Milkwood: Real Skills for down-to-earth living

The approach that Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar present in their book, Milkwood, is one that is often talked about but rarely lived out: Start with one thing. Milkwood is written from that perspective and the book is so much better for it. Tomatoes, mushrooms, beekeeping, seaweed and wild food are all covered. For each category, Kirsten and Nick share how we can cultivate skills for growing tomatoes and mushrooms, keep bees, and forage for seaweed and wild foods using practices that are in harmony with the environment. They have a gift for sharing information in conversational and connecting ways. An added bonus is that recipes are included at the end of each section. From start to table, they take you through each step.

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A Garden Can Be Anywhere: Creating Bountiful and Beautiful Edible Gardens

When I look through A Garden Can Be Anywhere I find myself so inspired. I want to spend time in everyone of the featured gardens. The aspect of this book that resonates most with me is that Lauri is gardening with love. A Garden Can Be Anywhere is less a how to garden book (although it does have that too) and more of a philosophical approach to gardening. Lauri’s approach is very meditative. Take the time to get to know your space—notice where the sun hits, how much rain you receive, what your soil is like, how much space you have to work with, what the temperature is and what wildlife visits your garden. Take time to build that relationship with garden and you can then make decisions that work with your garden, instead of trying to force it to be something it’s not. Gardens can look many different ways and when we work with a space to create a garden we find diversity, inclusion and respect. We find that we can create a beautiful garden anywhere.

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Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden is an encyclopedia of Floret Farm’s most grown flowers. It’s beautiful, well organized and filled with information. In my decade plus of gardening I found that I could grow almost everything except flowers from seed. Yet, my love for flowers led me to spend a lot of money on packets of flower seeds only to have them not even sprout. There’s a lot of information out there about growing flowers but I found most of it overly complicated and conflicting. Erin dug through the books and experimented on a small plot of land to find her way. And I think because she came into her flower farm from the humble starting place of knowing nothing but having curiosity and perseverance, she’s able to pass along all that she’s learned in a way that those of us that still know nothing about growing flowers can understand. Since reading this book, I’ve been able to successfully grow flowers to the point of being able to gift a friend a beautiful bridal bouquet of dahlias for her wedding.

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How to Grow More Vegetables

So many people love How to Grow More Vegetables and dive into it hard. There’s a forward by Alice Waters, a chef who has done so much to bring attention to the Slow Food movement, farmers growing healthy food in healthy ways and the creation of school gardens. Many people that I learn from use this book as an important gardening resource. The author, John Jeavons, has done a lot to work toward building a healthy, closed-loop farm systems that build soil on the farm. Often when soil is improved in one place, it is done at the expense of another—bringing in fertilizers, composts, etc from outside (and therefore depleting that place). Because growing healthy food is completely dependent on healthy soil, much of John’s focus is on teaching how to build healthy soil in a sustainable way. In addition to this, one of it’s greatest contributions is the master charts and planning that show you how to most efficiently lay out your beds to maximize what you are able to plant.

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Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is my most used gardening book. I live in the PNW and find this book the most helpful guide for what to plant and when to plant it. For every month of the year Lorene takes you through what you could be doing in your garden (such as ordering seeds, pruning, weeding, etc.) what seeds you could be starting, what starts you could be planting and what you could be harvesting from your garden. It’s such a practical, well organized book with so much useful and needed information.

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Your Farm in the City

Back when I lived in Seattle, I applied for an internship at Seattle Tilth. When I was chosen as one of the interns I was so excited. Then, shortly after accepting it, I had to turn it down. Still, in that very short period of time in the garden around Lisa Taylor and her co-gardeners I learned information that continues to influence my garden. Lisa knows so much, yet, has a wonderful way of making all that information accessible to a wide range of people. Your Farm in the City is a great because of her ability to pass along a lot of useful information in a relaxing way. It’s also very helpful because Lisa’s experience is gardening in the city and so understands that limited space and light needs to be factored in.

The book covers:

  • Planning your garden
  • Building healthy soil
  • Options for where you grow your garden: raised beds, containers and vertical planting
  • Seed starting
  • Guides you through the how-to’s of growing an assortment of fruits and veggies
  • What to do with pests
  • Making the most of your harvest
  • Urban Farm Animals
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Fields of Plenty: A Farmer’s Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It

Over 10 years ago when I began volunteering on farms and joining a CSA, this was one of the first books I read. It’s full of recipes and stories. Fields of Plenty is written by a farmer who travels in search of real food and farmers and shares what he finds along the way. By real food Michael Ableman means food that our great great grandparents would recognize as food. Ableman introduces us to farms that grow food in healthy soil by people who understand the importance of the connection between soil, food and health. In a time when many people don’t know where there food comes from let alone who grows it, Fields of Plenty begins to bridge the gap by putting names, faces and stories to farmers.

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Voyage of the Turtle: In pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur

Voyage of the Turtle is another great book by biologist and conservationist, Carl Safina. I had no idea turtles this size existed, they’re massive! Carl Safina tells their story of long lives, slow and steady travel across oceans covering distances so great that it is almost unfathomable, fortitude, strength, resilience and midnight treks from their home the ocean to the beach to lay eggs to birth another generation of these gigantic creatures. They’ve existed for millennia, surviving against all odds, only to be on the brink of extinction at the hands of humans. Safina manages to tell this heartbreaking story of these magnificent turtles with hope.

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The Genius of Birds

There is a common belief among many that birds lack intelligence—they scarified their brains for flight. In The Genius of Birds Jennifer Ackerman challenges the “bird brain” ideology using the latest scientific research and traveling the world to see for herself just how smart the smartest birds are. Ackerman makes the science of birds approachable and provokes the reader to expand their own minds so they can notice what is possibly right in front of them. While I find the studies being done fascinating, the book left me wondering why we would harm creatures to find out how smart they are. The ethical boundaries humans will cross in attempts to satiate our curiosity is disturbing.

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Braiding Sweetgrass

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, combines two equally important threads of who she is—her indigenous roots and scientific mind. Throughout this book she does a beautiful job honoring the truths and abilities of both and bridging the gap between them through storytelling and fact sharing. 

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