Summer Book Festival and Giveaway: The Mini Farming Guide to Composting by Brett Markham

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Summer Book Festival and Giveaway: The Mini Farming Guide to Composting by Brett Markham

books library (Custom)Today I share the next author interview and book giveaway in the Backdoor Survival Summer Book Festival.  Brett Markham, the author of The Mini Farming Guide to Composting shares his answers to my questions and is also providing one of my readers with a free copy of his book.

Before we begin, I would like to announce the winners of last week’s giveaway packages.  The packages include a copy of Creek Stewart’s book, The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide, a Willow Haven Outdoor Logo Sling Pack, a 100% cotton Willow Haven Outdoor Survival Bandanna and a Multi-Functional Survival Tool with built in lanyard, compass, ferro-rod, whistle and water-proof container for storing matches or other survival kit items.

The winners are “Christine R” and “Kathy W”.  Congratulations! I have contacted you by email with instructions for claiming your winning package.

Be sure to check out the details of this week’s giveaway below.


Tell me about your book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting. What is it about?

The Mini Farming Guide to Composting is the fifth book in my series on Mini Farming and self-sufficiency. Back in 2006 I started work on the series because I could see that the future economic prospects for people were declining in aggregate with no end in sight. Because I was foreseeing a long period of economic decline rather than a short term emergency, I felt that helping people develop the means for long-term self-sufficiency was the best way to be helpful.

At the very bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you find things such as food, so that is where I started. Sometimes I hate being right, but I was right. We have 23 million Americans currently underemployed or unemployed, 15% of Americans are on food stamps, wages for most people have remained stagnant or declined for over a decade, and costs for heating oil, food and fuel keep increasing. Even fully employed people are being squeezed.

Composting is a key component to making a Mini Farm self-sufficient because it recycles and retains nutrients while enhancing soil fertility. This reduces the need for external sources of fertility such as fertilizer, and therefore decreases expenditures while increasing the overall productivity and net economic value of a Mini Farm.

In my first book in the Mini farming series I described the standard method of composting, which is a frequently turned hot pile. But as I gained insight from the experiences people shared with me, I learned that people wanted more than just that one technique.

Many people have back problems or are busy working jobs that won’t let them shovel literally tons of compost. A lot of people live in parts of the country where it is impractical to add materials to an outdoor compost pile in the winter, so they needed better indoor methods. Also, I found that a lot of people really needed more information on the biology of composting.

Finally, the prevalence of natural disasters that interrupt supplies of running water and electricity demonstrated a need for information on maintaining sanitary conditions for waste even during long periods when the services we normally expect in civilization are unavailable.

The Mini Farming Guide to Composting starts with perhaps the most comprehensive guide to soil fertility available outside of college textbooks, and includes methods of managing biological fertility as well as micronutrients needed for human health. It then describes the biology and chemistry of compost and goes into a variety of methods for indoor and outdoor composting as well as handling human waste, compost tea and vermicomposting.

What type of research did you have to do while writing The Mini Farming Guide to Composting?

I did a lot of hands-on testing for my methods of indoor and outdoor composting over a period of several years, but because I wanted to deliver the best available information to my readers, I did a lot of bacterial cultures (some of which are illustrated in the book), plus did research through the state on disposal of drugs via composting. Because some methods of composting are inherently slow, it took a year to have everything done. Of course, as a Mini Farmer, a lot of my research has been ongoing for many years as I have continually refined and improved processes and information.

How long did it take to write?

With this type of book it is hard to distinguish between writing, building and researching. Once I sat down to write it, it didn’t take long – maybe six months. But the real tough part isn’t really in the writing so much as deciding what is important, how it should be organized, and double-checking research to make sure the book is as valuable as I’d want. My name goes on it, so I want it to be something one of my high school teachers would give an A. I think about a book and do research for a long time before I start writing.

Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message. What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading The Mini farming Guide to Composting?

