Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book review

With winter storms lashing Galicia, I´ve gone back to planning.  I have recently gifted myself two books which I think will be very helpful in establishing our little outpost.

The first was ¨Creating a Forest Garden¨  by Martin Crawford.

A forest garden is modelled on young natural woodland, with a wide range of crops growing in different vertical layers. Unlike in a conventional garden, there is little need for digging, weeding or pest control. Species are carefully chosen for their beneficial effects on each other, creating a healthy system that maintains its own fertility. Creating a Forest Garden tells you everything you need to know - whether you want to plant a small area in your back garden, or have a larger plot. It includes advice on planning, design (using permaculture principles), planting and maintenance and a detailed directory of over 500 trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, annuals root crops and climbers, almost all of them edible and many very unusual. As well as more familiar plants you can grow your own chokeberries, goji berries, yams heartnuts, bamboo shoots and buffalo currants - while creating a beautiful space that has great environmental benefits.
 I found it fascinating and quite complete.  There are extensive lists of trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers with their corresponding uses.  He makes an interesting point to look not only to heritage plants from your area, but also those of zones further south, with an eye to the continuing results of climate change.  I suppose I should be looking to fruit trees from Portugal.  It is extensively illustrated - this is a large volume - and breaks the process of designing and implementing a forest garden into its basic parts.  Clearly a very complicated process, I feel like this book will be an excellent resource to refer to again and again.  Now I have my eye out for a bog myrtle (low maintenance evergreen, edible leaves and fruits, aromatic, candle wax production, nitrogen fixing).

The second was Carol Deppe´s ¨The Resilient Gardener¨.  Deppe adopts the position that gardening will be more important and likely more difficult in the future - so start planning now for not being able to water, weed, harvest in a timely fashion, etc. now.  She realized after losing several crops due to the demands of caring for her ill mother that she had to find another way of planning and the book is the result. 

Scientist/gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields - resilience science, climatology, ecology, anthopology, sustianable agriculture, nutrition, and health science. In this book Deppe extends these principles with detailed information about growing and using five keystone crops that are especially important for anyone seeking greater self-reliance: potatoes, corn, beans, squash and eggs. In this book you'll learn how to: garden in a time of climate change and unpredictable weather; grow, use, and store more of your staple crops; save your own seeds and seed potatoes; and keep a flock of ducks and chickens whilst integrating them into your gardening activities, and growing most of their feed. 

Health issues (and quite strong opinions on nutrition and diet) make her focus on potatoes, corn, beans, squash and ducks.  She has a background in plant breeding and seed production so the level of detail is quite extensive.  The section on ducks was fascinating - she has settled on rare breed Anconas for their dual purpose laying/meat capabilities.  Her description:.   
Anconas lay about 210-280 eggs per year, mostly jumbo and super-jumbo size. . . Anconas are calmer, more sensible, and easier to work with than the extreme-egg breeds. They are quite mellow and flexible about their dominance hierarchy.  They have one, but nobody seems to take it very seriously.  Nobody excludes anybody from anything because of it.  There is enough meat on the cull Ancona drakes to make fine roasting birds. . . Anconas are the best foragers of all the medium-weight duck breeds. . .are very alert and sensible about predators and make better watchdogs than the geese I used to have.  They are especially smart about hawks...Ancona ladies are usually capable of hatching out a clutch of eggs and make good mothers.

Who wouldn´t want a flock of those?  They were developed in the UK, but a google search doesn´t reveal any breeders. 

There are several complaints in the reviews on Amazon that these crops aren´t suitable for the UK - but the Willamette Valley in Oregon has cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers which certainly seems to be the direction Galicia is going.  I suppose if you live in the northern parts of the UK, this may be less useful, but you could still grow potatoes. She includes recipes for everything and extensive instructions regarding seed saving and selecting for your particular conditions.  I must say my eyes glazed a little on the genetics in the corn and beans sections - but will certainly be giving it a try.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    Just found your blog and find it so interesting. Thanks for doing a book review of The Resilient Gardner, It looks like a book that needs to be on my bookshelf. I am sure I will have to adapt it to my climate New England but it sound like it has so much to offer.