What can you do? Read this book!

Sitting hear letting a completely local (average food miles was 50 yards)- potato based skillet breakfast settle. All of it, minus the garlic which just finished curing, picked fresh this weekend, and much of it this morning in my slippers. Included were peppers, tomatoes, sorrel and garlic chives-and we are one day away from October. I am still attuning myself to the rhythms of Nature as I delve deeper-but our average first frost date is less than 5 days away and the high yesterday-heck all of last week-was in the 80’s. The problem with Global Warming is that this could just be an “Indian Summer”. But we are on the 4th week without appreciable rain (again), and while the rain for the summer looks only slightly less than normal, 90% of it came in a 10 day period in the middle of 14 weeks of almost literally zero rain at all. It is an interesting time to become a farmer. The new farms must find ways to mitigate these extremes, but that is for another post.

As the Doing Season is drawing to a close and waxing into the Reading Season, I stopped by the library to see what they have been up to-its been 4 months! The head librarian was really excited about a recent purchase for the Sustainability Library we started this past Spring. A quick flip through it and I could see why-the book was gorgeous-at first blush it appeared to be a cook book: dripping in glossy photos of fruit, food, and bucolic scenes of children in gardens with only brief text with alot of bullet points. Then I read the intro-and it turns out I was not far off. The book is essentially a recipe book for how to reduce your impact.
How many of us have had someone say “What Can I do?” I often give Big Picture answers: drive a more fuel efficient car, buy organic, etc but what many really want is something more concrete. The book is broken up into 3 sections-based on how much land you have starting with living in an apartment and finishing up in a large suburban lot or even a small acreage. Each section contains ways to grow your own food, cut your waste stream, and reduce your energy use. Many feed into the next-apartment dwellers are offered ways to make eco cleaning detergents out of vinegar and baking bread, which of course applies to all of us. Suburbanites get a glimpse of heating water with the sun, and by the time you get to the acreage section you are learning about raising dairy cows, making butter in a food processor, and planting orchards.
The book is thick, but the beauty of it is that it just skips the surface-each section is barely a page long. This is just long enough to give you the why’s and peak your interest, but not too much that you get lost in the details of something that isn’t for you. The author assumes, correctly, that if you get interested in making bread you can find dozens of other sources to give you the How. This approach allows the author to give you literally hundreds of ways to make a difference-and you can make the choice to follow her reference section (or Google) to learn more about pickling pears. I learned quite a bit (running ducks lay more than muscovies, and you can separate the queen honey bee from the workers in a new hive by plugging the cell with hard candy-by the time the workers chew her out they are accustomed to her smell), so it has
value however along the change curve you are.
I will be purchasing this book to loan/give to the next person who honestly asks “What can I do?”. With its immenently accessible approach and pages laced with optimism and Can-do-it-ness without a trace of preaching, doom or gloom it has a real chance of inspiring change.

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