You CAN. Though there are also secondary messages in my books, “You CAN” is my primary message. I grew up in a self-sufficient culture where most people hunted, fished, grew gardens and preserved food. It was an accepted way of life and it was taken for granted that everyone knew how to slaughter a chicken. But when I moved to the Northeast I quickly discovered whole generations of people who were so far removed from these skills that they were literally afraid they would kill their family with botulism if they ever tried to can their own food.

A lot of the questions I get from my website pertain to the safety of various practices, including composting. People are afraid composting won’t work or they will breed some sort of superbug if they do it wrong.

My books teach people not just step-by-step stuff, but also the underlying ideas, philosophy and science so they can be completely confident in undertaking their own self-sufficiency. You CAN raise your own food, preserve your own food, ferment your own food, cook your own food and so forth. In The Mini Farming Guide to Composting I give people the facts, techniques and research to show that they CAN make compost safely in a variety of ways and enhance the wellbeing of their families.

The secondary message in my books is to question what you think you know – to question the conventional wisdom – and to subject even your own beliefs to scrutiny. People build cages around themselves with myriad untested assumptions, and if they were to ever test those assumptions they’d discover their cages are self-imposed and they are more capable than they ever believed.

The tertiary message, which is a running undercurrent, is to turn off the screens in your house. When I advocate composting, growing your own food or making your own wine, I am not telling people to take that time away from paying work. Instead, with the average American spending 35 hours a week in front of a screen outside of work, I’m saying to recoup some of that time spent with mediocre entertainment and invest it in something that pays you back with dividends.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

People are complicated but think they are simple. I am a combination of nature – that is, the wonderful genes I got from my parents, nurture – predominantly my home environment — and my own self-directed evolution. Nature and nurture both have a role in defining us, but we also have a role in defining and refining ourselves in our own vision.

I grew up in Southwestern Virginia where I had a reasonably normal life. My mother couldn’t be there, but my father and step mother did the best they could. My father really emphasized both self-sufficiency and helping others. I had a large extended paternal family with tons of uncles, aunts and cousins. Everyone in my family grew up playing musical instruments and learning martial arts, so I’m both a musician and a martial artist.

When I was 9 I decided I wanted to learn everything, so had read through the perspectives in a couple sets of encyclopedias by the time I was 10. Learning everything about everything has been a constant theme in my life since childhood and it’s something my family supported. I discovered that the more I learned, the more avenues were available to me for helping people and solving problems.

I went off to college and studied engineering and today I work as a Network Engineer Director for a cable company, though my formal education is in electrical engineering. I have a love of science and though I keep people out of it for safety reasons I have a pretty decent biology and chemistry laboratory that I use for enhancing my knowledge and testing ideas. I’m a ham radio operator and have several antennas on my Mini Farm. I enjoy hunting for food and the hunting near where I live is excellent. (I hunt only for food – not for sport.)

I have a daughter from my first marriage and I remarried eleven years ago. My wife enjoys the high quality food that comes from our farm and helps with the chores and proof-reads most of my books. My daughter from my first marriage (who is featured in some illustrations in my books) also enjoys the food but is less inclined toward healthy farm work. She does, however, understand the nature of labor markets and thus negotiates a wage for her work.

Do you have plans for another book?

Yes. After five books in the Mini Farming series, I believe that I’ve imparted everything people need to know about composting, growing their own food, preserving their food, fermenting their food and a host of other things. I think it’s time to give that topic a rest except for a couple of revisions here and there to take into account changes in the state of the art and the regulatory environment.

Mini Farming was really a revolutionary idea because it aimed toward taking small land areas and operating a home garden as an economic and self-sufficiency powerhouse instead of a hobby with rather iffy economics. Mini Farming, as an idea, came about as a result of questioning everything, and resulted in a set of ideas that really helps people.

