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The Self-Sufficient Suburban Gardener

Jeff Ball. Hardcover, Published 1983
Review: A practical guide to planning a food garden. Ball takes his readers through a 5-year plan for going from lawn or dirt to a productive and beautiful garden. The timeline takes a lot of pressure off those of us who are disappointed not to have the perfect garden in the first year. It's a plan that takes work and dedication, but it's very doable. Ball assumes you have a good bit of room, "only" a quarter of an acre, but his ideas are workable even for smaller urban gardens. Ball's methods are organic, space-saving, and intensive. Beginning and experienced gardeners both will find his book useful.
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Other books by Jeff Ball:
Rodale's Flower Garden Problem Solver: Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Roses, paperback, 1996.
Rodale's Garden Problem Solver: Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs, paperback, 1996.
Rodale's Landscape Problem Solver: A Plant-By-Plant Guide, paperback, 1996.
Smart Yard: 60-Minute Lawn Care, paperback, 1995.

Our Sustainable Table

Robert Clark (Editor). Paperback, Published 1990

Review: Collection of essays about the connections between farming and food. This description seems commonplace but it is not. Concepts these authors take forgranted are alien to most Americans, even those who have seen working farms or have backyard food gardens. Sustainability is about making things work for the long-term, without the need for limited external resources like petroleum. Many of the essays read like short stories, like art. They don't get stuck on the scientific details. Rather, they emphasize the holism of food and where it comes from.
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Meeting the Expectations of the Land: Essays in Sustainable Agriculture and Stewardship

Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Bruce Colman (Editors). Paperback, Published 1984
Review: This is the down to business version of Our Sustainable Table. Many of the same authors wrote essays but the tone is quite different. Meeting the Expectations of the Land focuses on the science behind sustainable farming. Much of it is filled with charts, statistics, and complex calculations. Useful for the practitioner or the academic but much less readable and "philosophical" than Our Sustainable Table. I found many of the arguments in the book to be a bit odd. I agree with the need to lessen agriculture's need for petroleum-based resources (pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel for transportation of farming tools and products, all come directly from oil) but it is a bit jarring to see equations comparing farming methods purely on the basis of how much energy they use and produce. Pesticides, for example, are considered bad because they take excessive nonrenewable energy to make and transport. Their dangers to farm workers, consumers, and the environment are nothing more than extra reasons to avoid them.
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Other books by Wes Jackson:
Becoming Native to This Place, paperback, 1996 and hardback, 1994.
New Roots for Agriculture, paperback, 1985.
Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place, paperback, 1996.
Other books by Wendell Berry:
Another Turn of the Crank: Essays, paperback, 1996.
A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, paperback, 1989.
Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural, paperback, 1983.
Home Economics: Fourteen Essays, paperback, 1987.
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays, paperback, 1994.
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture, paperback, 1996.
What Are People For?, paperback, 1990.

Review: The Sussmans were one family among many who left urban and suburban America behind in the 1970's for rural life. This homesteading movement ("back to the land") was popular among people who had no idea how to live off of the land. Many failed. The Sussmans did not. The book is about their learning process as they moved from clueless to self-sufficient. Sussman is a marvelous writer. I laughed out loud reading the first chapter. Who would have thought goat midwifery would have been so entertaining? This book is worth reading even if you know you'll never leave your downtown apartment.
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The Self-Sufficient Suburban Gardener

Our Sustainable Table

Meeting the Expectations of the Land

Never Kiss a Goat on the Lips

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Cyndi Norwitz / webmaster@immuneweb.org / Last Modified: 4/18/99