The Reading Season

I finally have a day to really get at the garden projects, but, inevitably, Mother Nature is not working to my schedule. 🙂  It looks like November storm season is beginning today; not too much rain, and the temps are mild, but winds are gusting up to 90km/hr!  Gusting is the key word though, so I’m hoping to get out in the calmer moments.

But with Daylight Savings time now a memory, colder, rainier weather and early dark evenings are the new normal.  I’ve been reading steadily for the last few months, but as my teaching term winds down, I’m building up a winter reading list too.  Love to hear some suggestions–what have been the great books (fiction and non) that you’ve been enjoying recently?

In the last month, I’ve read a ton of books about keeping chickens, and I had a brief flurry of research about goats as well.  We’d love a dairy goat, but it seems that it won’t be practical in this property’s current organization.  Oh well!  I’ve also been reminding myself of the permaculture principles and reading books on designing kitchen gardens–I keep struggling to reconcile the two, and I’m getting there! (more on this another day)

Other notable recent reads:

The 100-Mile Diet.

I know I’m way behind the times here.  I followed Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon during their journey as they posted about it on the Vancouver-based online newspaper, The Tyee, but I never got around to reading the book.  I was surprised by the personal and reflective nature of the book, and also by the recipes–what a different way of cooking and preparing local foods than I am doing!  Definitely worth a read.  I was particularly moved by their experiences at their property in northern BC.  The Skipper and I have spent a fair bit of time in the North, and I absolutely love it.  I think I’ll go looking for other writing about life in northern BC…

No Impact Man.

As with the 100-mile diet, I followed No Impact Man on his blog throughout his project and really enjoyed it, but I never did get around to reading the book (or seeing the movie!).  By the time these came out, I basically felt like I was the converted and was working on my own sustainable life projects.  I have to say I didn’t enjoy this book as much.  I like Colin Beavan and enjoy his writing.  But I found that although there were some very informative and moving moments in the book, a lot of it felt very repetitive.  I skimmed through a lot of the information that I already knew, or where he came to the same conclusions over and over again.  The culmination of his experiences is certainly inspiring though.  And he did really get me thinking about the value of some technologies in our current lifestyles, and what we don’t want to throw out with the bathwater.  First on his list?  The clothes washer.  I can see it!

I’m currently working my way through Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower, which I will also be buying a copy of at some point (most of my reading comes from the library).  Athough some of his innovations are now commonsense around these parts, there are still some brilliantly useful sections.  I’m ready to take the plunge into soil blockers in the spring, I think (I’m converted to the idea of growing seedlings for just about everything; last year I tried direct sowing just about everything); his section on crop rotation is the most helpful I’ve read (so many suggestions are just too simplistic for the diversity of crops in the home garden; Coleman’s rotation is an 8 crop one and he provides a process to work out one for yourself); and perhaps my greatest takeway so far is from his green manure section.  I’m inspired to get into these more seriously, and his undersown green manure system is perfect!  I’ll definitely be trying sowing clover, for instance, underneath squash, potatoes, carrots, peas, etc.  Polyculture, weed suppression, and the fertility and soil structure improvements of the green manure when you turn it under after you pull the crop.  Brilliant!

I’ve also enjoyed Jennifer Bartley’s Designing the New Kitchen Garden, Diana Anthony’s The Ornamental Kitchen Garden, and a number of books by the wonderfully named Bob Flowerdew.

Among the books on my request list at the library are:

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 acre by Brett Markham, Homesteading: A Backyard Guide to Growing your own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, …. by Abigail Ghering, and Charles Sanders’ The Self-Reliant Homestead. Notice a theme?!

I don’t expect to learn lots of new things from these books, but I’m looking for portraits of how to pull the various elements together into a cohesive, functional homestead.  And it keeps me dreaming of spring and waiting for the seed catalogues!

Happy Reading!

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4 thoughts on “The Reading Season

  1. How did you like Mini Farming? I’ve just started reading it. I recently finished The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen. Next up is Four Season Harvest!

    1. Welcome, Firefly Mom! I’m on the waitlist at the library for MiniFarming–how are you finding it? The Backyard Homestead was one of the first books on this subject I bought a year or so ago; I liked it, but I’ve since found it not really detailed enough to be more than broadly inspirational. Four Season Harvest is definitely interesting and helpful, but for my money, I’m picking up a copy of Coleman’s New Organic Grower. I’m just about through the library copy, and I want my own. It’s geared toward small farmers, more involved than I will be around our wee property, but the detail, logic, and techniques that make small farming doable are so helpful as I try to make decisions. It provides the major background that I’ve felt I’ve been missing in order to adapt to our unique circumstances. That one and Steve’s Solomon’s Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades, supplemented by our local Zero-Mile-Diet guru Carolyn Herriot, are going to be my go-to books this year, I think.

      Looking forward to my Christmas reading pile!

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