Now I am ready to tackle a new field that is important to human health: diet and exercise. Your health is the springboard for self-sufficiency and everything else in your life. Diet and exercise are the core of your health. By questioning everything, I have concluded that the conventional wisdom has a lot to do with our current epidemics of obesity, type-II diabetes and autoimmune disorders. I believe the conventional wisdom biases almost all attempts at improving diet and fitness toward failure, but that there are simple ways around the roadblocks. One of my strengths is integrating information from disparate fields into a unified vision with simple principles, and I plan to do this with diet and exercise.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

You can. I incorporate a fair amount of science in my books to make sure people see the underlying principles so they can apply the ideas flexibly in a changing environment rather than just practicing what I teach by rote. But it’s important to understand that in practice this stuff is easy and uncomplicated. A lot of the things in my books were broadly practiced by my paternal grandmother whose formal education stopped in the 4th grade. You don’t need to be built like a professional wrestler or have a Ph.D. in Soil Science to grow better food than even a millionaire’s money can buy. All you need to do is decide you are going to do it.

Trust yourself.


A copy of Brett’s book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard has been reserved for one lucky reader.  This weeks question is this: 

What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake you have made relative to your prepping?

To enter, respond in the comments area at the end of this article.  The deadline is 6:00 AM Pacific next Friday. A winner will be selected at random using tools on the website.

Note:  If you are reading this article in your email client, you must go to the Backdoor Survival website to enter this giveaway in the comments area at the bottom of the article.


Do you compost?  I have been an off-again on-again composter, mostly due to lack of space.  As Brett says, however, YOU CAN and so can I.  I promise to do better.  It is a shame not to put those coffee grounds, eggs shells, and fruit and veggies scraps to good use in the garden.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Spotlight Item:  The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard

Composting 002

Composting has never been easier—learn how to incorporate Brett Markham’s amazing composting techniques to maximize your vegetable output, increase your self-sufficiency, and be kind to the ecosystem.

This handbook covers everything you need to know about composting. Whether it’s your mini farm or flower garden that needs nourishment, this book explains how to compost just about anything you can grow—and reminds you that developing your own composting practices can not only be fun but saves money and encourages self-sufficiency. Learn to make a backyard compost structure with easy-to-follow directions and learn the science behind how your food scraps become food for plants.

Bargain Bin: Listed below are all of the books in the Backdoor Survival Summer Reading List. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and a bit of something for everyone. Also, some of these books are Kindle e-books but you do not need a Kindle to read Kindle e-books. Simply download the free Kindle app from the Amazon site and you are good to go.

owl reading book


The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide
The Mini Farming Guide to Composting
Meals in a Jar: Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipe
Fight, Flight, or Hide. The Guide to Surviving a Mass Shooting
Don’t Be A Victim!: An Officer’s Advice on Preventing Crime
Emergency Air for Shelter-in-Place Preppers and Home-Built Bunkers
Real Time Machines: The Future is an APP
Survival Medicine Handbook
Getting Home
Staying Home
Guns Across the Border: How and Why the US Government Smuggled Guns into Mexico
Spiraling Downward: Thinking About and Planning for Economic Collapse


Holding Their Own IV: The Ascent
Apocalypse Drift
299 Days: The Visitors
The Western Front (Parts 1,2,3 – The Complete Collection)
The Wayward Journey

FD Tomatoes

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.  They are currently selling their Freeze Dried Tomatoes for $25.99, a discount of over 40% off the normal price of $43.95 for a #10 tin.

Tomatoes are good to have on-hand in your food storage for your favorite recipes. They are easy to store and rehydrate anytime you need them and are great for adding versatility to your home food supply. I use them in chili, sauces and soups.

Another special this month is the Freeze-Dried Uncooked Salmon which is an amazing $20.99 per can which is 58% off the normal price of $50.95.

In the gear department, the Katadyn Vario Microfilter Water Filtration System is 26% off at $69.99.   My favorite emergency radio, the Kaito Voyager is only $39.99 this month.  Don’t let the picture fool you – this radio is quite compact and light weight and it works great – even in hand crank mode.

There are a lot more items on sale this month – be sure to take a peek.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials

Like this and want more?

