The Self-Sufficient Backyard: Book Review

Claude Davis
By Claude Davis May 28, 2020 12:10

The Self-Sufficient Backyard: Book Review

When I heard that Ron Melchiore and his wife had written The Self-Sufficient Backyard I knew I had to get myself a copy. I’ve read about them before and I always wanted to follow in their footsteps: to live a free, independent, back to the roots life.

There are few living people whom I look to for advice because, for me, the person giving it has to practice what they preach. Ron Melchiore is one of them as he’s been living a self-sufficient life ever since the late 1970s. In that time a powerline has never been connected to any of the homesteads he’s built and lived in.

When his book called “The Self-Sufficient Backyard for The Independent Homesteader” arrived on my doorstep the first thing I noticed was that it was quite well put together. It had a certain weight to it.

Self-Sufficient Backyard 1

The Self Sufficient Backyard has 265 pages in letter format (8.5 x 11.0 in), so it’s a pretty large book with a legible font, making it easy to read, even for seniors like me. The paper quality is OK, but it could be improved somewhat.

Another thing I like about this book is that it has step by step color pictures for all the projects inside. The Self Sufficient Backyard really looks like an in-depth book with lots of instructions along the way. You can actually see that it was written by someone who’s done these projects many times before.

The first thing I did was skim through the table of contents. In my personal opinion, you can often tell a good book from a bad book just by looking at the table of contents.

I could immediately tell that The Self-Sufficient Backyard leaned more towards the precise and practical way, although it did have some background stories about Ron and Johanna and how they started out in this kind of self-sustained living cut away from society. But that makes it a very pleasant read.

With The Self sufficient Backyard, Ron and Johanna created a blueprint for anyone who wants to follow in their footsteps into a self-reliant and independent life.

Ron provides a very detailed sketch of what the ideal plan would look like as you can see here, but it’s all very “customizable” depending on each person’s needs, property size, health, resources, and available time.

Self-Sufficient Backyard 3

With the plan in place, Ron goes on to show the reader how to grow year-round food using just a little over 1000 feet of the property. The following chapters go into great detail on how to turn this simple paper sketch into rock-solid reality and reap the self-sufficiency benefits that come along with that.

There is a chapter for every important area of homesteading life: off-grid-power, natural medicines, raising chickens for meat and eggs, beekeeping, composting, food preservation methods, building a root cellar, a smokehouse or a self-sustaining greenhouse, gardening, saving seeds, etc. And each one goes really deep into the subject, taking out all the guesswork for a person just starting out and clearing up any uncertainty left for people who’ve been doing this for a lot longer.

The Self Sufficient Backyard is the most extensive guide I’ve seen on living off-the-grid and making a good living out of it. If you want to cut cords with modern society and go your own way this is the book for you. If you want to build some projects on your property that will make you a little more self-sufficient, this is also a book for you.

Many people dream of living a self-sufficient life, but a lot fewer actually turn it into reality. Anyway, if you dream of living a self-reliant life, then the first step could be just to get this book.

This is by far the best guide to self-sufficiency I’ve ever came across. I recommend The Self Sufficient Backyard to anyone who wants to be more self-reliant and independent. There has never been a better time in history to have this book on your bookshelf and start these awesome DIY projects from the comfort of your own home.

Click Here to get your copy of The Self Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader

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10 Things Cowboys Carried With Them in the Wild West to Survive (Video)

Confessions Of A Man Who Lived 37 Years Off-Grid (AMA)

26 Necessary Tools for Off-Grid Living

Claude Davis
By Claude Davis May 28, 2020 12:10
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  1. left coast chuck May 28, 16:59

    I am currently reading “The Self-Sufficient Backyard.” But first, a disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book. However, be assured, if I thought it was worthless, I would not hesitate to so state. If, after I finish the book, I think there are some ugly warts, it won’t bother me one wit to so state.

    From what I have read so far, I think the review above is fair and on point. While I am only about a quarter of the way through, I would agree so far with the reviewer’s remarks.

    I would point out, however, a notation on the back cover is: “Copywrighted (sic) by Global Brother from” I don’t know what that means, but there is an obvious connection between the book and the above reviewer.

