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homemade living: canning + keeping chickens (contest)

by Grace Bonney

today i am overjoyed to congratulate writer, urban home-steader, and d*s editor ashley english on the release of not one- but TWO books! yesterday the first two installments of ashley’s homemade living series hit the shelves: canning & preserving and keeping chickens.

ashley has been working so hard on these books and to say that her hard work has paid off would be a massive understatement. i have been happily leafing through these books for a few weeks now and couldn’t be more impressed with all of the information she’s shared in each book. i’ll admit i’m not much of a homesteader myself, so i don’t know as much about canning or producing my own food as i’d like, but both of these books make me feel that even a novice like me could tackle either subject (assuming of course i was able to find some land to keep chickens).

canning & preserving ($19.95) is a wonderful introduction to everything you need to know about making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and more. the book includes 20 recipes, all of the basics for getting started, and all sorts of tips and easy-to-follow notes for getting your own home canning system started. the photos inside are colorful and easy to understand- and the section about throwing a home canning party (complete with pictures of ashley and her friends) is so sweet and endearing it’s hard not to immediately want to immediately throw your own.

keeping chickens ($19.95) is ashley’s (informative) love letter to keeping your own chickens. i sadly don’t have room to do something like this, but the book felt like an inspiring primer to get started with the process- even if you don’t have space yet. ashley covers all the basics for caring for a happy, healthy flock, including breed selection, purchasing, housing, feeding, and hatching. but my favorite part of the book is a delicious recipe section for making the most of your home farm-fresh eggs. the book really goes into great, but easy-to-understand, detail about the process, so if you’ve ever been curious about keeping your own flock at home, this is the perfect place to start.

to celebrate all of ashley’s hard work, we’re going to be giving away 20 copies of ashley’s books! 10 lucky readers will receive a free copy of both books just for sharing their own urban (or suburban) homesteading practices or wishes.

want to win copies of both books? all you need to do is leave a comment below with 1 of 2 things: a link to an image (with description) of your current homesteading efforts (canning, chickens, growing vegetables, composting, beekeeping, etc), OR a description of what you’d like to do in your own home. that can be a written explanation of what you’ve always wanted to learn and try, or a picture of where you’d like to grow a garden with a description of what you’d like to do there.

this friday ashley and the d*s team will choose our 10 favorites and announce the winners! so be sure to leave your comment by 12PM APRIL 8TH (TOMORROW NIGHT) and you could win a copy of both of ashley’s books!


Suggested For You


  • My small yard suffers from a common urban problem–high lead in the soils!! So I limit most home garden produce to flowers and buy vegetables at the wonderful farmers markets in New Haven. Occasionally I will also venture out to the U-Pick places. In the summer my god-daughter visits and we pick berries and make saft–a berry concentrate–that we both enjoy drinking the rest of the year. The photo is the remaining supply from last summer.

  • I became interested in homesteading activities a few years ago. My boyfriend and were living in a small apartment where our only “yard” was a concrete stoop and a few steps by our back door. I soon filled our little stoop with a multitude of pots and trays and called it my “sun porch.” (You’ll appreciate the irony of that as I note that we live in rainy Portland, OR).

    The next year we expanded to a 20 x 20 ft community garden plot- seemingly massive after my tiny stoop garden! In that plot, we learned the exquisite pleasures of lavender kohlrabi, emerald tah tsai, and golden beets.

    This fall we bought our first home- a tiny cottage in North Portland, and have been working to turn it into our own urban homestead since then. My favorite house-warming gift came from my sister in Maine. She looked up our local nursery and ordered us a pound of worms to start our own worm-bin!

    We’re now hoping to transform our inherited doghouse into a chicken coop by the end of the month, and are doing all the research we can to make that a reality. We have a modest little life, but a handful of home-grown vegetables never fails to make me feel rich.


  • I experimented with some quick pickling of leftover vegetables last week and want this book to take it to next level with leftover vegetables from the garden!!

    My 17′ x 10′ Brooklyn tar-paper-covered-roof garden is gonna grow this summer. Check out my OCD garden plan, my seedlings, and my Martha Stewart-inspired attempts at making hypertufa (lightweight concrete) pots here: http://alleytree.com/content/oh-my-stars-and-gardens

  • I grew up in the Mid-West spending my summers helping my mother bake bread, picking fresh vegetables and fruit from our friend’s garden, and canning everything. I’ve been living away from home for the past 8 years and every spring and summer I find myself going back to my roots, planting urban gardens, driving to local farms, making my own jam and canning as much as I can get away with in a small apartment. Canning not only reconnects me to the food I eat but also connects me to my family. I would LOVE Ashley’s canning and preserving cookbook to learn more canning techniques, try her recipes, and share it with my friends.

    Congrats, Ashley!