CLICK HERE to visit Backdoor Survival on Facebook. And CLICK HERE to follow Survival Woman on Twitter.

Spread the Word – Tell your friends: Share Backdoor Survival with your friends. All you need to do to send them a short email. Now that was easy!

I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here.

Amazon has a cool feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are. Like I said, very cool.

Shop Amazon Tactical – Great Selection of Optics, Knives, Cases, Equipment
Amazon’s Most Wished For Items in Sports and Outdoors

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!

image11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life: This little book will provide you with the motivation to get started or stay on track with a self-reliant life. 11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life, co-authored with my long time pal, George Ure (, and can purchased from Amazon.


This month my friends at Survival Life are offering their Survival Seeds Playing Cards for free.  The only hitch is that you must pay $2.95 in shipping charges.

These cards are pretty cool – with each card showing all of the information you need to know about how to grow, harvest, and prepare 52 nutrient-rich vegetables and herbs from seeds.

Aff | Emergency Survival Blanket

[DEAL] Emergency Survival Blanket

Pocket-size survival blanket could save a life - throw in your bag or car.

Get Cheap Security
Aff | Emergency Survival Blanket
[DEAL] Emergency Survival Blanket Get Cheap Security

42 Responses to “Summer Book Festival and Giveaway: The Mini Farming Guide to Composting by Brett Markham”

  1. The biggest mistake I’ve have made relative to my prepping is that I didn’t get started sooner. I’ve been at it about a month and a half.

  2. My biggest mistake was not starting sooner. I didn’t realize how critical or easy it was to start.

  3. I’m beginning to think my worst choice for prepping is to raise pigs and goats. I don’t have the facilities or the knowledge to smoke or otherwise preserve meat. I’m thinking that if I butcher a pig all I can do is throw a block party and everyone eat high on the hog (pun intended)for a day or two. The same with the goats.
    Also these critters keep me home to feed every day. I can “free range” the chickens and rabbits, and I suppose the goats, but not the pigs. Anyone out there in prepper land want to buy a momma and poppa pig with 3 little bacon makers.

  4. My biggest mistake now is not being organized in my preparations. Originally and maybe still is a problem is procrastination and thinking there was more time. I don’t think we can count on there being years anymore.

  5. My mistake is, too many people know about our preps, etc. …my brother-in-law, his family, their friends, their friends, efc. We ourselves have told no one. It started when we moved to our bugout place. Everyone out here knows about it because of them.

  6. Frist I want to say thanks for having a great site and giving us a chance to win using our email. I just can’t make my self do facebook. I really enjoy your site . Ok enough sucking My greatest mistake was and still is ,rushing into prepping,trying to take in too much to fast. I got lost in thinking oh I got to have this, and that,I’ve got to learn to do that and this. Doing all of that burnt me out hard and fast. I lost my main goal. And we all know what that is. To protect and make sure our family survives. So to me that’s my greatist mistake so far that I’m working on.I’m sure I will run in many more. I hope not because I feel we’re running out of time pretty fast these days Thanks and good luck y’all .

  7. My biggest problem with prepping has been trying to do everything at one time. It has taken me a while to learn to break it all down incrementally.

  8. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to win the wonderful “Hunger Games” package! I’m so excited.

    I don’t believe you can make mistakes in prepping. It’s really a never-ending, ongoing process. Every little thing you do to prep is one step closer to being secure. There is a learning curve when you first begin – I’ve been doing it seriously since 1998, but have been teaching friends, neighbors, church members and family members how to get started ever since.

    Yes, I compost! Have 1/3 of an acre in a small city with raised bed gardens and chickens. We mostly let the chickens do the composting. All food scraps, weeds, lawn clippings and leaves, coop bedding, etc. go in the chicken run. They sort it out, eat some, scratch and tear up the rest, poop on it, and there you have it. Every couple of months, we dig out the top four inches of the run and put that in a “ditch” along with more yard clippings, twigs, fallen fruit, and the stuff the chickens shouldn’t eat like tomato vines and coffee grounds, etc. When we need compost, we dig it out of the oldest end of the ditch along with a multitude of worms!

