Book review: The Resilient Farm and Homestead

As a homesteader, I often worry about just how prepared my homestead is for hard times. We use electric heat and air, city water, and fiber optic broadband. As much as I let my chickens graze and eat scraps, I still have to feed them a good deal of storebought feed (from a local Mennonite community at least). I use mostly organic amendments for the garden, but again, they’re storebought.

Figuring ways to make myself less dependent on the outside world is always in the back of my mind. Jason Snyder on Twitter recommended a couple of books on the topic.

One of those is The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. It serves as an introduction to permaculture with the backdrop of Falk anticipating a large-scale civilizational collapse.


The book touches on numerous topics you should be thinking about if you want to homestead or run a homestead, such as:

  • Designing a landscape
  • Recycling nutrients
  • Developing non-grid water sources
  • Scything
  • Raising animals
  • Growing food
  • Preserving food
  • Heating your home with wood

There aren’t many topics the book goes in-depth about. A couple of notable exceptions are landscape design and wood heat, which he details at length. It’s not going to explain much of the how, like how to sharpen a scythe or build a fence, though it has many useful tips. It’s more of an introductory text that should spark your interest and lead you to more in-depth sources.

Despite that, it’s full of useful knowledge and clues you in on things you should be considering for your homestead. I strongly encourage you to buy the physical version, as it’s a graphics-heavy magazine-style format that you’ll want to flip through. It’s not a book I’m strictly reading from cover to cover, but rather flipping through and stopping at interesting sections. Every time I do so, I take away something new.

If you’re homesteading or considering it, I highly recommend it.


  • Comments (25)

    • 6

      Thank you for the recommendation Josh, I’m interested in the wood heating section and will have to check out this book.

      I’d like to know alternative ways to source wood if you don’t have acres of trees on your property. I’d like to be able to stock up as much as I can now because in a disaster, I can see everyone utilizing wood for cooking and heating much more and that will deplete supplies very quickly. 

      • 5

        I am currently reading a book about native Americans of about 1000 years ago, The Village on the Bluff: Prehistoric Farmers – Hunters of the James River Valley.  I find such books fascinating as I’m from the school of thought, why reinvent the wheel?  I figure if the ancients could be self sufficient without any modern tools, chemicals or conveniences, then they should be a guide for preppers attempting to do the same.

        But to your point regarding wood supplies getting depleted, this is discussed in the book.  I learned something new and it makes perfect sense.  I always wondered why did these people move so much?  It is widely agreed now that they came from Asia across a land bridge during the last major ice age, traveled down the Pacific coast to Mexico ( where they first cultivated early corn), then migrated up the Mississippi valley back into the Dakotas, where this tribe lived. 

        When trying to figure out why they kept moving, lots of possible explanations were given, such as game being over hunted, local drought, and other reasons.  But the one reason these investigators give for the migration dealt with wood.  Wood was a resource they greatly needed, from building homes, for tools, for fires, etc.  In many locations, such as where this tribe was located, the wood was available only in river valleys.  So when hunting for a place to live, the availability of wood was as important as having fresh water & game.  And after some time, they would harvest all available wood, and thus would move again.

        So yes, the availability of wood will be a critical survival resource for us, as it was for the ancients.  


      • 3

        He touches on that in the book. In essence, plant your own trees, especially black locusts. Around here, firewood is common and cheap, so I could get quite a bit locally even without chopping my own trees. It’s much easier to source locally than propane or coal.

      • 3

        I don’t need to plant any as I’m surrounded by trees.  I have several acres worth on my land plus woods surround my property.

        But I am a believer in growing the larger bamboo.  The variety I grow will get 45 – 50 feet tall and several inches in diameter… and get that big in 2-3 months time.  After planting my first plants 3 years ago, this years crop got around 20′ tall.  Each year they get around 5′ taller than the previous rear.

    • 6

      This must be a good book! My library has 5 copies and all are checked out. I’ve put a hold on the next available copy though, so I’ll get to read it soon. 

    • 5

      Excellent choice, Josh! This was the first book I read when starting my own (still very very infantile) homestead process. I like Falk’s approach about system redundancy and simplicity (ie, water from a spring-fed gravity cistern is superior to well and pump), but agree it is far more of a starting point than an ending. 

      Best part of it was introducing me to Chelsea Green publishing, which is a great, small publisher for prep-minded folk. 

      I also never knew about seaberries, which is all Falk talks about most of the time 🙂

      • 5

        You gotta tell me about these seaberries now! I’ve never heard of them either

      • 4

        Seaberries are thorny bushes native to Russia. They thrive in pretty much any growing condition and produce little orange citrusy berries that are loaded with vitamin C and other vitamins. Many swear by their medicinal properties.

      • 3

        Oh, I forgot the best part, seaberries are nitrogen fixers!

        Here’s a video of Ben harvesting some.

      • 5

        So what do they taste like?  From what I’ve read, they are too tart to eat without adding sugar, like in a jam.

      • 4

        Thanks Josh!

        I’m glad you mentioned that they are native to Russia. I have a friend that is from Russia and she came over to visit me today so I asked her about them. She said Oh ya! ****** (insert the Russian name for them here)

        She said that she grew up with some of those plants in her back yard and part of her chores were to go out and harvest them. She said they were pain to pick because they were so close together and had thorns. They would then smoosh them and turn them into juice or jam by adding sugar. 

        And to answer your question Redneck, she said they were tart and had little seeds in them so you couldn’t just eat a handful of them. 

