Archive for June, 2010

WATCH: Ross Conrad talks about Natural Beekeeping

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Ross Conrad, author of Natural Beekeeping; Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, discusses how a vision quest led him to a life of bee stewardship, and talks about his methods for raising these important but beleaguered pollinators. Nationwide, honeybees are rapidly diminishing in number as a mysterious condition dubbed “colony collapse disorder” wipes them out. They are a valuable, if tiny, livestock to include in a small-farm system. In this video, Conrad gives an in-depth introduction to the mighty bee and his approach to keeping them healthy and helping them thrive.

Conrad keeps bees in Vermont, where they pollinate apples and wildflowers to produce delicious honey and propolis, a natural antibiotic.

Get a copy of Natural Beekeeping…

An Excerpt from Food Not Lawns

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The subtitle of this incredible book is, “how to turn your lawn into a garden and your neighborhood into a community,” and it’s an inspiring guide to both endeavors.

If you live in an urban environment, and you find your “green” thoughts tending towards jealousy as you hear all the buzz about gardening, don’t despair! You too can be a steward of the earth–even when most of what surrounds you is paved.

Here’s an excerpt to get you started from Food Not Lawns by H. C. Flores.

Excerpt from Chapter 2: Urban Ecology

Many people see ecological living as something they will do later, when they can finally afford a big place in the country, but I say, “Start now!” Even, or perhaps especially, if you live in a tiny apartment surrounded by a concrete jungle, you should always try to find simple ways to repair the earth, educate others, and prevent further destruction of the natural world.

Growing ecological gardens, wherever you can, is never a waste of time. Nothing lasts forever, and if you can get a few baskets of food without damaging the environment, and perhaps leave behind some long-living fruit trees, then the larger ecological community will surely benefit from your labors. If you can do these things while also educating others, then your work will succeed many times over.

In addition, not everyone wants to live in the country, and if everyone moves there it will all become the city. Many people plan to spend their lives in the city, happily, and have no plans to go rural. This is good, because if we want to support the growing human population for more than another few centuries, we are going to have to grow up, not out. We also must ensure that urban communities can provide for their own needs, using resources from the local area. These needs include food, building materials, water, medicine, and much more, and currently there are no cities to provide a model.

We can, however, create our own models by simultaneously caring for the earth, caring for the people, and recycling resources. In these models rural food surpluses will supplement urban subsistence gardens, and the ecological integrity of each bioregion will depend upon how well the city dwellers can provide for themselves.

Improving the ecological health of cities is crucial to achieving a healthy bioregional community, and if the ideas in this book inspire you, then begin doing these things now regardless of where you live or whether you rent or own your garden site. Do it for the land and to experience the personal transformation; consider the harvest a bonus, rather than the goal. The sooner and more fully we embrace an ecological ethic in our daily lives, the better our ability to place ourselves within the deep ecological context of our communities, and the clearer that context, the more accessible our vision of paradise.

Urban ecology is not so much a matter of “saving the earth” as it is a chance to improve the integrity of our own human lives and, thus, our chances of survival as a species on earth. The earth probably does not care whether we save her. She will most likely continue to turn and breed life long after humans have gone extinct. If we continue our current trend of wanton consumption and shameless waste, this may occur much sooner than later.

I know I sound like Chicken Little saying, “The sky is falling!” but if we don’t change our direction, we will get to where we’re going, which is currently extinct. This deep impermanence, while it may seem grim at first glance, is actually a blessing: Our own fragility gives us the impetus to act now to create healthy lives that harmonize with nature, and to know the comfort, joy, and inspiration brought on by an organic life. Why waste years and decades locked into jobs and consumer boxes that kill and oppress us when paradise is the alternative?

In my experience most people want to eat healthy food, care for the earth, and do other things that help create a better future for humans and other species, but they feel powerless against economic and social constraints. This has a lot to do with the fact that millions of people don’t have a place to grow food, and the people who do have access to land, such as in rural and suburban areas, rarely steward it to the extent we need.

In addition to land, we also need tools, seeds, plants, and other materials, and most people can’t afford to just go out and buy it all. It is a common misconception that you need a lot of money to transform your home, garden, and community into paradise. But you can’t buy your way to a healthy ecology—you have to innovate it.

Integral to growing paradise gardens is recycling resources to do so. Every city in the world is rife with useful waste, and recycling it is an essential component of a healthy urban ecology. By understanding the flow of resources in the community around our gardens, we can better place those gardens within their deeper ecological and social context.

Yes, growing organic food is always worth doing, but what of the truckloads of good organic produce that farmers and distributors throw away? Using this waste for food and growing something else makes so much more sense.

Get acquainted with locally available, free resources—land, food, and otherwise. This is the first step in turning your yard into a garden and your neighborhood into a community, and recycling those resources is the next step. Focus on making best use of what is near you now, and buy new stuff only as the very last resort. The more we recycle the waste stream toward meeting our basic needs, the closer we come to closing the ecological loop.

