We read a lot of books; Some of our best inspiration and instruction comes from our book shelf. The book shelf is a list of our favourite books – every one has proved useful. Please feel free to share your favourites with us too.

If you decide to purchase any of these books, please consider following the links here as we get a small amount of income for the farm from each purchase. Of course, if you’re planning a visit, you can browse and pick out some reading before you arrive.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – Michael Pollan

When we can eat almost anything, what should we eat? Pollan looks into the sources of our food from the corn fields of Iowa to industrial feed lots and organic farms. If you ever wondered what went into that processed food you eat, this book will give you more information than you probably want to know. It has a chapter about Polyface Farm, one of the inspirations for Lifeboat Farm.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan

If Omnivore’s Dilemma painted the problem with Western diets, In Defense of Food shows how easy it can be to eat well. Pollan’s call to action “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” is expanded as he explores food cultures around the world and shows there is so much more to food than just eating it.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver

An inspiring story of one family’s year of eating locally. More than just a good yarn, this book gives you a sense of the good and not so good times they have when trying to source their food as close to home as possible. Full of humour, recipes, anecdotes and inspiration.

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times – Steve Solomon

If you only buy one gardening book – this is it. From absolute beginner to seasoned expert, you will learn something from this book. Solomon has a friendly, grandfatherly tone throughout the book and is clearly delighted to impart a lifetime of knowledge to the reader. If you need to establish a garden in a hurry with limited resources this book is a gem.

Introduction to Permaculture – Bill Mollison

This book is an excellent introduction to living sustainably and truly farming or growing in a manner that builds and enhances the soil with every year. Mollison puts things in very simple logical terms that make permaculture accessible to all of us.

Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual – Bill Mollison

This is the definitive Permaculture design manual in print since 1988. Every page has inspiring ideas and it is quite literally a manual for sustainable living. While not cheap, this book has saved us a huge amount in helping plan farm layout and activities before we put a spade in the ground. It is our go-to reference book when looking for a solution to any farm “opportunity”.

Growing Gardens for Free: A Plant Propagation Guide for New Zealand – Geoff Bryant

If you have plants growing around your house or farm, chances are you can propagate more from cuttings or seed. This is an excellent resource for the techniques of propagation and a comprehensive reference of New Zealand plants and how to propagate them.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners – Kent Whealy

A great resource if you want to save your own vegetable seeds and re-plant in following years. While some seeds are tricky to keep pure and save, others (like tomatoes) are very easy and fun to keep. This book is a rich reference of seed and plant data if you want to get technical with your seed saving too.

Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand – Andrew Matheson

Sadly this book is currently out of print but I understand it is being re-printed soon. The complete book for hobby beekeepers in New Zealand, this book gives you all the knowledge and confidence to get started and successfully keep bees to pollinate your garden and provide your own honey.

Practical Smallfarming in New Zealand – T. Fisk

An excellent resource for almost any small farm activity you can think of from buying land and planting trees to keeping livestock and butchery. Used as a textbook for Telford Rural Polytechnic, this book is a great starting point for townies wanting to get into the rural life. Do yourself a favour and get this one before you buy a small block.

The Cook’s Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients – Stephanie Alexander

This is definitely in the “if you only buy one book” category. A book of ingredients and recipes that will provide endless instruction and inspiration. The ability to look up what goes with what is invaluable when cooking from scratch and you need an idea. This gets almost daily use in our kitchen.

The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes – Beth Hensperger

Artisan baker or keen to get started at home? This book has great recipes from beginner right through to pro. We’re still working our way through all the great recipes but so far they are all good. Want to make your own sourdough starter? We have plenty of books on baking but this by far the best in our collection.

The Long Emergency – Howard Kunstler

This is a great introduction to some of the issues facing us as we enter a time of reduced-energy living. Kunstler makes a strong case for the fragility of modern systems and the inability of suburban living to cope with a reduction in the availability of abundant, cheap oil. He outlines the interconnectedness of our modern systems and points out some likely outcomes of our preparations (or lack of). While not for the faint of heart, this book is the single best primer I have read on likely effects of peak oil on modern society.

Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects – Dmitry Orlov

Based on his personal experiences, Orlov takes a wry look at the Soviet collapse and compares the prospects of the US (and by extension, all western economies). He manages to keep a sense of humour throughout the book – no mean feat. If “Long Emergency” is a warning of what’s coming, Reinventing Collapse is a highly practical guide to coping (and even thriving) when faced with sudden changes in our living situation.