Photograph of small farm on river bend

Book knowledge and experience 

As you all know, I’m putting together The Plan. It’s quite a Plan so quite a Task. Never one to spontaneously jump into the unknown, I feel I need to prepare thoroughly. Being an academic, the first thing I reach for is book knowledge. I’m reading up on biology, ecology, agriculture, husbandry, energy, construction, as well as education, culture and spirituality.

I’m also going to need experience, so I am going to sign up as a volunteer at Drumlin Farm, a Mass Audubon Sanctuary and working organic farm here in Lincoln, MA. Volunteers work primarily in the fields, but I’m sure they’ll let me observe with their animals.

Family history

There are no farmers in my family. My grandfather, at 85,  does some backyard gardening (tomatoes, wormy compost, fruit trees), but he started only after I left Belgium and to my shame I have never asked him about it. I remember visiting, as a very young child, one distant relative, long gone now. I remember pine needles on a sandy soil, the one skillet in their possession that he wouldn’t let his wife clean, and I think he kept bees (though that might be my current obsessions intruding on the memory). Suffice it to say that, when they find out about The Plan, my mom and dad will declare me crazy. Over a decade of university education and 2 Ph.D.s and you want to FARM!?

I will need to demonstrate or at least state to them (1) that we can do it, (2) that it makes economical sense, and (3) that it will make us (and especially Amie) happy. They will have to see this before they will believe it, and possibly, given their culture, they will never see or believe issue(3). But issues (1) and (2) are “objective” issues, and I want to get clear on the facts and numbers.

Some books

For now, I am reading two wonderful books:

Bookcover of Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway

Bookcover of A Handmade Life by Bill Coperthwaite

That’s already a well-rounded combination, I would say.

Chelsea Green Publishing

Both books are published by Chelsea Green. One look at their catalogue and you fall in love! Their motto is “The politics and practice of sustainable living,” and their titles reflect the broad range that it brings to mind:  from the reflective to the political to the practical.

At the moment I’m most attracted to the practical guidebooks (like Natural Beekeeping Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture and Step By Step Knifemaking, enthusiastically subtitled “You Can Do It!”) and the theoretical titles, like David Holmgren’s Permaculture. Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

What I also like about Chelsea Green is that they aim to practice what they preach. Many of their books are printed on recycled paper, but they go further. They aspire to “Zero Waste Publishing,” which is quite a revolutionary idea in an industry that consumes so many trees (even if recycling). Check them out!

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