake our food plants, they can actually benefit us. Cindy, our featured gardener for the month, says, “There are no such things as weeds, only misplaced plants.”  Our task is to discover the virtues of these plants and thus improve our gardens.

    The 224 pages make Carrots Love Tomatoes an easy-to-read and “take-with-you” book. Around here, it's one that never gets too far away. Don't let it get away from you either.  Remember, a gardener can never have too many tools!

    So next time you're ready to sow, plant those tomatoes next to your carrots and enjoy the healthy harvest that follows.

  • Mulch It!

    November Book Review

    Despite gardening for the past many years, it seems I'm still learning something new all the time. When our family first came across this theory and decided to put it to the test, we were mostly ignorant of the concept of mulching. In fact, any thought of mulching to improve our veggies was far from me.

    After reading and planning amongst ourselves, we decided to put more attention towards mulching than we'd ever done before. And before long we were hooked. We hauled sawdust from a local sawmill to lay down around some of our raised beds. We poured wood chips down along the pathways. (Great for saving time weed-eating!) For around the plants, we laid newspaper down and bedded them with straw. We were surprised how much this reduced the weed problem.  It also gave a sense of order and cleanliness to the garden that we had not expected.

    For anyone inspired as we were, a great guide to consider is a book by Stu Campbell titled Mulch It! Whether you're mulching in the spring to protect those emerging plants or in the fall to prepare the soil for your next season, this book offers complete instructions on how to mulch each of your vegetables, ornamentals, and fruits. Learn how to choose the best mulch for the right location, and let me tell you, there are plenty to choose from! Straw, grass clippings, cottonseed hulls, leaves and plastic are just a few of the most common mulches. Others less well-known include aluminum foil, felt paper, stone, and even coffee grounds! (Melissa would definitely be out in the garden every morning if it smelled like coffee!)

    This helpful book is only 128 pages long – just perfect for those of you who like to speed read in order to get out and start digging. From it, we learned the importance of mulching and how it not only beautifies one's home and garden, but how it has environmental benefits as well. It also covers some of the few problems that mulching can cause and the solutions for those problems.

    I can only hope from here on that our family keeps on learning and with each year gets a little better at this wonderful adventure we call gardening! I also hope that if you ever get the chance to read Mulch It! that you will find yourself inspired too! I promise that once you start you won't grow weary of it. In fact, be careful or before long you might look out your front yard and see only coffee grounds!

  • The Perfect Pumpkin

    October Book Review

    It's that time of year again!  Time for hayrides, corn mazes, and picking out that special pumpkin. There's nothing quite like fall, is there?  And as the cool weather settles in to stay, a good book at your side could prove to be irreplaceable.

    My most recent read was a book titled The Perfect Pumpkin by Gail Damerow. It tells everything one could ever want or need to know about pumpkins. Did you know that you can eat the tender, young leaves as greens, or that the blossoms are edible, or that the immature fruits can be added to stir-fries?  Did you ever think about using the hollowed-out shells for containers or planting pumpkins to winter feed your livestock? I want to try that!

    Having grown both the Connecticut Field and Amish Pie in our garden last year for the first time, I can tell you that pumpkins are one of the easiest and most fun things to grow.  It was just too bad that we got swept up in the planting excitement and ended up with pumpkins in July instead of October!

    Through reading the book, I learned all about the different sizes of pumpkins, how they are native to the Americas and how they were introduced to European settlers.  It also explains which pumpkin varieties are good for cooking and which ones are good for carving.  I didn't even know there was that big of a difference!

    The Perfect Pumpkin covers “how-to steps” on everything from making a homemade soil mix, trellising, harvesting, and saving seed to pest control, disease problems, carving, painting, decorating and even making pumpkin soap!

    This staple has more uses and benefits that one would have ever thought!  This book was very easy and fun to read. My favorite part was Chapter 7, appropriately titled “Pumpkin Eater,” where over 30 recipes lay open and ripe for the picking! Have you ever tasted Pumpkin Pickles?  (I'm not sure I have the courage to try that one!) What about Pumpkin Ice Cream Roll or Pumpkin Fudge? There's even a recipe for Pumpkin Beer!

    The Perfect Pumpkin is filled with so many other helpful fun facts and information that it sure doesn't take long for the “pumpkin fever” to spread. If you're thinking of adding this classic fall crop to next year's garden or if you've planted pumpkins for years, this book would serve as a great guide! Just think how good that pumpkin pie will taste at Thanksgiving!

    I've included a recipe of ours for y'all to try. My daughter makes the best pumpkin bread!  Hope you enjoy!

    PUMPKIN BREAD

    5 eggs                                                   1 1/4 c veg. oil
    2 - 3oz. pkgs. vanilla pudding           1 tsp. baking soda
    1  can solid pack pumpkin (15 oz.)   1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    2 cups flour                                          1/2 tsp. salt
    2 cups sugar

    Beat eggs.  Add oil and pumpkin, beat until smooth.  Combine and add remaining ingredients to pumpkin mixture.  Pour batter into 5 mini loaf pans or 2 regular loaf pans.  Bake at 350º  for 1 hour. Let pans cool for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.  Makes a moist, delicious bread!

    NOTE:  We use our own canned pumpkin (about 2 quarts).  Just be sure to drain out ALL of the liquid from the jar and pumpkin.

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