Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Back when I first saw Food, Inc., I was surprised and excited to see them interview Joel Salatin about sustainable farming practices. It served as a great introduction to the work that Joel is doing on his farm, to all of the people who are more apt to watch a movie than read a book (and believe me, I love Joel’s books!). But now? Now they’re doing a seventy-minute documentary just about Polyface Farm and Salatin’s family.

They’ve invested $50k into the project thus far, and need another $95k to finish. Sustainable agriculture is growing more prevalent in the cultural eye; there are enough people out there to get this important project finished. This system can work. This system does work. So ;et’s continue to educate. Let’s continue to grow.

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I’ve read a few reviews of Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City that were fairly negative, bemoaning the fact that this book is not an exciting memoir to be picked up by the ambivalent masses who grow a potted tomato on their patio and perhaps a little basil in their window-box. I can’t say that my gardening experience has been particularly more involved than that, although I did harvest some particularly tasty lettuce a few years ago, and I’ve found that it’s nigh unto impossible to kill a zuchinni, but despite not being the book’s “target audience,” I did enjoy it.

Here’s the thing – don’t go into it expecting it to be something that it’s not. The subtitle should tell you everything that you need to know: “Two Plants Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City.” Did you catch that third word? Geek. So guess what? They’re going to geek out on you. They’re going to talk about the different plants that they planned to put in, and how this plant didn’t get along with that plant, and how this other plant with a family name that I can’t pronounce was too aggressive, and then there was this pest that killed off three-quarters of the plant they were hoping to harvest, and this one was just too fascinating to not try and grow, and did we mention the tropical theme in the front yard and how we tried to have chickens but then the cops got wind of it–

Yeah. They’re passionate about their plants. They’re passionate about their permaculture. So unless you’re a permaculture enthusiast yourself – or a voracious researcher like myself, who reads plenty but does little – you’re probably not going to like the book. I’ll admit that there were a few portions where I felt my eyes start to glaze over, but you know what I did? I paused, appreciated their passion, and skimmed ahead. You see, I can appreciate that passion. I can appreciate that sometimes, you’re going to make someone’s eyes glaze a bit when you’re really on a roll, because.. well.. I’ve done it myself.

So was reading this book a waste of my time? Goodness, no. I got to read about some rather fascinating plants that deserve to re-enter the limelight after being sent to the corner by industrial agriculture. I got to enjoy seeing someone else be passionate about what they do. And while my climate is even less hospitable to tropical plants than Massachusetts – a point that is driven home quite squarely by the -1 degree Fahrenheit temperature as I write this – I was able to glean a few ideas that I would like to put into practice as I discover what our new home has to offer. After all, a home is not just the house. A home is also the land around it. A home is what you make of it. And I intend to make much of it.

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The forecast high for tomorrow is zero. Zero. And the windchill? -20.

What is this, Canada?

Suffice to say the horses are bundled in the warmest possible combination of blankets available to them, Spice the livestock guarding dog is bedded down with the goats tonight instead of adjacent to their pen, and the neighbors probably think someone was being abducted thanks to the cries of the psychotic rooster that I rescued from where he was roosted outside.

What are you doing to keep your critters warm?

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I managed to read sixty-three books this year, for a cumulative 15,920 pages. It’s a bit shy of the 19,652 pages that I managed to read in 2012, but when I take into consideration that my younger son was born exactly a year ago (happy birthday, Squishy!), I think that’s a pretty decent amount, don’t you? My goal for the year was sixty, so I surpassed that… in fact, I just realized that I read sixty-three books in 2012, too.

Huh. That’s a little obscure.

Anyway. I’m thinking I’ll set the bar a little higher this next year… say, seventy-five books? Or 20,000 pages. Maybe I’ll set the bar with pages, instead, since I’ve still got that unread, unabridged copy of Les Miserables sitting on my shelf. Eh-heh. I digress. On to the list!

Grace Based
Parenting by Tim Kimmel
My copy bears a ridiculous amount of underlining and highlighting. (Yes, I’m one of those people.) I loved this book. Loved it. In fact, I’m getting ready to re-read it (as well as Give Them Grace, another book on the topic that I purchased a year ago). Kimmel discusses the most common “road maps” that we follow as parents: fear-based parenting, evangelical behavior-modification parenting, image-control parenting, high-control parenting, herd-mentality parenting, duct-tape parenting, and life support of 911 parenting. He breaks each of these down and then moves on to outline grace-based parenting.

