Genre: nonfiction food and agriculture
Length: 351 pages of text, 361 pages total Continue reading
Genre: nonfiction food and agriculture
Length: 351 pages of text, 361 pages total Continue reading
Genre: science fiction
Length: 24 pages
Setting: California, near future
Interest: It was published in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology
Summary: Our protagonist, Brewster, is breeding/genetically engineering mini-bison as an alternative to genetically engineered cows. Amagco, the main agricultural company, is suing him for infringing on their patents, although it’s really just because he’s providing an alternative to their cows and associated technology. Brewster vows to fight them, although they have many more resources than he does.
Final thoughts: Oooh – genetic engineering in the near-present day. Don’t read too many stories about that topic. I think it was well done, even if it is a thinly veiled complaint against Monsanto. What happens when one company owns all the seeds/animals/antibiotics/fertilizer you need to provide food? They earn a LOT of money, and the regular person suffers. An interesting introduction to the subject for people who don’t pay attention to agriculture.
Title comes from: It’s the first line in the song “Home on the Range” – “Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam.” Brewster is ranching bison (which are the same as buffalo) in the story.
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Genre: nonfiction, sustainability
Length: 109 pages
Interest: Wendell Berry was coming to speak nearby and some of my colleagues were rhapsodizing over his environmental/local/sustainable message and encouraged me to read his works. I had never read anything by him, but a friend has this book of essays and let me borrow it. Continue reading
Genre: nonfiction, gardening
Length: 287 pages of text, 323 pages with appendices
Interest: I can’t remember why I put this book on my reading list in the first place, but I’m always interested in reading about how to improve my gardening techniques.
Summary: There really are two parts to the book. In the first part, Deppe discusses her approach to gardening. As climate change makes the weather more variable, it becomes important to garden so you get some results, even under less than perfect conditions. If one crop fails, you should have a back-up in place. She also gardens with minimal inputs, which helps ensure some harvest even if you can’t get the fertilizer, pesticides (she uses none) or irrigation on when exactly needed. In the second part of the book, Deppe discusses the particulars of growing five staples the can realistically (and tastily) feed your family – potatoes, eggs (chicken or duck), squash, beans, and corn. For each, she provides specific varieties that grow easily and taste good, and how to plant, harvest, store and keep seed for next. She also provides recipes to use the vegetables and eggs.
Final thoughts: I will admit, I enjoyed the first half of the book the most. I just don’t have a big enough gardening space (nor the desire to find more) to start growing pounds and pounds of staple crops. The specific varieties she recommends probably won’t work for me either since she’s in the Pacific Northwest and I’m on the Great Lakes. Much different climate. Even so, I found the book quite interesting and worth it to read just for the first few chapters. She certainly makes it sound easy to grow the staples she recommends, and I do wish I had enough space for chickens. Someday!
Title comes from: Deppe emphasize resilience in her garden – multiple varieties of each staple that germinate and ripen at different times so if a problem arises, you hopefully don’t lose everything. Multiple staple crops, and saving seeds are also a strategy she emphasizes.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 88/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, a D in my A-Z Reading Challenge author challenge (15/26), and 16/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for agriculture
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Genre: nonfiction farm life
Length: 416 pages
Setting: rural Alabama, 1930s
Interest: It was recommended at the end of The Contrary Farmer
Summary: The book is Agee’s attempt to describe sharecropping life in rural Alabama. He describes the difficulty of finding an “average” sharecropping family and how he became friends with the Ricketts, Woods, and Gudgers. He describes their lives, including how they get money (what little they make sharecropping), their home and possessions, their clothes, education, and work. We also get a couple of vignettes describing an interaction or scene in the life of one of the families that Agee observes or participates in.
Final thoughts: This was a hard book to read, mainly because of the style of writing. Agee enjoys stream of consciousness sentences that will often run an entire page long. It usually took me a few minutes of reading just to get into the rhythm of his writing, so I had to be sure I had some time to dedicate to reading when I picked this book up. It wasn’t good if I only had five minutes or if the kids were constantly interrupting. At the end of each section, I did stop reading this book and switch to something else for a while.
I find books that detail all the work that people used to have to do in order to survive fascinating when you compare them to life today. That being said, this book was depressing. The lives of the sharecroppers seemed so hopeless with no chance to make things better and just crushing work and a lack of beauty in their lives. I know Agee found their lives fascinating and pure, but I found them hopeless and sad.
Title comes from: A bit of poetry at the end of the book.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 69/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, 12/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for history or memoir or agriculture (I can’t decide, but I’ve got all three topics already, so I’m not going to worry about it.)
Genre: U.S. nonfiction history
Length: 271 pages of story, 307 with indices
Setting: Midwest, 1888
Interest: I can’t remember how I became aware of the book, but the story sounded quite interesting.
Summary: The book discusses the fledgling weather forecasting service, specifically in regards to its failure to prevent significant loss of life from a blizzard that swept through the Midwest on January 13th, 1888. We follow several immigrant families from Europe to the Dakotas and see some of the difficulties they faced getting to the New World and farming there. Drought, blizzards, and grasshoppers were common natural disasters. Everything came together in January of 1888 when a very strong cold front got pushed down the central U.S., dropping temperatures 30 degrees over an hour. It caught many kids in school with young, inexperienced teachers. They were faced with the dilemma of sending kids home in driving powdered snow or staying in school with no food and minimal fuel. Some made it to shelter, while some did not. Anyone who wasn’t at home with good fuel supplies was in danger of freezing during this blizzard, whether getting lost getting fuel or even within their houses.
Final thoughts: An interesting story, although I did put it aside a couple of times. It got a little grim at times and at little boring at others, but I always went back to the story. Reading about the pioneers’ lives on the prairie and how the weather service got started was interesting.
Title comes from: So many children died coming home from school, the pres nicknamed the blizzard the Children’s Blizzard.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 60/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, 11/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for history, which I will claim as a seventh topic.
Genre: nonfiction, agriculture
Length: 237 pages
Interest: It’s spring, and the gardening bug has hit hard. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t cooperating. The next best thing to getting into the dirt is reading about someone else doing it.
Summary: The book is all about how to be a successful small farmer, which is much different from being a large-scale, industrial farmer. He starts out by discussing economics of a small farmer. In particular, small farmer can try out new techniques, but shouldn’t go into debt to try out the latest expensive gadgets. He then discusses the role of animals on the farm, and how to take advantage of wetlands, ponds, and streams. He discusses the uses of meadows and forested areas, and concludes with growing corn and other grains in rotation. Throughout the book, he emphasizes a smaller-scale, less cash-intensive method to farm that goes against conventional advice in most cases.
Final thoughts: An interesting book to read, although it is geared toward people with 10-50 acres who can actually farm, versus someone who only has enough space for a large garden. Because of that, he gives specific advice for tractors and gear, how to incorporate animals in with the grains, and other areas which really aren’t relevant to my situation. Logsdon’s passion for his topic came through easily in his writing, so I was interested even in the parts that I couldn’t use. It did make me yearn for a few more acres, though, and helped scratch my gardening itch.
Title comes from: Because he’s looking for solutions that work for small-scale farmers that don’t involve taking on much debt, his advice goes contrary to much of the conventional farming advice.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 29/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, a C in A-Z Reading Challenge (which takes me to 17/26), and 8/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for agriculture (sixth category).