Books – part I (a first reading spree)

Since I’ve found myself back in the anglophone world, I have been spending a lot of my time reading, rejoicing at how quickly I can comprehend text and at how rarely I need to reach for a dictionary. When I’m in Poland or in a French or Spanish speaking part of the world I’m exuberant over the lack of English (oh invasive weed of all modern tongues!) and marvel in those other languages which I am happy to use and read in.  I do so in varying degrees of efficiency, but I work on improving and I enjoy learning new words and expressions. I love it! But the fact remains that I have done most of my schooling in English and my brain processes information quickest in the speech of Shakespeare and Dickens.  So I’m taking full advantage of my temporary stay in English-speaking land where my love-hate relationship with the weed-language occasionally gets the better of me!

Needless to say one of my first purchases upon returning to Calgary was the 12$ fee for a renewed library card. Another important decision followed – finding a place to live – and it was also highly influenced by my new home’s proximity to one of the library’s smaller, but more cosy and welcoming, branches (Nose Hill).

In the past few months, I’ve read a few of those Permaculture « must reads » as well as finding a few interesting books on the side that I’d like to mention. Of the grandest reads is Rosemary Morrow’s « Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture » which felt like a logical next step after finishing my PDC (Permaculture Design Course) this summer with the author. It basically summarizes the course while taking the most important aspects one level deeper, and it’s packed full of drawings and diagrams which my child-like soul rejoices in (let’s face it – text only information-based books can really be a drag!). For those starting out in Permaculture, Rosemary’s book is kind of the Permaculture-for-dummies equivalent. It doesn’t assume you have any previous knowledge and it lays out the facts and the design principles in a very user friendly way. I highly recommend it!

Another inspiring read of late has been Masanobu Fukuoaka’s « One-straw Revolution » which had been quoted and mentioned to me atleast a dozen times before I picked out the thin, little book from amongst the giants on the library shelf. Like Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, it is, in fact, a half-inch of life-changing material. Fukuoaka’s natural-farming methods and his summary of over 20 years experiences on his farm in Japan run parallel to Permaculture’s philosophies and methods. Indeed what came first – the chicken or the egg? It would seem that the japanese farmer’s ideas helped Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in shaping the foundations of Permaculture and I’ve seen Mollison quoted in saying that he didn’t think grain could be grown sustainably until learning of Fukuoaka’s work. It really is a small book, but it’s packed full of information which has a message at once agricultural and also deeply spiritual and humanitarian.

I had a few other tomes on Perma that I leafed through without actually reading them from cover to cover. Kind of like the “Bible” of Permaculture (Mollison’s “a Designer’s Manual”) is not necessarily a read from A-Z type textbook but rather a reference guide to be used to check on certain sections when in doubt.

I liked what I saw in “Gaia’s Garden – a guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” by Toby Hemenway, it’s a clearly written and not overly technical book; the same cannot be said of Darrell Frey’s “Bioshelter Market Garden” however which I find to be a little too in-depth for where I am personally at right now.

H.C. Flores’ “Food not lawns – how to turn your yard into a garden and your neighbourhood into a community” intruiged me primarily because of the author’s aversion to being associated with Permaculture (which is clearly stated within the first few pages) even though the underlying philosophy and many of the techniques outlined in the book are obviously Perma-based. The author seems to find Permaculture inaccessible to most and too expensive (for ex. courses like the PDC)…interesting!

A non-fiction novel I found about a New York business man “regular Joe” who buys a piece of land and becomes an organic farmer was really heart-warming and inspirational.

It’s Keith Stewart’s “It’s a long road to a tomato – tales of an organic farmer who quit the big city for a (not so) simple life”; he has an easy-going and easy to follow writing style, and it was a pleasure to immerse myself in his life, struggles and triumphs :)

As I continue down this new path the vast world of those who care about and for the natural world, especially the many facets of natural farming, is opening up to me, along with the many books these and other greenies have written. Today’s library hunt was also fruitful, with a small book on “Careers for plant lovers” by Blythe Camenson reassuring me that I’m not the only one entertaining the idea of making a living with and from nature!

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