Grace certainly has its share of enemies. There are those enemies who want to camp on the truth of the Bible and say that life is black and white with little nuance. Parents like Tom assume that to show grace is to go soft on moral standards. They get a lot of fuel for this skewed opinion of grace from the parents who use grace¬† as their excuse for not enforcing rules. A family without clearly defined rules and standards could never be a grace-based family. It’s too busy being a nightmare to live in.
-p. 34

Grace often contradicts parenting plans that want to distill roles down into checklists. Grace-based parenting is a heart-activated plan that takes its cues from a daily walk with Jesus Christ. Because of this, grace and strict parenting textbooks will never find themselves in agreement.
– p. 101

I’m sitting here thumbing through the book, trying to figure out which highlighted and underlined sections to share with you, but if I listed all of the parts that inspired me or struck my heart, well… I’d have half of the book transcribed, and that wouldn’t do the author any favors. ūüėČ

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
This one was fascinating. It’s a partially-fictional memoir, if such a thing were to exist. The author has taken the story and memories of her eccentric grandmother and brought them to life on the page. Floods, the Great Depression, ranching, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, living in the city … her life encompasses many circles and many adventures, and the book is filled with little tidbits about historical life. For example, did you know that they specifically¬†didn’t wash their Levis, because over time they would develop a coating of dirt, oil, and other, ah, miscellaneous things, that served to¬†protect the wearer? Basically, they were Carhartts before there¬†were Carhartts. ūüėČ If you like history and lives lived with grit, I recommend¬†Half Broke Horses.

The Moonlit Mind: A Tale of
Suspense by Dean Koontz
I read this one on my mother’s Kindle shortly after my younger son was born, and I’m going to have to chalk it up as one of Koontz’ best works, right up there with The Taking and Odd Thomas. I was disappointed by Odd Apocalypse, the most recent installment in the Odd Thomas series, but this little tale served to restore my faith in Koontz and his writing ability.

Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L, and Nancy Peske
I mentioned this book in my introduction to sensory processing post, so I won’t discuss it too deeply here, but suffice to say that this is the book that finally confirmed those niggling suspicions in the back of my mind for me, and pushed me to have him evaluated for a speech delay and sensory processing concerns.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci/neurology, MMedSci/nutrition
After hearing anecdote after anecdote from acquaintances online about how the GAPS diet helped their (or their child’s) IBS / food allergies / chronic fatigue / eczema / autism / allergies / sensory issues / et cetera, I finally got around to ordering the book this autumn. Having been told upon a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten intolerance that it’s genetic and will never go away, I was intrigued that I might one day be able to consume gluten without giving myself migraines and gastrointestinal upset. I’m looking forward to incorporating it into our lives once we are settled into our new home, and seeing if it helps heal our food intolerances and lessen my son’s sensory processing issues. I will keep you posted, but I am optimistic.

Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation by Sharon Astyk
I read Sharon’s blog, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of this book from my local library system. She touches on how to start storing food on a very negligible budget, what the different ways of storing food are (think beyond the freezer and canner!), capturing water, medicines in emergencies, and more.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that in her section on “special diets,” the only consideration she really gives is that of pregnant women and infants, which is a little short-sighted in my opinion. But then, I have food intolerances, and my body has already proven to me that if I were to try to subsist on a diet of stored wheat, I’d be wasting away in no time. So there’s that. But, a lot of what she has to say could be utilized for gluten-free grains and other foods that are naturally free of gluten as well, so I suppose it’s not as big of a deal as it could be. Perspective comes in handy.

I especially love the portion where she discusses the “theory of anyway” … the idea that even if particular issues (such as peak oil or climate change) are resolved (or if you’re like me and don’t believe in man-made climate change, or are still slightly skeptical on the peak oil front), there are still plenty of good reasons to think about food storage and living sustainably, because there are other problems. And if we fixed those problems, it’s still a good idea because of <insert the next step here> and so on and so forth, all boiling down to this:

… if you told me that … I didn’t have to worry anymore, would I then stop gardening?

No. Nurturing and preserving my small slice of the planet would still be the right thing to do. Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary woudl still be the right thing to do. The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be my right work in the world. I would still be a Jew, obligated by my faith, to “the repair of the world.” I would still be obligated to live in a way that prevented wildlife from being run to extinction and poisons from contaminating the earth. I would still be obligated to reduce my needs so they represent a fair share of what the earth has to offer. I would still be obligated to treat poor people as my brothers and sisters, and you do not live comfortably when your siblings suffer. I am obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives me – integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with my deity of choice, peace.
– p. 16

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers
by Harvey Ussery
The man basically takes the pasture-based approach of Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$and scales it down for the backyard. That sounds simple, but it’s truly a beautiful piece of homestead literature. He discusses rotational “grazing,” getting creative with mixing and/or growing your own feed, breeding your poultry, basic care, butchering, deep-litter management, starting your flock, and so much more. This book would be worth the price for the appendices alone, where he offers photographs and step-by-step directions for building things like dust boxes, trap nests, and mobile frames, as well as nutritional information and enormous lists of resources. If you only get one book on poultry, make it this one. (I plan to.)

How about you? What were your top books of 2013? Do you have any books you’d like to recommend to me for 2014? Let me know in the comments!

Also linked up to Semicolon Blog’s Saturday Review of Books.

Want to know what I’m looking forward to reading in the New Year? Well, I can help you out with that.

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