Urban ecology is a big issue, and one that will take many years and many ideas to understand, but if we start with growing food where we can, we will be moving in the right direction. We can find space and resources that don’t cost money; we can build gardens and communities that make social and ecological sense.

This chapter will focus on making these resources more accessible. We will look at how to find a garden space if you don’t have one, and how to make the most out of the spaces you find. Then we will see how to tap into the flow of useful surplus that goes to waste every day, in every city in America, and how to divert that flow toward your garden and community.

What If I Don’t Have a Lawn?

For people who are lucky enough to have fertile soil in their own yard, starting a garden is easy. For those who don’t have good soil—or don’t have a yard at all—starting a garden takes a little more effort. Most soil, especially in urban areas, responds well to organic improvements, and it usually makes more sense to build soil on a convenient spot than to travel far from home to garden in an area that is already fertile.

We’ll learn how to build good soil on any ground in a later chapter, but what if you don’t have a garden space at all? In the next few pages we’ll look at how to find places to grow gardens, and how to make the most out of the spaces you find. The biggest limit to what you can do is your own creativity, so see what you can think of and share your ideas with others. Ultimately city dwellers’ best resource is neighbors, so tap into their hearts and minds, and don’t hesitate to share your own.

The following land-access strategies will help you get started.

Use the Neighbor’s Lawn

It may seem odd in our modern American culture, but in other places around the world people frequently share yard and garden space with their neighbors. If you’ve been eyeing that nice sunny lawn next door, dreaming of filling it with fig trees and big red tomatoes, what could it hurt to ask? Go on, go over there, bring some seeds and a smile, and ask!

I have seen spectacular gardens come together when a group of neighbors with adjacent yards take down the fences between their lots and share the land communally. All the ideas in this book are most effective when done in community, with the people who live nearby. This doesn’t mean everyone can’t have their own space to do as they choose—only that the natural ecology is allowed to be more fully interconnected, without plants, insects, animals, and natural flows having to overcome fences and other human-made obstructions.

Rent a Plot in a Community Garden

Many cities have some sort of community garden program. Ask at the local university, Agricultural Extension Service, or gardening store, or try doing a search on—just type in the name of your city and “community garden.”

Most of these programs lease ground from the city and rent out small plots to local gardeners on a seasonal basis. If you can’t find a program locally, would you like to start one? Chapter 9 has several ideas for community garden projects. Also see the resources section for a list of books and websites.

Volunteer at a Local Farm or Help Friends with Their Gardens

Most organic farms offer free produce to volunteers, and some will lease you a small plot of your own. This gives you an opportunity to learn from the farmer and access to the farm infrastructure, which includes important resources such as irrigation, seeds, surplus starts, et cetera. Some farms also hire seasonal workers, which can be a great opportunity to spend your summer learning, exercising, and eating fresh produce. If you can’t find a local farm to work with, volunteer to help your neighbors with their small garden. More options usually reveal themselves as new relationships mature, so build community through voluntary interaction and you won’t be without a garden for long.

Garden in Pots and Containers

Most annual vegetables are well suited for container gardening. Even a small patio can hold a few planters—get pots out of a garden center dumpster or use other recycled containers such as sinks, bathtubs, wine barrels, and plastic buckets with holes drilled in the bottom. Try strawberries, carrots, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs, and salad greens.

Try a self-contained potato garden: Take some chicken wire and make a round cage. Put a layer of thick straw in the bottom and toss some potatoes in. Cover with straw, leaves, or soil, water often, and keep adding more mulch on top as the shoots emerge. Soon you will have a basket full of fresh potatoes.

Use the Roof

If you lack patio or yard space but have a flat, accessible roof, consider building raised beds or planter boxes on the roof. There are fabulous rooftop gardens in big cities all over the world, with everything from small containers of herbs and salad greens to large planter boxes filled with trees and perennials. Get creative with the space you have now and better options will unfold later.

De-pave Your Sidewalk or Driveway

Rent a concrete cutter or just get together some friends with crowbars and rip out the pavement around your house. It doesn’t take that much work to convert a driveway or parking area into a garden. I have seen several wonderful examples, and the residents didn’t regret the lost pavement for a second.

The broken-up pieces—aptly called “urbanite”—work great as steppingstones or patio pavers or for building raised beds and terraces. Park on the street and enjoy the extra exercise while walking home through your new garden.

You may even want to tear down a whole building, such as a garage full of junk; recycle the junk and building materials, and grow plants instead. I would much rather have a living, edible garden next to my house than a dirty old box full of consumer crap. Think about it—you probably wouldn’t pave over an orchard to build a driveway, so why choose the pavement over the trees just because it’s there now?

