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HOMEGROWN Book Review: “Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman


Should fresh eggs sink or float when placed in water? How many square feet are in an acre? Can you identify the anatomy of a corn stalk? Find out these answers and more in Julia Rothman’s book Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Exquisitely illustrated and full of simple descriptions and definitions, Farm Anatomy is a lovely primer for newbies hungry for a taste of life on the farm. The pure aesthetic beauty of this book is reason enough to spend an afternoon curled up under a handmade quilt pouring over the pages. Julia’s hand drawn and painted illustrations are a charming accompaniment to her morsels of knowledge on everything from topsoil and tractors to pig anatomy and dry curing.

The book starts out, literally, from the ground up. Chapter 1, Breaking Ground, explores our soil and progresses through barn construction, farm machinery and tools, plant taxonomy, animal identification and care, cooking, crafting, and everything in between.

Julia provides handy, straightforward how-to’s on making simple crafts like rag rugs and corn husk dolls, to more advanced recipes and skills like syrup-making and pressure canning. It’s refreshing to have the basics of cheese making sketched out in 11 easy steps, but I wouldn’t use it this as the be-all and end-all manual for DIY cheese making at home. It’s a little more difficult than salting the curds and waxing the cheese!  I truly enjoy the simple beauty of the book and it has inspired me to hone my own country skills.

(Click here to view the full-size excerpt)

Excerpted from Farm Anatomy (c) by Julia Rothman, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

One of my favorite sections was on shearing sheep. While I’ve seen it done on the farm, I’ve always wanted to learn the skill behind raising sheep, shearing them, skirting the fleece, grading the wool, and spinning it into yarn. Julia uses her clear voice and artwork to simply explain the process. I wonder if it’s as easy as it seems to card wool and make yarn…probably not, but Julia’s presentation sure makes this work look mighty appealing!

(Click here to view full-size excerpt)

Excerpted from Farm Anatomy (c) by Julia Rothman, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

The boiled-down facts and figures that complement Julia’s quirky artwork make Farm Anatomy a perfect book to read with your kids or to inspire daydreams of country living in yourself. The lovely illustrations and clean and simple language give readers a sneak peek of the inner workings of a homestead without bogging you down with technical jargon.  This book is a delight – and will definitely make those of us reading it on the subway yearn for a farm of our own!

Check out Julia’s virtual book tour, website, blog, Flickr stream and follow her on Twitter.

The giveaway has ended **We’re giving a copy of Farm Anatomy to one lucky HOMEGROWNer.  To win, leave a comment below about your favorite home/garden/kitchen/farm tool and why you love it.  The winner will be announced on Friday, February 10th!**



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30 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Book Review: “Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman”

  1. Hmmm, my favorite tool. Well, since I just recently moved to a small amount of acreage in rural Missouri, I don’t have many farm tools yet.
    But I guess, my favorite tool would have to be my GQF incubator and hatcher set. It is so much easier than waiting for a hen to go broody and I can hatch all winter long if I want to. Plus with the small size, it was easy to have in the house in the city too.

  2. My favorite garden tool is my hand trowel, but I just got a hori hori as a gift and can’t wait to try it out.

  3. Honestly I love my Fiskars flywheel mower. And my dehydrator! Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. I think my favorite homestead-y kind of tool I own is my pressure cooker! Makes canning so much easier!

  5. I’d have to go with my aprons for this one — they’re so versatile! They help out when I’m cooking, when I’m eating (yes, I’m messy sometimes), when I’m planting plants in pots, when I’m washing up, and given the right apron can even help spruce up a cute outfit. I have a cross-stitched hostess apron that used to belong to my grandmother for special occasions, a red canvas apron for heavy duty jobs, and two cobbler’s aprons for lightweight work. I’m thinking indoor work now, but once summer comes, I bet they’ll be useful in the garden too!

  6. Its a toss-up between my diamond hoe, and my Felco pruners: both are time savers, and gentle on the body!

  7. I love the graphics of the book! I am not gadget-oriented so all the tools I have in the kitchen are used often. And while I could adjust doing without them, life is easier with them. For sentimental reasons, I’d go with my cheese press: simple, efficient, easy to care for.

  8. I’ll say my food scale. Besides making baking so much faster, especially mixing up no-knead bread, I use it all the time for everything from weighing food to go into the freezer to dividing a ball of yarn in half.

  9. I’ve definitely gotten some good use out of my garlic press, and regularly recommend it to others. Thanks for the giveaway! Book looks gorgeous.