    If the rest of the book continues as the first 25% has been, the book is a very valuable guide to anyone contemplating a return to homesteading in my opinion. I would point out that the authors are no newbies to homesteading. They have established three separate homesteads. The first one was on a rural plot in Main. The second was in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada and their third and presumably their last is in Nova Scotia. In each case they started from scratch. The first homestead was started when Ron Melchiore was single. The second and third homesteads were when the couple were married.

    So far in the book the author has been frank about mistakes he made and lessons he learned form the School of Experience. He makes practical suggestions based on his experience that may not occur to the beginner. One such is to have a wood box near the entrance to the mudroom so that when you are hauling wood from the splitting pile you don’t have to traipse through the house in your outdoor boots with an armload of wood.

    He goes into how to deliver water to the home and how he went about moving water inside the house from outside where it was first located. He offers very practical hands-on advice.

    So far, from what I have read, I would say that anyone who thinks they may be living in an undeveloped rural area in an end of the world situation should add this book to their library.

    I haven’t reached any conclusion as to whether it is going to be of value to the urban bug-in preppier, but let me list some of the chapters and you can judge for yourself:
    40 Years Homesteading; The Homestead Plan; Site Selection; Road Building (This was especially interesting in terms of homestead security); Homestead Water; House Floor Planning (Very interesting comments about floor planning based on having been there and done that); Off Grid Power; Gardening(I haven’t gotten to this section yet, but very comprehensive list of chapter topics)Seed Saving; Food Preservation; Bee Keeping; Chicken Raising; Waste Disposal; Tools.

    I will write a more comprehensive review when I have finished the book. My bottom line recommendation is: If you haven’t grown up as a farmer on a rural plot of land and you think that it is even remotely possible that you will end up in rural America after an end of the world event, this is a more valuable addition to your prepper library than some macho book by a self-described survival expert who only talks the talk and doesn’t really walk the walk.

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    • Govtgirl May 28, 21:51

      I have heard of this book, but have not bought it as have been under the impression that being self-sufficient, even after all is set up, is very hard work. Rather than being relieved that you are self-sufficient, it seems there would be a crushing to-do list on your shoulders. Is that your impression?

      Reply to this comment
      • IvyMike May 29, 01:17

        There is no doubt being a Homesteader would be as hard a job as you could have. We’ve got a medium size garden and a couple of animals and not off grid at all, but combined with all the ongoing projects of home repair and preservation and general property maintenance I am every bit as busy as I was before I retired and am still falling behind. That said, i wish as a young man I had followed more the path of Homesteading and living off the grid,can’t think of a more satisfying thing to accomplish.
        Of course, I’m always skeptical of people, always wanting to know what outside resources might be backing the people I’ve known who have gone off grid, I’ve met more than a few desert rats and surfers who have a big bank account to fall back on when times is bad.

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        • Govtgirl May 29, 12:19

          Thank you for the response. Prepping in itself and all the levels of prepping from having a bugout or shelter-in-place plan and food and water for 3 days, then 1 month, then longer is a more achievable goal for most, including me.

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      • left coast chuck May 29, 04:13

        GG: At my age it is going to take an end of the world event to move me to rural farming. That said, there still is information in here that can be gleaned.

        For example: They talk about ordering mail order plants from a nursery that is at least one zone cooler than the zone in which you are living. That will help make the plant hardier than if you order a plant from a zone that is one zone warmer than your zone.

        I had never considered that. Of course, living in coastal SoCal, it is not that difficult to find a zone that is a zone or two cooler than this zone. I would think, actually, in order to survive it might be necessary to find a zone that was a zone or two drier than this zone. I haven’t really explored the zones and how they are organized, but it certainly brought home what could be an important point.

        It certainly was for the authors as when they lived in Saskatchewan it was a darned cold zone and finding zones colder was a bit of a chore.

        That little nugget of information could well save someone who was just planting a small orchard some big bucks if they bought fruit trees from a warmer zone than theirs.

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        • Govtgirl May 29, 12:47

          Thank you, Chuck. While self-sufficiency is unrealistic for many, sounds like this book would be a helpful resource in most any prepper project.

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          • left coast chuck June 1, 02:53

            GG: I think it would be helpful even to those of us who have a plot of land the size of a large handkerchief. Their talk about soil amendments and soil preparation etc., is helpful, I think, to all of us erstwhile Farmer Browns.

