A Very Small Farm

Although, the shortest day of the year is now behind us, I find January to be the hardest month of the year. Its too cold to do much outside and overcast winter skies can leave me a bit blue. 

As an antidote to the cabin fever, I suggest a little gem of a book called A Very Small FarmWritten by William Paul Winchester, the book is a memoir of his 18 year journey into homesteading. Having completed a college degree in botany, Winchester buys a 20 acre parcel in Oklahoma and builds a house, barn and garden on his property. 

Author William Paul Winchester

Like a modern Thoreau, Winchester lives a simple life of solitude -- tending his Buff Orpington hens, milking his cow and harvesting fruit from his orchard. His only source of cash income is the honey he sells from his many bee hives. Winchester recalls that during an election campaign he's called by a pollster to ask about his political views. The author admits to be stumped when he's asked about his income; "There was no place in his questionnaire for my embarrassment of riches, only a dollar figure placing me somewhat near the poverty level." 

Buff Orpingtons A Breed I'd Expect Winchester To Love

But it's very clear from the book that Winchester is not poor at all. And herein lies the appeal of this book; it's a romantic portrayal of a simpler way of life where frugality and self-sufficiency are the the currency that matters most. These values, and the straightforward writing style of the book, will resonate with homesteaders both real and of the armchair variety....

"I don't consider myself any more sentimental than the next, but in the course of those quiet hours in the garden with my hoe an affinity develops, one that deepens immeasurably in the case of seed I save back for planting next spring. Because of the seeds in those jars and packets in the pantry, winter never seems long. Brought out on a snowy evening and scattered on the dining table in a pool of lamplight, seeds look like nothing so much as precious stones -- treasure, which in a real sense they are." 

The book's chapter are arranged topically but each includes a set of journal entries Winchester recorded in his diary. They are arranged chronologically, and over the course of the book, provide a glimpse into daily life on Winchester's farm through an entire calendar year. 

Reader be warned, the journal entries all begin with a description of the day's weather. I suspect that the publishers choice to include this information was a conscious one, and meant to act as a literary device to convey a sense of stability on the farm, because it doesn't make for scintillating reading..."Change to rain and falling rapidly, cirrus fair becoming stratus mostly cloudy, 42 to 67 degrees..." 

That said, I highly recommend A Very Small Farm to gardeners, homesteaders and wannabes. An elegant little book and a quick read, you can buy a copy at Amazon.com for just $10.


  1. A very peaceful, lovely read. Am starting it for a second time.

  2. A treasure I discovered some 10 years or more ago, and am now reading for the fifth time,. Even the weather entries are lovely-- his connection to the earth is so full. I can't recommend it enough, and have shared it with many grateful friends. I was tickled to find it in Kindle format!


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