Grow Food in the Existing Landscape

You don’t have to turn over a big area or even disrupt existing plantings to integrate some food plants. We once rode bikes around town with a big bag of zucchini seeds, planting them wherever we saw a gap in the landscaping. Later we saw big plants in some of the spots and harvested some delicious zucchini! I have also planted fruit trees into existing beds in front of local businesses or at the edge of a park.

This strategy works well, because the city or property owner maintains the landscape, and your plants get watered—sometimes even weeded and fertilized—right along with the plants that were already there! The downfall is that whoever is in charge of the site may notice your plant and pull it out or may spray it with toxins. Still, this is a good option for generating more food around town, and it can be great fun.

Also look for good spots in alleyways, along back fences. Often there is a garden on the other side of the fence, and you can plant small beds along the outside that benefit from the surplus water and fertility.

Start a Garden in a Vacant Lot

You can do this with or without permission. Sometimes property owners will let you plant vegetables and fruit trees in a sunny, underused corner. Others may say no if you ask but won’t notice for a long while if you just do it without telling them.

When the Food Not Lawns collective started our first garden, in an overgrown section of the park, the city didn’t know we were there for almost a year. We got the combination to the gate from a neighbor, cleared out all the trash and debris, and started gardening. By the time folks from the city came along to ask questions, we had a beautiful garden established, and they let us continue to use the space. They even sent park workers to drop off chip mulch once in a while!

There are countless examples like this, where people took over an area, grew food, and maintained access for many years. Some of these squatted gardens eventually gained ownership of the land. Sadly, there are just as many examples of gardens that were eventually bulldozed and paved over. In my opinion it is usually worth a try, and you will probably get at least a season’s reward for your audacity. This and the previous option are often called guerrilla gardening—see chapter 9 for more tips along these lines.

As you look for places to grow, ask yourself some important, practical questions: Will you actually go there to garden? Will you be inspired by the surrounding space? Will the plants have an opportunity to reach maturity? Will you want to eat the produce? Grow what you love, what you eat, and what you want to look at, in a space that makes you feel healthy and empowered.

WATCH: Eric Toensmeier Shows You His Edible Forest Garden

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

From Eric Toensmeier, award-winning author of Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles and contributing author of Dave Jacke‘s Edible Forest Gardens Vol. 1 and 2:

Here’s a little video tour of a nice patch from our edible forest garden. It is an edible forest garden in miniature built around an American persimmon.

About the book: There is a fantastic array of vegetables you can grow in your garden, and not all of them are annuals. In Perennial Vegetables the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food.

Learn more about Perennial Vegetables in our bookstore.

Buy it on Amazon.

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June Is for Gardening! All Gardening & Agriculture Books 25% off!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Bring Chelsea Green authors into your garden with you this summer!  In celebration of the upcoming summer solstice, all books in the Gardening & Agriculture category are a massive 25% off!

Sale ends June 30.

View all Gardening & Agriculture titles here.

WATCH: An Interview with Cheesemonger Gordon Edgar (Extended)

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

In this extended interview, cheesemonger Gordon Edgar recalls how punk rock led him into the cheese business and recommends a few of his favorite cheeses.

About the book: Witty and irreverent, informative and provocative, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is the highly readable story of Gordon Edgar’s unlikely career as a cheesemonger at San Francisco’s worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. A former punk-rock political activist, Edgar bluffed his way into his cheese job knowing almost nothing, but quickly discovered a whole world of amazing artisan cheeses. There he developed a deep understanding and respect for the styles, producers, animals, and techniques that go into making great cheese.

Learn more about Cheesemonger in our bookstore.

Buy it on

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Riki Ott on Countdown: BP Involved in Massive Cover-Up

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez oil spill veteran Dr. Riki Ott alleges that BP has been engaging in activities to cover up the true extent of the damage from the Gulf Coast disaster.

Watch now:



Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

About the book: Author Riki Ott, a rare combination of commercial salmon “fisherm’am” and PhD marine biologist, describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore. Ott illustrates in stirring fashion the oil industry’s 20-year trail of pollution and deception that predated the tragic 1989 spill and delves deep into the disruption to the fishing community of Cordova over the following 19 years. In vivid detail, she describes the human trauma coupled inextricably with that of the sound’s wildlife and its long road to recovery.

Learn more about Not One Drop in our bookstore.

Buy it on

Find a Green Partner store near you.

The Obama Presidency: Possibility or Peril?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Is Barack Obama’s presidency really in peril? Robert Kuttner thinks our president is squandering a historic opportunity for fundamental, FDR-scale reform.