    Please check out inspiration here:

  • i am about to get my teaching certificate and cannot wait to have my own classroom. i want to teach kids about everything–including canning and keeping chickens. these experiences go a long way and your books would be a lovely start.

  • Oh wow! These are lovely books! What a wonderful give-away!

    My husband is graciously allowing me to turn a portion of our “back 40” into a sort of farm-let. I have 8 chickens, – 4 of them just turned 6 weeks, 4 are one week, and we are in process of turning the kid’s old playhouse into a coop! I have pictures here on our blog: http://www.daveandlisasbackyard.blogspot.com of the coop project and the backyard garden progress. We are in love with “the Ladies” and can’t wait to get them in a proper coop, they are mightily sick of their cardboard boxes. I also treated myself to the Ball Blue Book of Canning last year and “put up” a ton of home-grown tomatoes and plum jam, a pressure canner is on my birthday list! This stretch of unseasonably warm weather has me itching to mow and turn under the winter rye and get my tomato seedlings out into the gardens!

  • Part of my 4-year-old’s education takes place in the garden. Eating local is important to us, but it was especially important to me that he know what real food looks like. I never saw a bright green string bean until I was a teenager, having been subjected to the salty, slimy, olive-green specimens from a can. Now that he’s old enough, he helps me grow our food on a tiny strip of sunny soil. Last year, we ate peas off the vine and pulled carrots out of the soil together. In January, we gorged on spaghetti with home-canned tomatoes and basil. Last year we also pickled carrots and are looking forward to pickling new vegetables this summer! Would love some new ideas. Here’s a photo from last year: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimmyrose/4504067984/

  • Beginning a garden this summer is something I have wanted to do for years, but it is about a lot more than growing food for our family. It’s about making a fresh start, healing and growing, it’s about new life, hope and possibilities after a lot of hurt and dead ends. I haven’t even wanted to think about this hope let alone talk about it or sketch out a plan. Thank you for inspiring and motivating me to put my dream down on paper and post it on my blog… and thanks for writing such helpful books and sponsoring a lovely giveaway! Please read the details and sketches of my plan here –


    oh and for any moms wanting to teach their kids about gardening I posted a Coloring Page I made for my kids that you can download!

  • just moved and cannot grow much this year. will try to get both books, especially the one on chickens and how to make then happy. thanks a lot!

  • oh these would be perfect for my new sister in law. we are spoiled spoiled kids & only eat “canned” stuff from our farm not the grocery store. I’ve never even tasted smuckers. so this would be a good intro into teaching her!
    the chicken book is for me!

  • I am getting married and moving out! We will be living on 6 acres and I can’t wait to have chickens…2. Also start my own veggie-garden and have those late night french-country inspired dinners outside while the sun sets and the fire gets started!!! I’m so excited and I would LOVE one of these books to help me on my way :)

  • My husband and I do a small garden every year, but I have always been too intimidated to can. We really want to start keeping chickens, too! The hubby has been researching different coops so he can build one for our yard. I might pick these up even if I don’t win!

  • once we buy a house, we’d like to set up a garden with raised planter beds where we can have a summer & winter garden since we live in phoenix. i want to can & preserve the surplus for the off-season. we’d also like to have a chicken coop, but have to wait until we own our property to get it going.

  • I live in an apartment with no patio, rooftop or yard at the moment but I dream of having a yard with a garden and chickens. My boyfriend and I talk about what we plant and what we would name our little chicks. I can’t wait to live somewhere with a yard!

  • I was just diagnosed with an allergy to soy, peanuts, wheat, walnuts and corn. This has severely limited my diet and I would love to learn new ways to make and can my own food as well as “grow” it naturally as store-bought processed foods are no longer an option. Thank you.

  • Wow, everyone’s comments and photos and blogs are so inspiring!
    We live in a tiny apartment in Vancouver, but we’re lucky enough to have two fantastic (if small) decks. We pack every indoor and outdoor inch of space with plants, and while it’s not enough to live off of, it’s great for now, until I have an actual yard!

    I’ve been collecting mason jars with the intent of pickling and canning, but I’ve been too intimidated to start…


  • I want a farm. I want to grow, eat and preserve like my mom did – to
    see pantry shelves filled with the colors and flavors of the summer’s
    harvest. I want to feel the warmth of a just-laid egg in the palm of my
    hand and see a shaggy herd of Scottish Highland cattle out my kitchen
    window. Until that day, I’ll content myself with my herb garden,
    containers filled with tomatoes, and a hand-turned composter. This
    summer I’ll convert my side yard that’s been consumed with Creeping
    Charlie to raised beds of vegetables and supplement from the local
    farmers’ markets. I’ll restock the shelves with jams, pickled beets,
    and tomatoes – green relish, juice and soup. And I’ll keep scouring the
    countryside for the farm of my dreams – the clock is ticking…

    (photo above is part of our crop from last year)


  • This spring I planted my first garden by myself… I might have been a little overambitious for my little 6′ square space, but hey, I was excited!
    I’ve never canned anything before; I tend to recycle mason jars by repurposing them to hold broken glass for my mosaics. But I’d be willing to try if my garden really produces! And I’ve always wanted chickens.