  10. My favorite favorite home/garden/kitchen/farm tool is … my hands!
    I love them because they are strong and trustworthy. They can plant seeds, they can snap peas and grapes and tomatoes from plants, and they can dig around in the soil for potatoes and carrots . They can handle worms, they can work with bees, they can carry bales of hay. They can chop up salad greens and swiss chard and broccoli and turn them into a healthy and nourishing meal. They can hug people, gesture excitedly in the air when telling stories, and stroke my childrens’ heads as they fall asleep. They are calloused and there is usually dirt under my fingernails, but I wouldn’t trade them for any tool in the world.

  11. My two most favorites are my hori-hori and my Felco pruners. I can do almost every garden related task with them! I want this book!

  12. David McMillen Says:

    I like my regular garden hoe. It does a good job of marking off and carving out my simple little garden, as well as get rid of a lot of the weed clumps and rocks. There are a lot of other ones I like, and some “dream” equipment out there, but barring all else, I could make do with this.

  13. Indoor favorite: jalapeno seeder– one twist and a little pull and the seeds are cleaned out quick.
    Outdoor favorite: Honda Tiller– We would be covered in weeds without it and I like the muscles I get from using it!

  14. So many ways to answer, but after wholeheartedly agreeing with Ann Doherty above about hands being the best/favorite tool, I would say my Vita-mix is my favorite man-made tool in my kitchen. I can prepare so many fruits and veggies at once into an amazing vitamin-filled smoothie. I may go make one right now using collards that have survived this incredibly mild winter. I just gathered them last night. Yum!

  15. My Japanese hand clippers can trim, clip, and quickly. I love them!

  16. My favorite tool is my bee smoker! I love how it looks like a squat little tin man, the way it smells when pine needles and burlap have been smoldering in it all morning and the looks that people give me when I’m walking down the streets of Brooklyn with it, trailing the remnants of smoke behind me!

  17. Lately, my favorite kitchen tool is an immersion blender. It makes veg soups easy, and soups are the main way I eat vegetables in the winter. Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. My favorite is the leaf rake. I use it to clean up leaves and other debris in the garden.

  19. Leanna Killoran Says:

    My homemade dibber. It’s a series of dowels on a peg board, so that my plantings are always evenly spaced and they grow up in beautiful patterns!

  20. Love the looks of this book. Would be great to use with the children at camps in the summer. I guess my favorite tool would be my dehydrator. Easy way to preserve things. But I also love my “Cindy” which is the nickname we gave our lopper for trimming bushes:-))

  21. My favorite tool on our tiny urban farm? Our chickens. They eat the scraps, eat weeds and bugs, give us eggs, and it’s soothing to watch them noodle around the yard.

  22. My favorite tool is probably my cutting board. It’s incredible to think about how much use it gets!!

  23. Stacey Fisch Says:

    My favorite gardening tool is my soil block maker. It’s so much fun to use and the soil blocks keep my seedlings happy and healthy until the warm weather hits.

  24. This book looks amazing!

    We live in San Francisco so our attempts at urban farming are limited and that is why I’d say my favorite tool is my hands. I’ve had to make do with small spaces, limitations and a small budget so sometimes buying nice tools isn’t an option. But I’ve found that with a little bit of know-how and a lot of desire for sustainability mixed with some creativity and craftiness, I can get it done!

  25. This is easy. By far, my favorite tool is my grandmother’s hoe. I spent hours with her in her garden, and saw the many ways she used it. She also carried it with her everywhere she went her yard, just in case she came upon a snake that needed killing (not all snakes need it). When she passed away, I was given her hoe — which I love dearly. I now use it just like she did — turning soil, digging little rows and trenches, turning my compost piles, getting things out of hard-to-reach places, and of course, as snake ammunition (should it be needed).

  26. I’ve only just gotten started learning to cook and grow some food. My favorite tools right now are the knife set (it’s such a blessing to finally have sharp knives!) and dutch oven. I never did get the hang of using a crock-pot, which is supposed to be the easiest thing ever, but the dutch oven is amazing. The original slow-cooker.

  27. ohhh…I love my Dutch Oven too. And my canner. And my vacuum food sealer. That was a life saver for putting our pastured chickens and a plethora of berries in the freezer. Also another great outdoor garden tool is my chickens. They are the best rototillers/weeders/fertilizers – and they give great eggs too!

  28. I love my own two hands. They usually get the job done and frankly after sitting at a desk all day digging in the dirt kinda feels like a kid again.

  29. The maddock. It’s cathartic.

    On another note, I love the egg floating test. The first time I heard about that was in the ’90s. I tried it with the store bought eggs in our fridge and thought, “Oh, this doesn’t actually work. They ALL float.” Now I know better 😉

  30. Thanks for sharing these fantastic tools with us! There are lots of new ones on my list to try.

    Congratulations to our winner Meg Paska for sharing her favorite tool, her bee smoker! Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming giveaways!

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