  9. I started prepping a couple of years ago, mostly with the idea of being ready for an earthquake, so my mistake was not recognizing we are facing yet another Great Depression and/or Financial Collapse. Didn’t get up to speed until I got disabled and could spend time researching the news (I don’t trust the mainstream media, haven’t in years!) LOL! I’m not happy that I have to depend on a pension and disability check (both of which could dry up quickly in a SHTF situation) but I really am physically unable to work. Even my garden has to be in containers on tables because of my back. But at least almost everything is portable if I have to bug-out! LOL!

  10. I think our biggest mistake so far has been a failure to plan. If we had a plan, it would help us to stay on track. Instead I feel we have been kind of wandered around aimlessly doing a little bit here and a little bit there. So we are now in the process of making a 1 yr, 3yr, and 5 yr plan, that we will review frequently.

  11. The biggest mistake I made was spending too much time planning to prep and not enough time actually doing it.

  12. Our biggest mistake was jumping in with both feet without a plan. We bought and bought from things we read on different websites. Now…we are re-evaluating and trying to put it all together with a plan. We have planted a garden in this hot AZ sun, and are hopeful that we’ll have some results. I think a lot is trial and error on the prepping. We’ve learned a lot from reading and talking to other like minded people. Another mistake, like someone above stated, is that too many people know. My sister helped us move and she has a tendancy to talk a lot. Now several people know. It annoys me. We started with the idea that we would bug out if the SHTF. We’ve decided we are too old to do that, so have decided to “survive” in place…hence the garden. We are grateful for this website, we have learned a lot from this place and reading others posts. Thank you!

  13. Since I’m brand new to prepping, I would have to say my biggest mistake has been to disregard the value of adequately prepping in the first place. I had some old peanut butter and a gallon of water on hand in case of an earthquake, but that’s about it. I’m grateful for sites like yours to help me properly plan, not waste money in a panic, and educate myself!

  14. June 8 2013, You know my felling on your web site, Just Great!
    My mistake is getting the wrong information and following it thru befor I know its wrong and I have to start again. I will not say how many time I have did this. Thxs, Bill

  15. I’ve made several mistakes since I started prepping. I bought too much, too fast, not understanding prepping was something you can’t do in a month or two. I ended up with a room filled with bags and boxes of supplies. I continue to try to make sense of it all. Finding room for storage has been a serious problem, with it being too hot here to use a garage or attic. I should have studied and read more about prepping. And I needed to write down my goals in each area, such as medical, food or food storage. What I might need here on the Gulf Coast can be different from the needs of someone living in the mountains of the Northwest. I made endless lists without any organization, with gardening hints mixed in with medical home remedies.
    I am spending the summer just taking control of the large amount of “stuff”….so my prepping purchases are on hold. With hurricane season here, my supplies will be useless if I can’t find what I need. I will continue to learn skills. I have started a garden, learned to start a fire without matches, learned to make sourdough bread, got a food saver and dehydrator and continue to learn different ways to use them. I read and study both on the computer and with books, finding many of the books secondhand at garage sales.

  16. My biggest mistake was forgetting that even well-made machines break, usually at the least opportune time. During the massive power outage last summer I found that repairing a backup well pump is seriously hard labor. I should have bought a lighter-weight unit, because good ones are available.

  17. My biggest mistake prepping is probably not keeping up with it. I used to try to call Thursdays my prepping day, but I am just so busy with homeschooling as a single parent, it is so hard to always be prepping. I was on top of it for a while, but looking at my supplies, I am not very prepared. I stopped buying and collecting things and food so I could focus on water, which I felt was the top priority. I am also trying not to be in panic mode and do only what is absolutely necessary.

