Book Reviews

For my school work I have been reading quite a few books and wanted to share  a brief review of the books I found to be most helpful:

Gaia’s Garden written by Toby Hemenway

This is without a doubt the best book on permaculture that I have read thus far. It not only clearly introduces the concepts but gives excellent examples. I am not usually a note taker while reading a book but found so much rich information that I took copious amounts of notes. One aspect that is particularly helpful is that the author is writing from a North American perspective (versus Australian which is common in permaculture literature) and thus many of the plant examples work for my climate.  His writing has changed the way I think about mulching a bed (I plan to use a lot more), introduced me to the Peaceful Valley Soil Builder cover crop, showed me how to grow my own mulch, inspired me to start messing with the elevation of my property, taught me about the four sisters garden (Rocky Mountain Bee Balm is the fourth), made me rethink how many trees my property can handle (10-20), and helped me with plant selection for my permaculture map. On a random note – I have an old apple tree with a serious case of coddling moth. My husband and I have done everything these past four years (short of spraying) to get rid of this problem. According to the book- pigs will quickly eat the fallen fruit which disrupts the life cycle of the moth and fixes the issue. Now if only my city would allow me to keep a pig.. I could have apples and bacon, or better yet, apple smoked bacon 🙂

The Rodale Book of Composting written by Grace Gershuny and Deborah Martin

While not the most fascinating read it is a very comprehensive review of the various methods of compost along with detailed instructions for creating a compost with the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Reading this book has encouraged me to refine my composting system for more efficiency by building larger compost heaps – which should allow me to “cook” my compost more quickly.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume’s I and II written by Brad Lancaster

Volume I introduces the concepts of Rainwater Harvesting – which is the practice of putting precipitation to use on your property versus utilizing municipal water. Volume II goes into detail on how to use earthworks to direct rainwater to areas that need the water. While the writer lives in Tuscon and the majority of his examples take place in that specific climate, the concepts and tools provided are useful anywhere. Most importantly these books have made me rethink irrigation systems and I plan to implement many of the ideas presented in the books to curb my water usage. Lancaster is an excellent author and these books are a very easy and enjoyable read.

The Hand Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage written by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley.

This is an excellent read for anyone remotely interested in green building methods, or anyone who needs a place to live (everyone!). While the authors spend a good portion of the book educating us about building with cob, the book provides so much more than a how-to about building with cob. It is rather the type of book designed to offer a paradigm shift to the reader, away from the traditional large suburban home with a mortgage and towards a more courageous future. I may be somewhat in love with this book and would say that this is a life changing book.

Permaculture Pioneers: Stories from the New Frontier written by Kerry Dawborn and Caroline Smith

The book interviews various individuals involved in permacuture in Australia. Each chapter introduces a new person and gives their “permaculture story”. While this book did not help me with theory or permaculture concepts it introduced me to folks who are living sustainable lives and earning a living through permaculture. This is helpful to someone like me who is working towards a more sustainable lifestyle in all aspects of my life – home, work, community.

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