Winter Snow Day Reading List : 5 Favorite Books on Ecology, Botany, and Gardening

This winter started out so mild that I was able to continue my work outdoors with the land through the end of January. But cold weather finally arrived, and my work is now buried under about six inches of beautiful white powder. The garden soil is frozen solid, the mulch pile is buried, and aside from my daily nature walk and a few daily outdoor chores, I find myself spending most of my time inside. The forecast shows nothing but more cold and more snow, so now is a great time to curl up with a warm blanket and a big stack of library books. These are some of my favorite books about plants and gardening and more.

1. “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This book is one of the best things I’ve ever read from any genre. It combines great storytelling, fascinating botany and ecology, deep insight, and beautiful writing into a totally lovable package. The audio book is excellent, read by the author.

2. “The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times” by Carol Deppe. There are a lot of books that discuss growing salad ingredients, but this book will tell you how to garden for real sustenance. People need calories, carbohydrates, and proteins to survive, and this book is phenomenal if you’re interested in venturing beyond the salad garden to begin growing more of your main course fare. It also includes fascinating history and science lessons. I’ve read this book three times, and am planning a fourth.

3. “Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use” by Rosemary Gladstar. I’ve become very interested in herbal medicine over the last few years, and if you are looking to dip your toe into this expansive field of study, this book is an excellent place to start. Rosemary Gladstar is one of the most highly respected herbalists of our time, and many of the herbs mentioned in this book are familiar culinary herbs that are delicious, accessible, and easy to grow.

4. “The New Organic Grower, 3rd Edition: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, 30th Anniversary Edition” by Eliot Coleman. Wow, this book blew me away! Eliot Coleman is a master organic vegetable farmer, an innovator, and an excellent teacher. I gleaned so many insights, ideas, and tips to improve my own success as a grower from this book. On his advice, I purchased a soil blocking set and I am currently growing all my vegetable and herb transplants using that method. So far, this is the healthiest and best set of transplants I have ever raised. I am eager to try out some of his other advice later in the season.

5. “The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture” by Wendell Berry. This book was originally published in 1977. It gives a detailed account of the history of the industrialization of the American farm system over the past century, and the impacts of those changes on farmers, rural communities, and our country as a whole. I recommend reading the newest edition; additional commentary has been added to cover the four decades of agricultural changes that have occurred since the book was first published. The audio book is narrated by Nick Offerman. Need I say more?

Honorable Mention: “Native Plant Agriculture vol. 1” by Indigenous Landscapes. This is a short book with beautiful photos that shines a light on certain native food plants of the Eastern United States. If you live in this part of the world and are interested in growing more food while also supporting maximum biodiversity and ecosystem health, this book is worth seeking out. On a personal note, I am grateful to Indigenous Landscapes for teaching me the term Native Plant Agriculture. At the time when I first encountered their work, I was midway through planting my wetland restorative food forest, which is entirely composed of native plants, and I had fallen deeply in love with the native food plants of the region. Finally receiving a name to attach to the work I was engaged in doing made available new information, resources, and connections that I might not have found otherwise.

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The Catch-up and Mustard Winter

My first grade teacher scheduled one school day per month as “Catch-up and Mustard Day”. Her rationale: everyone gets busy, and consequently the small tasks, like organizing papers, sorting out desks, and turning in past-due assignments, tend to fall by the wayside while more pressing concerns take center stage. One day per month, we dedicate ourselves to catching up on all those supporting tasks that will set up our success in the next phase of life. I’m coming off of a long string of busy months, and I need an entire catch-up and mustard winter.

By some unprecedented miracle, the universe has granted my request. This winter has been soothingly kind. The wind has deferred, the cold has diminished, and the sun shines on us at Strawberry Moon most days. I’ve been granted enough grace to clear the old garden, to build frames for new raised vegetable beds, and to remain in the chickens good graces. If this good fortune holds out, I’ll also be able to repay my planting debt to last year’s saplings before next year’s trees make their claim.

The garden before cleanup
The garden before cleanup
The garden after cleanup
The garden after cleanup. Behind it you can see the temporary “buddy coop” where Dwayne “The Cock” Johnson and Dr. John Wattleson live peacefully together, safely away from the bullies. A new and better house for them is planned, but not yet built.
Sunchoke Stalks still in the garden after cleanup will mark where to dig for a delicious harvest
I left some sunchoke stalks in place, to mark my digging spots for a delicious harvest.
Beautiful boulders of happiness, leftover from a big summer project
Some boulders, painstakingly carried home after a big summer project.
New raised beds for an easier care vegetable garden
New raised beds for an easier care vegetable garden. Also in view: the hen house, which needs to have its wheels repaired so it can move to a new spot, and the little hospital coop that needs to be cleaned and stored until needed by the next patient.
Saplings in trenches, meant to have been planted last spring/fall
Last spring’s saplings, still in their trenches. They should have been already planted, but they’re still healthy!
Sticks waiting to become mulch
Sticks waiting to become mulch. About half of these sticks have already been mulched since the taking of this photo.
Bigger logs waiting to become firewood
Bigger logs waiting to become firewood. I haven’t even started on this yet, but I did finally get my chainsaw back up and running. Weather permitting, I’ll tackle it this weekend.

Wishing you good luck and good winter for all your catch-up chores. Spring is coming!

If you enjoyed this totally ad-free, affiliate-link-free, sponsored-content-free, subscription-fee-free, 100% honest free article, please consider showing us some love! You can help us and our cause of Earth-positive agriculture by sharing this article with your friends, following us on social media, and interacting with our posts. If you’re feeling especially generous, you could also toss us a few coins through a free platform called Ko-Fi. It’s easy to use and processes through PayPal so you don’t have to create a new account.

The Long Journey

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Last week, my husband and I embarked on our second cross-country move. Despite freezing weather, three snow storms, and one curious police officer, we safely crossed eight of our united states from San Francisco to Indianapolis.  We arrived at our new home with our three cats, six trees, and live sourdough culture.  As we unwrap each of our belongings, we try once again to adapt to a new home, a new climate, and a new neighborhood.

Continue reading The Long Journey

Welcome

This page is a placeholder for what will, one day, become a very informative site for an organic farm.

I am an artist (mostly photography) who is most at home in nature. I used to grow all the fresh produce my family of two could eat, share, and preserve on a large community garden plot.  I am currently gardenless, but every day I tend to a few fruit trees and herbs in containers on my balcony. At this moment, Strawberry Moon Farm is nothing more than scribbles in a notebook, but I’m holding this domain until the day I can make Strawberry Moon a reality.

My goals for the farm are to:
* Grow healthy, organic food using organic self-sustaining practices
* Make fresh, exciting, gourmet specialty crops locally available including native plants and exotics
* Grow a wide variety of culinary and medicinal herbs
* Raise healthy, happy chickens who will provide eggs as long as they are able, and later enjoy sunshine-filled retirement for the rest of their natural lives
* Minimize the use of fuel-powered machinery, relying on physical or renewable energy whenever possible
* Protect natural pollinators and maintain hives of honeybees
* Apply artistic principles to landscape design and create a beautiful natural space to enjoy with friends and family

Until then, stay wild

Founded: 7/23/2013