            The description of the solar panel installation was very helpful to me. Not so much that I am going to try to install one all by myself, but so that I know what questions to ask and to understand what the electrician is talking about, and to keep from making the mistake of buying the cheap battery when the more expensive battery is cheaper in the long run.

            In an end of the world situation, I now know what to do with all the urine that we will produce. It is good for fruit trees. I always thought that human waste was useless for plant fertilization.

            While I hope that I never have to find out just how beneficial it is to plants, it is good information to have stored away on one’s memory banks. I plan to use it on my neighbors fruit trees first.

            Reply to this comment
            • Hawthorn June 4, 16:07

              In response to the batteries… My husband found a new way online that we are definitely gonna try. Electric car battery packs. Apparently someone (Australian?) used the pack out of a Chevy Volt & left the grid inside a week. They can be found online fairly easily & cost the same or cheaper than a battery bank. And they don’t have to be full capacity to run a home like they do a car so you can buy one @ 70-80% & be just fine. I’m looking forward to less mess and low maintenance. Will definitely keep everyone informed if they’d like. 🙂

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              • Govtgirl June 4, 17:00

                Hawthorn, Yes, please. In the meantime will educate myself on battery packs. Thank you!

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              • Ron Melchiore June 4, 19:10

                Hawthorn, I do not know anything about the batteries you are considering but I’d like to urge caution. I’m thinking they are lithium batteries??? I don’t know what voltage they are and what would be the proper charging voltage, current and time. What happens if they are overcharged? But more important than all that is the potential fire hazard. Also, if a freak event did occur, I do not know what ramifications there would be with the insurance company as well. Lithium batteries make me nervous in a house setting and all I’m suggesting is the things I’ve mentioned would be thoughts I personally would explore further before committing to them. They may be fine for the application but it warrants some caution in my opinion. Be safe!

                Reply to this comment
                • BestoftheWorst June 26, 12:45

                  They are lithium batteries with 60V DC. I would NOT mess around with them, they are deadly if mishandled, and definitely they’re not safe to use besides automotive purposes. Let alone that new batteries are extremely expensive. Used? I’ve seen some HV batteires being replaced, and if they do get replaced is because they’re not good for use anymore. In the automotive world we like to stay away from orange cables under the hood. There are well documented procedures in place to disconnect a battery pack, and the technician has to be certified to work on HV vehicles. There’s pricey PPE (personal protective equipment) that needs to be worn. High voltage rated gloves, gown, face shield, boots, you name it.
                  I would just stay away from that idea.

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            • CPolarBear January 3, 15:10

              About the neighbors fruit trees, I allowed a friend/coworker to live in a camper in my backyard as a geobachelor, and he used the camper bathroom for urine waste only. Where it drained out of the camper, mixed with flush water, the grass was always much greener than the surrounding areas. So, something in the urine/water mix was beneficial to grass (Nitrogen levels maybe?) so it makes sense it would work with other greenery.

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    • The Silvertiger July 30, 16:57

      @LCC The connection is that Claude sells the book on Amazon as can be seen here:

      His review seems fine, though.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Chicken Lady May 29, 02:23

    Hello, I found this book to be a very interesting and down to earth account of a couple’s personal experience. They have documented what they found worked after things that didn’t work so well. I found the school of hard knocks refreshing. I could relate to them from the younger days into the older days. Even if you aren’t able to attain the whole package that they present in the book, any section that provides you tools to be more self reliant is valuable. I also found the book entertaining and not just presenting a dry/polished blueprint to follow. I appreciate much of the information and some, I have to say, I can wholeheartedly agree with after trying a similar approach that required “adjustments!” I am likely too old myself to implement many of these recommendations presented but I do feel I own a valuable resource and may be able to share this resource with younger family members. I do intend to apply some of my new found knowledge in the gardening area and found that information invaluable.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and creating a fun presentation which reflects your hard work, dedication, and humor!

    Reply to this comment
    • Ron Melchiore June 2, 19:49

      Hello Chicken Lady. It is people like you that keep us going. Johanna and I thank you for the wonderful feedback on our book. We are so pleased you found the book useful and entertaining as well. We wish you the best. Stay safe! Ron

      Reply to this comment
  3. Govtgirl May 29, 12:49

    Chicken Lady,
    Coming from such an accomplished lady, this is high praise.

    Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck May 31, 17:10

    Okay, I have finished perusing the book. I must admit that I skimmed over the part about growing veggies. As a just-a- gardening book alone dealing with edible vegetables and herbs, the book is a treasure of hands-on information. As with the rest of the book, the authors go into great detail in describing their methods of dealing with poor soil in multiple locations and clearing land that has never felt the bite of a plow. They lay out what they feel they need for two people for a year’s worth of food and how they go about preserving it. Just all the information about growing would be worth the price alone.

    I have often stated that my knowledge of electricity is limited to: Don’t stick a screwdriver in an outlet to see if it is hot. Oh, and: Electricity is nothing to fool with if you don’t know what you are doing.

    That said, with Ron’s explanation of how to set up a solar system and the drawbacks and problems of a wind system with which he has first hand experience, I feel that following his detailed description, I just might be able to ask intelligent questions and follow what the electrician was telling me about setting up a solar system that would actually work.

    He even talks about what to do with excreta on your off-the-grid farmstead. I had always thought human excreta was only something used in very poor third world countries as fertilizer, but Ron explains in detail how he uses that to fertilize his plants.

    That is some of the good. Now to the bad. Wading through all the b.s. that seems to be necessary to sell something on line one finds out that to get a hard copy of the book in one’s hands, and I would only recommend a hard copy; electronic media holds no charms for me, it is going to cost you $46.00 to get this publication in your hot little hands.

    While it is a trifle on the pricey side, it is a limited edition book. It’s appeal is not mass market. There is no sex in the book and limited violence as Ron describes the best way to kill chickens for the dinner pot. As a printing company owner, I can assure you without fear of contradiction that the cost of printing and bindery a run of 500 books is very expensive. for not much more in terms of total dollars a printing run of 5,000 books is not a whole lot more. However, for the small time self-publisher, the total cost between 500 and 5000 is significant. So while you may blanch at the cost of $46.00 for a book that Sunset Publishing would sell for $19.95, remember that Sunset Publishing owns the printing press and the bindery so they are buying wholesale, Ron and his wife were basically buying printing and bindery at retail and then trying to break even hoping to sell enough books that they had to pre-buy to cover their costs. I can assure you that the printer did not let the books go out the door until he had payment in full for the run. So the price is not excessive, realizing how much it costs to print a short run of a professionally done book and I can state with certainty that this book was professionally done, from careful proofreading to clear typesetting, printing and bindery.

    My main problem is that the agency they are using to process the electronic currency is Clickbank and I have had nothing but trouble with purchases through Clickbank and have vowed not to purchase anything that is sold through that particular clearing house. If this were listed on Amazon I would have already sent in my order. Your experience may be different, but I see enough complaints on this list to suspect that I am not the only one with Clickbank problems.

    Bottom line: For its contents, if you have even the slightest idea that you will be doing the following: Installing a well or water line; growing vegetables, sprouts, herbs, installing a solar/windmill electricity system; storing fuel, both diesel and gasoline; raising chickens; clearing land; preparing wood for winter use; building a cabin on isolated land; living in or moving to a remote location this is a must-have book.

    Your experience with Clickbank may be more satisfactory than mine and that is your decision. I really wish the book were listed on Amazon as I said, I would have already ordered it for a friend who has a remote location in a western state and I think they could use this book to good advantage.

    Reply to this comment
    • Vaderinparadise May 31, 22:41

      It’s now for sale on amazon

      Reply to this comment
    • Ron Melchiore June 2, 20:07

      Hello Left Coast Chuck. A sincere thank you to you and others who have made such nice comments about our book. Johanna and I are certainly happy that you found the information of value. We tend to put our heart and soul into everything we do and one never knows how something like our book is received by readers until we hear back from them, so we are truly grateful for your time. In regards to the price of the product, that is set by the publisher. There should be plenty of books available on Amazon. The only thing is with the Clickbank deal, a person gets 3 additional ebooks for the purchase price of our book. So it’s a better bargain if the ebook topics are of interest. And I’m happy to see your public service announcement. A screwdriver is not the appropriate tool to check for live outlets. 🙂 All the best Chuck. Stay safe. Ron

      Reply to this comment
  5. left coast chuck May 31, 21:11

    After I posted my review, I went on line and checked Amazon just out of curiosity. I found one copy for say and it was actually $1.75 cheaper than using this website. Not much difference. My friend with the homestead is going to be the recipient of this valuable text.

