Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Books for Blustery Days

It's a chilly one out there today. It rained all day yesterday and we even got some wet snow last night but I'm not complaining because if it were a few degrees colder we'd have been buried in snow by now. It's still cold tho and the kind of damp that gets in your bones. It's a good day to stay inside, make a pot of tea and delve into one of the large stack of books that I've been working my way through. Too bad I'm off to work instead. I start my new job today!

Remember my Crossroads post a few weeks back? Well all the options aren't yet in but an opportunity came my way that I couldn't refuse, so today I start a new part time position as a Community Food Animator with Foodshare! I'm excited to be working with community gardens and related projects all over the city and i'm sure I'll have lots of new stories to tell once I get settled in.

In the meantime here are a few books I've been enjoying recently:

The book that I've been reading one and off for the past few days is The Non Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You. Written by Deana Duke who blogs at Crunchy Chicken, this book is definitely not light reading! In the same week in 2007, Deanna's son was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome and her husband became critically ill with multiple myeloma. Her reaction to this life altering news was to take a hard look at the life they'd been leading, a lifestyle which was a fairly healthy one by today's standards. Deana took things a step further and began examining the hidden toxins we are all exposed to on a daily basis; common chemicals that appear in our toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste, and in our household items such as the glasses we drink from, and the ones we wear on our faces. Using herself as a test subject, she went to great lengths to demonstrate that the levels of known environmental toxins we are exposed to are higher than we're led to believe. It's a pretty scary read and and it almost seems impossible to avoid exposure to many of these substances (cash register tapes contain BPA? Seriously?) And once you know all of this, how do you not go a little crazy trying to avoid it? (Deana herself, not surprisingly, titles one of the chapters Going a Little Bonkers). What she discovers and the choices she makes to deal with that knowledge makes for a compelling read!

Growing a Farmer is another book I picked up the library last week and it's a great read. There are an abundance of books out lately written by people who've given up their successful careers to become farmers but this one stands out if only because of the amount of detail devoted to each aspect of food he produces, from fruit to raw milk, to pork. In his former life Kurt Timmermeister was a chef so his transition to full time farmer/cheesemaker isn't as surprising as some but what is unusual is his stance on many commonly held beliefs of the local food movement. As I made my way through each chapter, I came across several instances of this; moments that made me wonder if I wanted to read anymore but his clear explanations of the options and why he made the choices he did made me respect him, even when I don't necessarily agree with him. Refreshing, informative and sometimes challenging, this is a wonderful book for anyone who's considering producing their own food on a larger scale.

It's a long time till next gardening season but if you need a fix, a good gardening book can be a godsend at this time of year. One of the books that I was given to preview is a titled Decoding Gardening Advice- the Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations and it's a perfect book to read before making plans for next year's garden. It's broken down into eight chapters,with topics ranging from Soil to Lawn Care; each chapter is further broken down into Good Advice, Advice That's Debatable and Advice That's Just Wrong. The information is clear and easy to read, yet very thorough. This is a great book for beginners and experts alike, and a handy reference for a variety of circumstances.

You don't need me to tell you what a great read Half Blood Blues is- it was a finalist for the Man Booker prize and recently won the 2011 Giller prize. But I'm going to tell you anyhow- go get this book. And read it while listening to Louis Armstrong (who makes a cameo in the story), with a kleenex box near by.

So many great books! Next time- How Carrots Won the Trojan War and Reclaiming our Food


  1. Congrats on the awesome new job!!
    I'm looking forward to reading Deana's book once I can get my hands on it.

  2. Thanks Daisy! I'm still getting used to the idea that someone is going to pay me to hang around gardens!