Sunday, January 4, 2009

Two Great Books to Read in the New Year

OK -- so you’ve received a slew of seed catalogs, ordered your seeds for 2009, and now what? It’s too early to plant -- even if you start seeds indoors. The days are getting longer – and in between bouts of snow and freezing temperatures, we’re seeing sunny, warm, glistening days that tease and tempt us with the prospect of spring.

What’s a gardener to do?

Here are two books that will serve as inspiration while winter plays itself out.

Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community
by H.C. Flores

Food Not Lawns is a great book to get you through the next few weeks. It’s a bit of a rant, written by activist and urban gardener H.C. Flores, but it’s also a comprehensive guide on how to start your own garden, whether you live in an apartment, in the ‘burbs, or in an inner city environment. According to Flores, “The average American lawn could produce several hundred pounds of food a year."

Flores is a certified permaculture designer, promoting a sustainable way of landscaping inspired by natural eco-systems. Food Not Lawns presents a nine-step plan to help readers “build fertile soil, raise their own food, promote biodiversity and increase natural habitat.” But it’s also more than that. As Flores says, “This book is about how to be healthier and more self-reliant, and thus improve the ecological integrity of the community you live in, through growing diverse organic gardens and sharing the surplus.”

Flores begins with a bit of her own history – growing up in suburban L.A. in the 1980s and evolving into a full time activist via Food Not Bombs. Ultimately, she joined with friends to start Food Not Lawns. The book advances her message by providing a “how-to” guide, with tips on finding garden space, securing water, improving the soil, and designing a garden paradise using sound ecological principles. Equally as important, it offers suggestions on how to use your garden as a catalyst to improve your own life and your community.

You can order Food Not Lawns through the link below:

This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader
by Joan Dye Gussow

Another of my favorite books is This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow. She’s an icon in the local foods movement, having served as an overseer of the Chef’s Collaborative; as chair & professor emeritus (nutrition), Columbia University Teachers College; as director of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation; and as an advisory board member, for the Center for Food Safety and Ecology Action.

This Organic Life chronicles her gardening experiences -- self described as “a decades-long journey to vegetal self sufficiency” -- which culminate in the purchase of a dilapidated Odd Fellows Hall on the banks of the Hudson River in Piedmont, NY. There, she and her husband set about to eat only what they grow. Gussow’s accounts of the "renovation" of the house and the creation of their gardens are heart warming and funny, seasoned with journal and letter extracts, fabulous recipes using garden fresh produce, and serious musings on what’s wrong with the traditional agricultural system. Gussow takes the philosophical task of eating locally and makes it intensely personal: challenging, entertaining, satisfying, flavorful and fun.

You can order This Organic Life via the link below.

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