    Sorry to report that according to Amazon there was only one copy left available and I snagged it. Perhaps more will find their way to Amazon and you will be able to snag your own copy.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Sam June 4, 02:14

    In your first sentence you state “ Ron Melchiore and his wife”. They co-authored the book, I think Johann deserves the recognition of being noted here as more than just Ron’s wife.

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    • left coast chuck June 23, 18:57

      I agree. My apologies to Johann. Didn’t mean to slight her. It is obvious from reading the book that she had significant input. I am old fashioned and a man and wife are a team, working together. The luckiest day of my life was the day I convinced the young lady who became my wife to do so. We have been a team for 62 years now.

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  7. Old wild lady June 8, 19:33

    Just completed The Self Sufficient Backyard. As a retired editor, reading usually just drives me crazy but this book delighted me. If there was a wasted word in those 265 pages, I failed to find it. Well organized, easy to read, and precise in its detail. This book covers it all. Having a history of flirting with living off-grid and building with no help, I feel qualified to say this book is spot on. Living off-grid is no picnic. It is a tough way to live, but, barring serious accidents, It is a most rewarding life game. Why call it a game? Because living that way is not a necessity in most of North America and, basically, you are doing it for the sheer challenge. If you are doing it or are going to do it or do parts of it, this is the book to have in hand.

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    • Ron Melchiore June 8, 22:16

      Old wild lady. Wow! You sure made our night. In honesty, Johanna and I both wrote and edited the book. I like to joke that between the 2 of us, we make one good writer. 🙂 We are so pleased that you found the book not only informative but well written. We give everything we do our level best so it’s most gratifying that you and others feel the book is worthy of your time and hard earned money. Thank you so much for your feedback! Stay well!

      Reply to this comment
      • Justine August 3, 20:14

        I was ordering your book on line but it won’t let me have Canada as my address. It’s only for USA customers?

        Reply to this comment
        • Ron Melchiore August 26, 14:51

          Hi Justine, I just saw your comment and wanted you to know the book is available internationally. Please write to the publisher on the book website and they can provide more info. Thank you for the support! Be safe.

          Reply to this comment
  8. left coast lady July 11, 18:02

    I just ordered this book from ClickBank, despite being put off by their obnoxious marketing style. Then I read the comment above by Left Coast Chuck and now I’m worried – what was the “bad experience”? Did the book not get delivered, or what? I did have some hesitation even supporting the company but the book seems valuable and just what we need as right now we’re plotting a move from a super-expensive city to a remote island. $50 seems worth the advice this book holds…unless we never get it. But it’s not a scam…right?

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck October 17, 05:19

      LCL: I hope by this time you have received your book and not had the unfortunate experiences I have had. They necessitated me contacting my credit card company and having the charges reversed. Fortunately, in all three instances I didn’t lose any money, just time on the phone with the credit card people.

      I’m a three strikes man. Three strikes and you are out. I will say that it was three different vendors and not Claude that I had problems with. But it made me think that ClickBank was not very careful regarding the vendors they signed up to use their service

      Reply to this comment
    • Claude D. October 20, 15:10

      Hi Left Coast Lady,
      Thank you so much for purchasing The Self-Sufficient Backyard.
      I have checked our records and have seen that your order has been delivered by now. I have just sent you an email with your order details.
      Should you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
      God bless,

      Reply to this comment
  9. Judi September 20, 02:09

    I have still not received my book and bonus books. Please let me know where they are!
    Judi Marzolino

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude D. September 21, 06:41

      Hi Judi,

      Thank you so much for purchasing The Self-Sufficient Backyard.
      I checked our records and I can see that your order was delivered by now. I have just sent you an email with your order details.
      Should you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
      God bless,

      Reply to this comment
  10. CPolarBear January 3, 15:30

    My concern is that the book is a paperback, and in my experience, these types of books tend to not survive extensive use, especially when they are held open for the user/reader to peruse a page for long periods of time, which I would expect with the type information included within.

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