Books read in July

Vacation reading combined with a new permaculture obsession made this a quite-fruitful month of reading. Also, it was hot and I had some trouble sleeping.


J Pod
Douglas Copeland
Disappointing. Copeland gets all meta on us and both the storyline and the writing style are lacking. My favorite Copeland books have characters who care about others. They might be whacked out quirky and odd, but their emotions are familiar. This book had neither of these qualities. The author inserting himself into the narrative in a very “heh heh” way did nothing to redeem this story line.

These is my words
Nancy E Turner
A really good novel of a hard-as-nails Arizona pioneer woman. The kind of frontier book I grew up reading, but seems to not be a current feature of adult fiction. In the first 50 pages, Sarah Prine encounters tragedy enough to break you and me, but she perseveres. Written in journal fashion, and supposedly based on one of the author’s relatives, it can be a bit unbelievable in places (i.e. train robbery) but the main character’s voice kept me reading to the end.

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture
Rosemary Morrow
A bit too much information for the potential peraculturalist with a back yard instead of a back 40, but very thorough and clear in its teachings. The author is Australian, which means that many of the species she uses for examples are not really ones I as an Oregonian would choose, but it’s fun to hear her discuss how planting this or that plant will encourage the kangaroos and the wallabies.

Getting started in Permaculture
Ross and Jenny Mars
Many (over 50 according to the cover) different projects you could do to encourage your permaculture garden. Some are simple, like converting milk jugs into scoops and some are more complicated, like making paper. The authors want you to reuse, so many of these projects could be free or cheap. However, the book is written by Australians and the metric systems references can be confusing. I don’t blame them for this confusion, I blame the US and our inability to make the transition the rest of the world has. We put a man on the moon but….

Gaia’s Garden
Toby Hemenway
This author lives in Oregon and so the plant suggestions were good for me. A guide that is less of a textbook and more of a back yard users guide to permaculture. It gives a thorough lesson in ecology and how the different systems fit together. Highly recommended. This is the first edition, the second edition currently has over 80 holds at the library. This may be one to purchase.

The Urban Homestead: your guide for self-sufficient living in the city
Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen
These are my people! They discuss growing your own food in your tiny city lot, sure, but they also thoroughly explore foraging(!), chickens and other livestock(!), greywater systems(!), transportation(!) solar cooking(!) as well as canning, fermenting, cheese making, bread making, and creating your own cleaning products. Their tone is informational, not preachy and at times the two authors discuss why they disagree about a subject, such as starting from seed vs. buying starts. Rarely do I finish a book from the library and want to purchase it. But this is jam packed with information and I will be spending my hard-earned cash. This is a rare five-star review. I love this book!

Landscape you can eat
Allan A. Swenson
An older book, but one with good information about choosing and planting fruit trees in your backyard. Some of the information is out of date, but the author’s enthusiasm is the best part of the book.

Landscaping with fruit: a homeowners guide
Lee Reich
Filled with lovely photos that will make you want to go out and buy a bunch of fruit trees and vines to fill your backyard. Each fruit featured includes how to care for it, its basic needs, how much fruit you can expect as well as the authors three point scale rating. There are also some plans for incorporating fruit into different kinds of backyards: suburban house, child’s garden, etc.

Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions: a RAFT list of food species and heirloom varieties
Gary Paul Nabhan, ed.
From Cascade Moose to Octopus to Thimble berry, Eel grass, Oregon White Truffle and Bing Cherries, find the foods of Salmon Nation. This slim guide discusses the domesticated crops, sea foods and wild foods of Salmon Nation (roughly: Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.) Each entry gives the common and botanical name, the habitat range, the items availability and if it is at risk. There are also mini-essays scattered throughout the book. A bit depressing, if you are just reading it (“At risk.” “Culturally at risk.” “Endangered as a Food Tradition.”) however, it is quite invaluable if you are looking to locate some traditional food traditions in your own landscape.

I have to confess that my favorite part of this book is the last page which has a full color RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) Regional Map of North America’s Place-Based Food Traditions. While I live in Salmon Nation, I grew up in Pinyon Nut Nation, have lived in Clambake Nation, Bison Nation and just came back from a visit to Corn Bread & BBQ Nation. The map explains that it features “totem foods” and goes on to say: “These totem foods are more than important commodities–community feasts, household rituals, song, stories, and the nutritional well-being of residents have revolved around these foods for centuries.” Cool.

The basics of permaculture design
Ross Mars
A slender book with nicely drawn illustrations about incorporating permaculture into your landscape. The information included is good and solid and won’t overwhelm you. The book also has a chapter with tips to incorporate permaculture education into schools. There is a chapter on urban permaculture and I learned that every permaculture land should have, at minimum, worms, bees and chickens.

Started but did not finish
Until I Find You
John Irving
I’ve read 250 pages of this book. I slogged through the “looking for the father in tattoo parlors across Europe” portion but I’m not going to make it though the “entirely inappropriate interactions across many years between a boy and a girl six years older than him” section. Every time I start to read, all I can think is “Hello! Child abuse! Molestation!” I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable and it has been more than 100 pages. I’ve given up the hope of moving on to another phase of the story and am moving on.

Did not even start
I started everything this month!

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