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May 2009: Publications

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  • Second Nature: a Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan (Dell Publishing, 1540 Broadway, New York NY 10036; 1991; $12.95) is the first book published by the then editor of Harpers Magazine. If you have never read a book by Michael Pollan before, it is this reviewer's opinion that this is the book to start with. Second Nature is rich with metaphors and insights into the nature of cultivation. Throughout the book Pollan borrows from the classics often, quoting Emerson, Thoreau, and even a sprinkling of Walt Whitman here and there, but for all his well-read culture, charm and civility he's not immune to rash moments of temporary insanity. One such incident, described with great humor, is when he literally fire-bombs a wild woodchuck's burrow. For Pollan the education of a gardener can be found in balancing the kinds of  lessons learned from such moments of crazed actions with the kinder moments, like those spent with his Grandfather in a meticulous garden, soaking in the secrets of a green thumb through a unique cultural osmosis.
  • California's New Green Revolution: Pioneeers in Sustainable Agriculture by Desmond Jolly and Isabella Kenfield (University of California Small Farm Program, One Shields Avenue, Davis CA 95616; 2008; $9.36) features detailed profiles and interviews of eleven California farmers who have in many ways gone beyond organic in striving for more-sustainable and socially responsible agriculture. Each farmer featured has developed unique methods of diversifying farm income and resources. Several farms offer extensive internships and educational opportunities to schools and individuals. Many of these farms have refused to grow beyond a point that they need any outside help at all to run their operations.  Almost all have created niche markets for their specialty crops. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) appears to be the preferred method of distribution of many of the farms; in fact several of the farms work co-operatively to provide mixed shares of fruit and vegetables to families in the San Francisco Bay area. The final two chapters each profile Bay Area organizations that have been working for decades to advocate, educate and even help distribute the fruits of sustainable-minded growers and have greatly improved the overall marketability and nurtured the development of organic farming and sustainable business practices in general. Overall an interesting read and excellent for those wanting to share in the trials and triumphs of California's most eco-friendly farms.
  • The Self-Healing Cookbook: Whole Foods to Balance Body Mind & Moods by Kristina Turner (Earthtones Press, P.O. Box 411, Vashon Island WA 98070, 9th edition; 2002; $17.00) is an artistically homespun book of whole foods recipes and advice on healing through diet modification. The primary philosophy uses macrobiotic methods and foods to combat illness and regulate the systems at work within the body. Much of the book is designed as an introspective workbook encouraging readers to fill in the blanks and explore “a larger picture of life”—the literal meaning of macrobiotics. The hand- drawn illustrations are both charming and unexpected in a cookbook. The author has a wonderful sensitivity and humor surrounding the difficulties inherent in dealings with unhealthy food cravings, and rather than guilt readers away from the food they enjoy she has carefully crafted alternatives and provides satisfying snacks to help readers through the strongest urges for the sweet, crunchy, creamy treats we love to indulge in.
  • New Good Food Shoppers Pocket Guide to Organic Sustainable, and Seasonal Whole Foods by Margaret M. Wittenburg (Ten Speed Press, PO Box 7123, Berkeley CA 94707; 2008; $9.95). This small book is packed with savvy shopping tips, cooking secrets, and detailed definitions of the products commonly found in markets today. Highly useful for whomever does the grocery shopping in the household, and practical, almost-essential reading for whomever prepares the food. This guide addresses many serious health risks inherent in the foods available today. Perhaps the most useful feature is how the author demystifies those familiar but complex nutrition fact labels and provides specific examples of ingredients, especially additives, to watch out for and avoid. The book is well organized by food groups and product categories. Vegetables, grains, pastas, breads, meat, beans, nuts, oils, eggs, dairy, seafood, essential seasonings, and sweeteners all have their own chapters with specific instruction on selection, storage, and preparation.

  • Nature's Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm by Steven I. Apfelbaum (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon Street, Boston MA 02108; 2009; $25.95) is the autobiographical story of the author's deeply dedicated efforts to restore natural biodiversity to 80 acres of overworked farmland in Juda,Wisconsin. It has been a 30-year labor of love during which time he has also managed a cutting- edge development and restoration firm and educated friends, family and neighbors about the importance of native plants, healthy natural ecosystems, and natural stream restoration. He started small at first, only able to purchase the farmhouse and 2.7 acres surrounded by corn and soybeans. Over the years as his firm Applied Ecological Services grew he was able to purchase the additional acreage and has worked to reclaim biological richness, inviting rare birds and all manner of flora and fawna with healthy savanna, wetlands and, of course, prairie. Throughout the book Apfelbaum stresses the importance of creating a land ethic which values wild open spaces, one which places a concerted effort into condensing human habitat including living/working structures as well as food gardens and ornamental landscape into concentrated areas and leaving larger areas for wildlife habitat and undisturbed region-specific biodiversity. His work is an inspiring example of visionary success.





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