Product Review: Video: Backyard Food Production Systems For a Backyard or Small Farm, by Michael Z. Williamson

Backyard Food Production Systems For a Backyard or Small Farm is a great video and useful resource. Not only is it based on a lot of research, but on more than a decade of home farming in central Texas, which is certainly one of the tougher environments in America to farm in.

Very clearly narrated and demonstrated. It’s a little handheld and shaky at the beginning, which emphasized the small scale involved, but professionally filmed and edited after the intro. This is a farm for a family of four, run very efficiently and productively. It starts with a chapter on the most important aspect: Water. Subjects include collection and distribution, with some welcome attention to cleaning—often overlooked in other publications. Rainwater, gray water, well and commercial water sources are all covered, with extensive discussion of catchment and cleaning of rainwater. Ponds and catfish are mentioned, too.

The chapter on gardening covers critical issues such as shade mapping, soil types, compost production, including safe composting of human waste. The narrative is quick and clear, and mentions lots of documents, helpfully provided on Disk 2.

Rabbits. Raising and butchering rabbits—I’d recommend adding a gut hook and shears to the demonstrated method, but it’s good to learn how using just a basic knife. This section is professional and clean, but the killing and butchering of a rabbit is probably not something to show children who are not familiar with the realities of meat. Also covered is how to use the rabbit waste for compost, and the rabbits are fed off shade trees and garden waste, for a very efficient cycle.

The chapter on poultry is almost exclusively about chickens, kept free range for eggs. While chickens are certainly edible themselves, the eggs provide a much more efficient source of protein and are useful for cooking or trading. Here again, the chickens serve another purpose, eliminating ground insects and weeds and providing fertilizer.

Dogs are useful, even essential to protecting a garden from the predations of wildlife. There’s a good discussion of socializing and raising them to respect the human and keep paws off the other animals.

Perennials include fruit trees. It’s important to work with fruits that thrive in the area, not try to force commercial crops to fit. Geese make a good adjunct to an orchard, providing fertilizer and winter eggs.

The chapter on Essentials covers calorie rich foods, such as grains and tubers, natural pesticides, first aid, contour mapping and covers how to check imports (hay and other composts) for toxicity.

There are summaries at the end of each section. Each chapter has great tips on saving power and resources by nesting and stacking various plants, animals and tools to minimize waste, labor and costs.

Overall, it’s very clear. It seems a little chaotic in spots on a first viewing, but there’s a lot of inter-related information here that has to be covered. It’s worth watching several times and keeping as a reference. In all, it was very watchable, very lively, and what a good documentary and summary instructional video should be.

The second disk has the extensive documentation, references and recipes. There are sections on composting, companion planting for nitrogen fixing, acorn flour, tanning hides, soil amendments, processing of various plants for seed oils, root cellar construction, a solar food dehydrator, and various fruits that are uncommon these days, such as persimmons and pawpaws.

I highly recommend this as an overview, aid and morale booster for anyone planning to do home gardening or farming to improve their sustainment and off grid capabilities. – SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson, author of the new science fiction novel Do Unto Others.