"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Alternative Kitchen Garden: an A-Z

I have been thinking about reviewing a few of the gardening and self-sufficiency related books that I so dearly enjoy reading. One of the things my wife and I love to do during the winter months is to "try" and catch up on our reading so that we can justify spending a day every so often tooling about the used bookstores in our area in an attempt to uncover more of those hidden gems that are tucked away on dusty shelves just waiting for us to find. Some of my most rewarding accomplishments are those that I have taken from the page of a book and turned into a reality, having an idea manifest from mere words to an actual tangible creation is always an enlightening experience.

That said, I thought it would be fitting to start off with a newer book I just finished reading that, in my mind, truly exemplifies the pure unadulterated joy of gardening, The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z written by Emma Cooper. This young author tends a very diverse garden plot where her and husband Pete can be found enthusiastically growing and experimenting with a wide variety of different vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries...anything that can possibly be grown in their climate. Emma also keeps plants going in their geodesic dome greenhouse and raises chickens on her property in the UK. I have found that some of my favorite gardening books come from this region as the climate is so very similar to our own in the Pacific Northwest, thus the advice given is most pertinent.

One of the things I like about this particular book is that it's an especially valuable resource for those with small garden plots, showing the limitless possibilities of what can be achieved in a modest area of land. Emma shares her personal thoughts and experiences growing organic food and raising chickens on her small homestead with a refreshingly witty and down to earth sense of humor that sets this read apart from many of the stodgy and strictly serious gardening books out there. I should also mention that all of the information in this book is presented in a very environmentally conscientious manner.

Perhaps what really piqued my interest was the wide diversity of topics and plants that she covered. Do you know what xynophyl is? Want to try growing Achoca? Well, besides covering all of the "normal" garden veggies one of Emma's passions is to try new and unusual varieties in her garden...me too. All in all I thoroughly appreciated this book for the reasons listed above plus the fact that Emma is a fellow blogger whose thought provoking posts about gardening always impart on me a little more knowledge than I started with. So check out her book and blog sometime...you just might like it too.

Emma's gardening blog can be found at http://coopette.com/blog/ and she also produces The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast (an online radio show).

21 comments:

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Winter is a really time to catch up with reading when sometimes the weather prevent us from going outside. I like to look at the colourful pictures in the book even though I don't have time to read (suppose to read many journals for my research study) before I go to bed. So I can dream about nice garden in my sleep rather bad dream about my experiments not working in lab:).

Sense of Home said...

OOOh, I love "hidden gems that are tucked away on dusty shelves". Based on your reviews I will be making a list of garden books to watch for the next time I am in a used book store. Such fun!

-Brenda

meemsnyc said...

Sounds like a great read!

Silke said...

Just saying a quick hello! I can't wait to catch up on your blog posts I have missed when I have a little more time! I hope you are enjoying winter!! :) Silke

Stefaneener said...

I love reading other people's experiences. It's funny; I was just telling my mom that I end up growing fewer and fewer things every year. My tastes must be narrowing!

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Well I'm going to have to read it!

vrtlarica said...

We don't have a lot of gardening books translated to Croatian. So I usually order on the net what ever I think might be interesting for me to read on the topic of gardening. But it's very difficult to judge book by its covers, so a review from you Mr H, is more than welcome. Thanks!

Mr. H. said...

Malay-Kadazan girl - They say a picture is worth 1,000 words and it truly is. I love a good gardening book that is full of pictures.:) Good luck with your lab work!

Brenda - I picked up a book the other day that I think you would really enjoy called "Rachel Calof's Story" It is memoir about the life of a young Jewish homesteader that came to this country from Russia in 1894. She lived a very harsh exsistence in a 12' x 15' shanty house on the prairie and had 9 children...yikes. I am looking forward to reading it.

Meemsnyc - I hope you get a chance to check it out sometime as I think you would like it.:)

Silke - We always post on each others blogs at the same time.:) I love the picture of your hubby and the dog.

Stefaneener - My tastes are ever expanding, but then I tend to get bored easily too. It would probably be wise of me to focus more on the core crops as well.:)

Vegetable Garden Cook - I hope you do.:) Oh, we tried your potato/kale gratin recipe out the other night and it was absolutely delicious.

Vrtlarica - There are a lot of good gardening books out there and one of my favorite ways to discover them is by browsing through Amazon's website and checking out the reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=vegetable+gardening&x=19&y=17

If you ever come across one that you are interested in but not sure of let me know, perhaps I will have read it and can share my thoughts.

villager said...

I confess I sort of look forward to the slower pace of winter, when I can catch up on my reading. I've not heard of Emma Cooper, I'll have to check out her blog. This week I've been reading Helen Nearing's 'cookbook'. Very interesting!

Mr. H. said...

Villager - It's funny that you mention the Nearings as their Good Life series is the next book/s on my list to do a review post about. Her cookbook is very interesting, a little on the "simple fare" side but very healthy which is no doubt why they both lived such long lives.

I partially hold the Nearings writings responsible for influencing us to live the way we do.:)

Wendy said...

Thanks for the tip!!

I think my life would be so much cooler if I had a geodesic greenhouse and could keep chickens...

Heiko said...

Thanks for that Mr.H. I like book reviews, so looking forward to more. I shall keep a look out for that one and also the blog.

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - I think you are right, I don't have a geodesic greenhouse either, just a regular one, but our chickens sure do liven up the party around here.:)

Heiko - It is an excellent way to share what we have been reading with each other. I know that I enjoyed the review you did on The Money-Less Man by Mark Boyle.

Lorena said...

Those old Bradford Angier books are fun about going to live in the woods, and easily found in used bookstores. One of my favorite old eco books is From Eco-Cities to Living Machines by Nancy Jack Todd and John Todd. I still can't figure out why civilization has not evolved to this yet, but I hold out hope. As for me, I am on a George Orwell kick, mostly his essays but also rereading Nineteen Eighty Four, somehow it seemed appropriate

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - I have the Angier books, can you believe that I have never read them...they are still in my "to be read pile."

1984 sounds like a great book and I will have to read that as well, it looks like it can be read online...how fun. http://www.george-orwell.org/1984/15.html

From Eco-Cities to Living Machines is a third one that I have not read. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and I look forward to reading all of the above books starting with the Angier book that is sitting on my shelf collecting dust.:)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Good morning! Just popping in to say hi before I mush out into the snow. Happy Saturday! And thanks for the recommendation
:-)

Leigh said...

I always appreciate book reviews. I'm a book lover but want my purchases to be helpful rather than just part of my collection. I appreciate your taking the time to do this. Very helpful!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of hidden gems, I was reading one to Joseph last night... Says Rabbit to Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin "nobody eats sensibly around here. Everyone should have gardens like mine. Then we could grow vegetables like the Romans did... Consider all that honey and condensed milk. It cannot be good for you. You should eat as I do." Sensible advice! Paige

Mr. H. said...

Ohiofarmgirl - Good morning, stay warm!

Leigh - Me too, although if the pictures are really nice I can often be persuaded to overlook the words.:)

Paige - I love it! That rabbit is one smart bunny. I will have to see if Hunter has that book laying around somewhere.

kitsapFG said...

I have not heard of this book before but I will definitely be on the watch for it. I am getting a Kindle reader for Christmas (or so I am led to believe) and I am hoping I can get some of these better (but less known books) in the digital format. Keep your fingers crosssed for me!

Mr. H. said...

Laura - How exciting, we have talked about someday getting a kindle reader...I bet you will just love it. You will have to let us know how you like it. My fingers are crossed for you.:)

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