Sharon Astyk

I’m in my Sharon Astyk period. She’s a former academic turned Northeast farmer, who in addition to raising vegetables and goats, is a mother rearing a batch of kids, and a farm teacher. She also spent a couple of years pounding out three really good books. I urged all my friends to read her first book, Depletion and Abundance, Life on the New Home Front. Most of the people writing about the effect of the industrial complex on the natural world are men, and they tend to be gloomily apocalyptic. Astyk is calm, sensible, and writing on the side of life. It’s important for us all to understand what is happening; this book will get you the main points as gently as possible. Astyk wrote A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil with Aaron Newton. In this book Astyk calls for one-third of our population to … Continue reading

Forgotten Skills of Cooking

I read recently that what we consider to be raw food ingredients would have represented an incredible time saving for our great-grandparents: plucked and cut up chickens, cleaned vegetables, butters and cheeses already made up. Darina Allen remembers a time before electricity. She knows how to gather nettles and make soup, how to hang a game bird, how to sour milk in your own kitchen. Whenever I think “now how did people do that?” Forgotten Skills of Cooking is the book I reach for. You know, I think I’m going to go sour some milk. I’ve got a little left in a gallon container, and I’m getting my two raw gallons from Black Jack Valley Farm tomorrow. Links: Forgotten Skills of Cooking Black Jack Valley Farm … Continue reading

The Backyard Homestead

From the cover: “Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! Eat from the garden year-round with fresh veggies and homemade preserves. Make omelets from eggs laid by your own chickens. Pick fruits and berries from your back door.” This great little book shows up at bookstores all around town. It’s a pretty complete reference, covering gardening, growing fruit trees, raising animals, and foraging. Charming line drawings illustrate techniques like staking tomatoes, drying strawberries, grinding grain. My favorite part of the book is the section with plans for how to arrange what you grow, on half an acre, a quarter acre, or a tenth of an acre. The drawings really helped me picture what I could do with various sites on my own property. If you want to have anything to do with growing your own food, this book will have an idea that will get you … Continue reading

Eating local changes the world

Terra Madre is a book, an every-other-year conference, and a philosophy. A few years ago Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini decided to bring food producers around the world together in one place. Farmers who had never ventured beyond their villages gathered in Italy to talk to each other, and to cook and eat together. This is basic to Petrini’s approach, respecting the knowledge and the work of the people who live close to the land growing the food that we all eat to sustain our lives. In the book form of Terra Madre, Petrini captures the connection between ourselves, our communities, and the biosphere which sustains us. His writing is at once elegant and filled with common sense. He speaks simply of the real world and our proper behavior in it. Today eating generates uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. By barring nature from the human sphere, we have ultimately excluded food … Continue reading