    Here is my garden:

  • My own homestead efforts are currently confined to my tiny balcony, where I attempt, so far in vain, to grow my own herbs and vegetables in my half wine barrels. Unfortunately my kitten has decided that she’s claiming the barrels as her own deluxe ensuite, so only a hardy little tomato vine and a blueberry bush have survived so far!

  • I have always wanted to compost with worms and newspaper. I am trying to work up the nerve. I live in a small apt. so I don’t have any place to have a big compost pile.

    Currently, I’m trying to convince my complex to start one for the residents.

  • I’m on my 3rd season gardening and thus far, I haven’t yielded enough to really warrant canning. I think this is the year! I just planted a bunch of daikon and I’m crossing my fingers it likes 100+ degrees.

    As for chickens, I have visions of this coop: http://crackinggood.com/2009/10/27/crying-fowl/
    in my backyard….once my husband warms to the idea. Maybe some extra info will tip the scales?

  • These books look beautiful!

    As a college student, I don’t have much space to to grow my own vegetables, but I love to farm and can’t wait to have my own garden when I graduate in a month. I’ve been lucky enough to share my interest in food with my family too. In the past few years, they’ve picked up composting and canning, and have started gardens at home at the school where my mom teaches. I’d be thrilled to share these books with my family. Here are a few favorite shots from my own farming experiences (and a few of my family’s too!):

  • During the Great Depression, my Grandmother wrote a letter to the Dept of Agriculture asking for canning instructions. They sent them! So off she went, canning raspberry jam and other necessities from produce grown in her Brooklyn garden. Her raspberry bushes have since been transplanted to my little yard (also in Brooklyn), but the info is gone. Your books look wonderful!

  • I have to say I’ve had an obsession with birds pretty much my whole life…so 5 years ago, when we moved to the “burbs” from the city I promised my husband I’d do my part to bring as much wild life to our area as possible! Since we moved we have ripped out concrete galore and used the area to plant native drought tolerant plants..now every morning my one year and I watch the bees, hummingbirds and finches take advantage of the goodness. In june we are moving to the coast and all ready have in the works a big and beautiful organic garden..so we can teach our son where real food comes from! (It’s in his blood…his Daddy is the executive chef of a small resort using their own produce from their garden..it’s amazing! ) I’d LOVE to learn about canning all those wonderful foods we grow..and watching Sam run around and feed chickens!

  • last year, we built four container gardens in our small yard, and last weekend, we finally planted them! i would love to see these grow year by year and provide more and more food for our table. chickens would be nice, but are not allowed without special permit. plus i don’t believe our two dogs would appreciate it much.

  • My husband is an avid gardner, and I an avid cook/baker/recipe creator and budding canner. Brian (my husband) has been talking seriously about having our own chickens, and I always say he’s welcome if he wants to be their “mommy” – the truth is I don’t know what goes into it, so both of these books would go to good use. You can check out our gardening story and first produce on my blog via the following link:


  • Ashley, congratulations on the publication of your two beautiful books. I am excited to share a little of my homesteading dream – and could use a lot of instruction from sources like you!


    This project is the combined efforts of some friends with a little slice of land and some big plans. Individually we have kept small or planter based gardens in the past, but this Spring we have started up together with a full-sized, full-producing plot! We have been inspired by authors like Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as the rural community we live in. So really, we’re standing only a few paces into the journey of gardening, beekeeping, and generally understanding (and even being a part of) the production of the food we cook and enjoy – while living in community and having fun while we’re at it!

  • I am dying to try out recipes for pickling peppers and cucumbers! Once a year my boyfriend’s parents always get the most delicious pickles from some old lady and I find myself craving them throughout the year to no avail! Wishing I could make pickles similar to those on my own. I live right next to a beautiful and extensive farmer’s market and am dying to make a wonderful concoction from all those vegetables.

  • Living in suburban Miami I still make jams and chutneys – key lime marmalade, strawberry and banana jam, mango chutney -all from my 1/4 acre builder’s lot.

  • I’ve just gotten my first yard, and we can’t wait to get a veggie garden in. But, our dream is to get a small flock (3-4) chickens in our suburban back yard, so I’d LOVE to get these books!!

  • I am a huge fan of Ashley’s blog and found her via Design Sponge. I am inspired by her drive to chase her dreams. We just started raising chickens in our small backyard, Ashley blog has been a huge resource.

    You can read more about our chick adventures here: http://midtownchicks.blogspot.com/

    Ashley’s book would be a great guide as the chicks transition from their brooder to the coop. I have been wanting to buy her books for weeks. I haven tried my hand at canning, but really want to give it a shot.

    Great contest!

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