        They would freeze the excess and then thaw them out and turn into juice as needed. 

        She mentioned that they drink the juice there as part of a medicinal preventative from getting sick and that it works. Probably from all the vitamins. She also talked about using it topically with your hair or something but to be careful getting it on your skin because it will make your skin orange.

        She says she still goes to Russian grocery stores and buys them and has some in her freezer now. She will bring me some next time she visits. I’ll update you all if I try some!

        Thank you guys for bringing this up and teaching me about them, it brought my friend and I closer together and I was able to talk to her about prepping and this site. 

      • 4

        That’s awesome!

      • 5

        My friend gave me a bag of frozen seaberries and I thawed some out and gave them a taste test.



        They are a very sour fruit, similar to real cranberries but had an earthy flavor to them with a slight sweet taste. My friend said I should squeeze these and strain the pulp and seeds out and make a juice, but I just ate them with a spoon and ate the seeds and little stems that were left on some of them. 

        Gonna try adding some in a smoothie tomorrow!

      • 5

        My understanding is they’re like a sour, citrusy sort of cranberry. You’d probably want to add a sweetener, but Ben Balk just crushes and strains his and drinks the juice.

      • 5

        Yes, the other book I mentioned is also from Chelsea Green, Will Bonsall’s book on veganic farming. I won’t be going vegan anytime soon, but it’s an interesting and surprisingly funny read.

      • 4

        Yeah, I have the Bonsall, too. Super informative for composting, mulching, soil building and gardening in general. Great for getting a big lens on growing small-scale, as he is explicitly not about farming. I value the intention of achieving self-sufficiency (seeds, amendments, etc) from own land vs inputs from off-site. A long trajectory from year 1 homestead, no doubt, but a good way to try and start with the end in mind. 

        The privy situation was great. 

    • 2

      Hi Josh- 

      Do you have any recommendations for resources about choosing land for a farm? I haven’t read this whole book yet but he doesn’t seem to speak to that process. 

      • 1

        I should clarify- I’m talking about a homestead, like the one Falk describes in this book

      • 2

        Start at page 49, Assessing the Site.

      • 3

        Good evening Josh,

        I’m still working on this book.

        No farming here but net fishing is available for main food source.

        To augment book, am hoping to visit Virginia’s Frontier Museum.

        Many people have been successfully living “off grid” well prior to FDR’s rural electricification program.

        The sun outperforms batteries and expensive whale oil lamps !

        I support Ben Falk’s theme.

      • 2

        Sorry about that, I saw that section but when I skimmed it I thought he was speaking mostly to making improvements to an already chosen site. My bad! Thanks for the heads up. 

      • 2

        It’s kind of both. It talks about the features you want in a homestead, like having water in a high place. So you could use those criteria to choose a property or modify an existing one.

      • 3

        I’ll give you my opinion.  First thing you do is determine how far out in the country you can live.  For me, I was looking for something about 40-50 miles away from work, which is a suburb of Memphis.  That kept my daily commute a reasonable time but got me about an hour outside the city.  Is that perfect, no, but as with life, so much is a series of compromises.  My area is very rural and not on the way to really anywhere, so it would not really be on an evacuation route from Memphis.

        Once you find the distance that works for you, then check out the local towns that fall into that area.  When you find one, or some, check with local realtors and visit the properties that meet your requirements.  Just be careful with your requirements.  There is a saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Seldom will you find a property that is perfect.  For example, on our land we had to spend extra to have a few acres of trees removed, but by doing so it really improved the property & I’m sure increased the land’s value.  The optimum building site for a home put us rather close to a neighbor, but we went ahead & built there & have been very pleased.  They are great neighbors & we watch out for each other.  Our property also didn’t have a pond, so we added one.  Yes it cost extra but once again, increased the value of the property.

        I’d make sure you had utilities available… especially electric.  Sure, you can live off the grid but that is expensive.  We were blessed to have electric and actually had city gas on our rural lane.  They brought water later but we still use our well.  I’d check if you could place a standard septic tank or if you have to put in a treatment plant.  IMO, a simple septic tank is much better.

      • 2

        This is an A+ guide on what to look out for when moving rural. I will be sharing it with my wife.

      • 2

        Kinda funny.  Today at work I was listening to my artist, who lives in Memphis, telling my son he always cuts his grass at 8:00 am on Saturday.  He does so to avoid someone coming up and maybe robbing him or stealing something.  He is getting out before the thieves get going.  He has to leave his cars unlocked, otherwise thieves would break into them.  He stated last week he had some plumbers do some work in his basement & they had tools stolen from their truck.  Several items, including a lawn mower have been taken from him.

        And then here I am, living the rural life an hours drive from him, down a dead end lane.  We have never had anything stolen.  I was talking to an old farmer who lives at the end of the lane & he told me in all the years he has lived there, only one thing has been stolen… and a family member did it.  🙂  I will leave the farm to go to town & leave the garage door open and the house unlocked.  Yet my artist thinks I’m crazy to live so far away from everything.

        Oh yes, there are inconveniences from living a rural life.  Right now my internet speed is amazingly slow.  I do have a deposit down for Starlink though.  Obviously, quality restaurants are far away but I like eating gas station food anyway.  I could go on but they are all minor.  What is major is the peace of living a quiet, safe, rural life.  I love to watch nature all around me.  I love hard work, which you must expect if you want to homestead.  Homesteading isn’t for everyone, but it is for me.