Last week, I mentioned that I’m participating in the 2012 Blogathon — which is essentially a month-long promise to blog every day for the entire month of May. That’s 31 blog posts in 31 days. That’s a lot of blogging and original ideas and creativity. Honestly, the thought of it is all a little exhaustion-making.
To help us along, the tireless Blogathon organizers have come up with a few special theme days. The themes are scheduled for Mondays. But, that’s when we’re strolling through the garden. So, I’ll be running my themed posts on Tuesdays. This is apparently what happens when you ask an outlaw gardener to follow the rules…
Yesterday’s theme was movies. Specifically: Five movies that inspire our blogs. Well. Hmm… I’m not much of a movie watcher. But, I am a book reader. An insatiable, constant, don’t-you-dare-take-my-book kind of book reader. So, let’s talk about five books that inspire me — and maybe you, too — to dig a hole and plant a seed.
The Mountain that Loved a Bird, by Alice McLerran and Eric Carle
It may be a children’s book, but The Mountain that Loved a Bird deserves top billing in the list. I read this book hundreds of times as a kid, and I still keep a copy on my bookshelf. If you didn’t get to read this as a child, I suggest you find yourself a copy now. And, if you have children in your life, please share this with them. There are lessons about friendship and hope and love and loss and patience and joy. There are lessons about biology and geology and the interdependence of animals and their habitats. And, of course, there are lessons about gardening. All told through the unlikely friendship of a mountain and a bird, and accompanied by Eric Carle’s masterful illustrations.
Note: The Mountain that Loved a Bird is currently out of print, but you might be able to track down a used copy. Your local library would be another good source.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
With humor and insight, Barbara Kingsolver shares the story of her family’s first year of eating locally. Throughout Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver writes about her garden, the local farmers’ market, and the family turkeys. Butchering, bananas and raising eggs for profit are some of the topics Kingsolver shares through her essays, which follow the calendar year and the garden’s rhythms. Scattered throughout are recipes and short essays, contributed by Kingsolver’s husband and eldest daughter. The book will cause you to laugh out loud and pause for a moment of quiet reflection. Most importantly, this book may change the way you view your garden. It did for me.
This Organic Life, by Joan Dye Gussow
Like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Gussow’s This Organic Life examines the challenges and rewards of growing all (or, nearly all) your own food, and sourcing much of the rest of it from local growers. Gussow chronicles her life as a gardener, from her first mostly-shaded garden outside New York City to her final yard-encompassing vegetable garden in small town New York. She writes honestly about life and loss and garden pests (including neighbors), and includes snippits from her journal and her daily conversation. Bonus: There are recipes!
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
Yes, another book by Barbara Kingsolver. Honestly, selecting just two of her books is difficult. By choosing to include Prodigal Summer and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I am also choosing to omit The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven and Animal Dreams, all of which touch on issues of gardening and sustainability (among other topics and stories, of course). But, I’m going with Prodigal Summer because the whole story grapples with the debate of how we should grow and tend and coexist with the natural world. Kingsolver’s characters include an elderly lady who sneaks “don’t spray” signs onto her neighbors road frontage, and a young widow who decides that goats are the best crop for her inherited farm. As always, Kingsolver’s characters are realistic and complex. Their stories will make you hold your breath, laugh out loud, and pause to think about your place in this crazy world. A wonderful read for any gardener who wants to reconnect with the world around us.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
[Note: As a writer with a master's degree in biology, I take issue with some of Pollan's phrases and word choices. He writes about evolution, for example, as if it's based upon choices the plants made to increase their chances of survival or distribution or reproduction. But evolution isn't about choice. It's about chance. I'm sure Pollan knows this. It's just not always clear in his writing.]
But, moving beyond evolution and writerly pickiness about scientific terms, I’m including The Omnivore’s Dilemma here because it inspires readers to think about food and farming and eating. Pollan writes about potato farmers who won’t eat their own potatoes, because they don’t trust the chemicals. He writes about how Joel Salatin restored vigor to an exhausted farm by farming it. He even writes about foraging for mushrooms and hunting for meat. The one thing Pollan doesn’t really write about is gardening (strange, yes?). But, there’s still enough here about growing food to inspire most gardeners and eaters. In fact, this book is a wonderful place to start thinking about where our store-bought food comes from. And, frankly, when you start thinking about that, you start getting very, very motivated to grow your own food. Or, well, I do.
Is this an exhaustive list? Oh, heck no! Did I forget something? Probably. And, I haven’t even touched on the instructive gardening books that have guided me over the years (The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible comes to mind). Maybe another post, someday?
In the meantime, I’m hoping you’ll share some of your favorite books that motivate, inform or entertain you, as a gardener. Please post your favorites in the comment section below.