Last winter I read a bit over 1200 pages on Soil Science, and the learnings from that project were profound enough that they inspired me to revamp the way I plant my gardens, created and taught several workshops on Introductory Soil Science and posted enough about composting that you all were justifiably concerned about my interests bordering on obsession. Passion often comes delivered without an “off” switch… I never did write up my learnings on Soils in a specific series of posts and that is on my list of winter writing projects.
But this year, with December half gone, I was struggling a bit as I was lacking a research project for the winter. Plans for next year will be coppice experiments and a Full Bore shot at small scale, intensive “ecological yardening” (really need to just take a Permaculture Design Course so I can use the dang copyrighted term in my business). With the readings of the past several month and the 3 days at the Midwest Biomass Conference I am only about 2 books short of the books on coppice that I want to read – and one of them isn’t even written yet.
So for this winter I am focusing on 2 subjects: Systems Thinking for the theory side, and Small Scale Agriculture systems on the practical side. The goal will be 3 books on each, which will leave some room for the week or two in January where I lock myself into a room with seed catalogs, coffee, and spreadsheets to plan my gardens, and still leave time for some strolls into literary whimsy should one present itself. To that end here are the first few contenders (please add your own if you have recommendations) – I typically only buy 1-2 books at a time, as they almost always lead me to new pathways.
Resiliency Thinking, by Brian Walker and David Salt. I just finished this and HIGHLY recommend it. If you want to better understand the theory on how complex, ecological systems respond to change and why some bounce back and some cross tipping points, this book is a fascinating starting point. 150 pages means you can polish it off in a day of reading and a few pots of tea, but though it is very accessible, it is so dense with epiphanies that I gave it 2 weeks so that the insights could percolate through my thinking more thoroughly. Great books change how you think and interact with the world. This is one of those.
Next on order is Thinking in Systems, by Donella Meadows. Ms. Meadows authored Limits to Growth in 1972 and has been one of the most influential thinks of the Energy Descent movement. When an author is recommended highly by the likes of Lester Brown, Hunter and Amory Lovins and is referred to by Bill McKibben as “one of the smartest people I ever knew” I take notice.
We’ll see where my muse takes me after that, but contenders are some of the books by Fritjof Capra, though not sure if he’s a quack yet, and likely a re-re-re-read of Permaculture Principles by my hero David Holmgren.
Small Scale Intensive Ag / Applied Suburban Permaculture
Solviva, by Anna Edey has been on my “should read” list for several years now and I need to tear the bandaid off. So its on order too. There are several other practical books out there such as Gardening When it Counts, the Urban Homestead, The Self Sufficient Gardener and the Backyard Homestead. But likely I will stick to more theory (shocking) and read some of the newer permaculture books out there that I’ve missed so far such as the Earth User’s Guide by Rosemary Marrow or The Permaculture Way, by Graham Bell. The upcoming book by Sepp Holzer should be a knock out – I loved what I saw of him on You Tube.
And that brings up another element – we are reaching a point now where the interweb is an ever more important source for researching these aspects as the practical applications of Permaculture are far outstripping the pace with which conventional media outlets can keep up. Again, it is the diverse organic solutions that we as individuals are creating that will be the solutions. And to that end expect these books and research to continue to influence my thinking and writing this season, and of course expect the dirt to fly as soon as the frost is out. Should be a great winter!
Filed under: Books