    Thanks for the website! Lisa

  18. Gaye,
    oh my, where to begin. my head is spinning, and I just cant get this fog out of my head, actually both of us are having a hard time right now. both of us got sick the day after our vacation started in Montana, and we’re home now and still sick. I have never had a cold leave me with fever, and constant hacking through out the day and night. We are absolutely exhausted. on the way home we broke down, not once, but twice. so our vacation turned into quite the adventure. All of that aside, I’ve gotten behind in my homework, and chores., but I will get there.
    The biggest mistake for us that am seeing now, is that I didnt get more serious about the direction I would take my household in while I had plenty of funds, and being more focussed on basic things sooner. I regret it now that I’m seeing/feeling the urgency is growing in light of recent events. I hadn’t even realized it until you started your preps and sharing them. Looks like the majority here feel the same. I have an idea for you on the worm farm that wouldn’t really cost you anything, and I do have extra critters for you if you want them, but I have to get over this cold first.

  19. Biggest mistake is not getting the wife and kids more involved in EVERY prep purchase, so that they’ll know what and how to use everything

  20. Worst thing is finding something either in the freezer or in storage that has gotten too old to use. I hate wasting food.

  21. Thank you for the opportunity to win The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard. My biggest mistake in prepping is probably underestimating the amount of space it takes to store over a year’s worth of food, water, supplies and equipment.

  22. Our biggest “mistake” in prepping was not paying attention to what was going on in the country. We thought our representatives in Washington were looking out for us, so we spent our energy in raising our family and working hard. We regret not listening to a friend who tried to tell us what the future held for us if we didn’t pay attention and start to prepare. That friend was paying attention, but back in the ’80s and ’90s, we thought he was just a bit weird. Now we thank him for his input. We are reading everything we can find about survival and putting those pointers into practice. We also read “Alas, Babylon,” which is a novel but gives great ideas for prepping in the event of an atomic bomb attack, but the ideas can be applied to any reason for being prepared. Now it seems, we are the weird ones. How funny.

  23. I like many who have commented before failed to understand the need to prep until recently. I now wish I had the money I wasted through the years to spend on preps now. Thank you for all of your great information.

  24. My biggest mistake in prepping is trying to do it all at once. I was not accomplishing anything until I broke it down into steps and focused on each step.

  25. My biggest mistake in prepping is not starting sooner and selling our home to move into company provided housing. The house itself is OK, but it could be taken away.

  26. My biggest mistake is not keeping an accurate and up to date inventory so I can rotate the food before it reaches its expiration date.

  27. My biggest mistake when I started prepping, was putting too much importance on “stuff” rather than skills and knowledge. Bill B

  28. Mistakes…. I’ve made a few… but my biggest prepping mistake has to be trying to do everything at once, so much to do, so little time, so many neat toys to buy…. still coping with the sense of being overwhelmed

  29. I went into debt to do some deep prepping before y2k and ended up owing money and having items I didn’t need.

    But so many of us at that time learned a lot of lessons we use today! Especially not borrowing money for preps!

  30. biggest mistake? …having to MOVE after being 75% to my goal….and finding the room at new location.

  31. Our biggest mistake is not starting soon enough. We worked at prepping a number of years ago and drifted off for various reasons, but we are back and playing catchup.

  32. I would have to say my biggest mistake is thought process. I tend to catch myself saying,” i can’t afford to do this or that because I can’t afford the supplies to build this or dehydrated that.”

  33. Thanks for all of your information, enjoy reading your articles.
    Biggest mistake
    Not starting sooner to be prepared and not doing a little preparing every week.
    Thanks again

  34. My biggest mistake was allowing myself to get overwhelmed with all I needed to do instead of just going ahead and doing a little at a time. But I’m doing better now.

  35. My biggest mistake is really twofold. I didn’t begin soon enough and I didn’t take it seriously. I always felt I could “survive” for short periods, a day or two up to about a week, but didn’t begin thinking about the long term survival needs until later. I have some “catching up” to do and am working towards that. I also understand now that it is really a never ending proposition because we always need to improve on what we’ve done and learn more to help us improve.

Leave a Reply