From The Nation:

Kuttner identifies four main reasons for why BHO is thus far no FDR. “One is his own character as a conciliatory consensus builder,” he writes. “A second is that economics was never Obama’s strong suit. A third is the residual power of Wall Street; without a president personally committed to Roosevelt-scale change, even a national financial collapse has not been able to shake the hegemony of finance. And a fourth is that the social movements that were so prevalent during the other eras of crisis and great presidential leadership are largely absent today.” Such an outcome was by no means inevitable or preordained, Kuttner believes, despite the awful hand the new president was dealt. “In Obama’s fateful first year, there was a road not taken, a possible road to radical reform, broadened prosperity, and the mobilization of an appreciative citizenry,” he writes. Kuttner faults Obama for this, but is far more critical of the president’s top advisers, who he believes led an inexperienced leader astray. “In many respects, the path Obama chose was determined by the people he appointed,” Kuttner asserts.

About the book: In this hard-hitting, incisive account, Kuttner shares his unique, insider view of how the Obama administration not only missed its moment to turn our economy around—but deepened Wall Street’s risky grip on America’s future. Carefully constructing a one-year history of the problem, the players, and the outcome, Kuttner gives readers an unparalleled account of the president’s first year.

Learn more about A Presidency in Peril in our bookstore.

Buy it on

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Education of a Homesteader: The Rutland Herald Reviews Up Tunket Road

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Up Tunket Road was recently reviewed in the Rutland Herald:

It’s a tale that captures the unpredictable nature of life as a Vermont homesteader, but it is also part of a serious narrative about a family’s quest for a self-sufficient lifestyle and a reflection on what homesteading means in an age that is coming to grips with climate change and increasing human demands on the land.

Read the whole article here.

About the book: Up Tunket Road is the inspiring true story of a young couple who embraced the joys of simple living while also acknowledging its frustrations and complexities. Ackerman-Leist writes with humor about the inevitable foibles of setting up life off the grid—from hauling frozen laundry uphill to getting locked in the henhouse by their ox. But he also weaves an instructive narrative that contemplates the future of simple living. His is not a how-to guide, but something much richer and more important—a tale of discovery that will resonate with readers who yearn for a better, more meaningful life, whether they live in the city, country, or somewhere in between.

Learn more about Up Tunket Road in our bookstore.

Buy it on

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WATCH: Riki Ott on The Riz Khan Show: With Government’s Help, BP Is Censoring the Media

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott, author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, appeared on the Al Jazeera English program The Riz Khan Show to discuss BP’s failed attempts to stop the oil leaking into the gulf, their censorship of the media, the federal government’s collusion, and the health effects of the toxic crude and the chemical dispersants on wildlife and on cleanup workers.

Watch Part 1

Watch Part 2

Read Dr. Ott’s piece on the Huffington Post: From the Ground: BP Censoring Media, Destroying Evidence

About the book: Author Riki Ott, a rare combination of commercial salmon “fisherm’am” and PhD marine biologist, describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore. Ott illustrates in stirring fashion the oil industry’s 20-year trail of pollution and deception that predated the tragic 1989 spill and delves deep into the disruption to the fishing community of Cordova over the following 19 years. In vivid detail, she describes the human trauma coupled inextricably with that of the sound’s wildlife and its long road to recovery.

Read Real People v. Corporate “People”: The Fight Is On from Yes! magazine.

Learn more about Not One Drop in our bookstore.

Buy it on

Find a Green Partner store near you.

WATCH: Distraught Gulf Shrimper Arrested for Pouring Oil on Herself in Senate Energy Hearing

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation Gulf Coast fisherma’am and author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas, is getting national media attention for her dramatic protest at a Senate hearing featuring Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who supports opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, whose agency oversaw safety regulations for BP’s ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig.



Update: Pictures of Diane Wilson pouring oil on herself and being led away in handcuffs.

Protesting Senator Murkowski’s Refusal to Make BP Pay

Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf, poured oil on herself at today’s Senate Energy Committee hearing to protest  Senator Lisa Murkowski’s refusal to make BP pay for the disaster that has devastated Wilson’s shrimping community.  Republican Lisa Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, blocked the bill that would have lifted the oil companies’ liability cap (the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act). Wilson was removed from the hearing and arrested.

Protestor Diane Wilson
Photo: AFP

Wilson traveled from Texas, where her livelihood and those of her fellow shrimpers has been ruined. She had this to say, “My name is Diane Wilson. I am a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf. With this BP disaster, I am seeing the destruction of my community and I am outraged. I am also seeing elected representatives like Senator Lisa Murkowski blocking BP from being legally responsible to pay for this catastrophe. She stopped the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act and wants to keep the liability cap at a pitiful $75 million. This is outrageous. How dare she side with big oil over the American people who have been so devastated by this manmade disaster.”

“We want people to call Senator Murkowski’s office and tell her to stop supporting big oil and support a healthy environment and American livelihoods instead,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, who was with Wilson at the hearing. “Our members from across the country have sent Murkowski thousands of emails already. We also want the Senator to call for Diane Wilson to be exonerated. BP CEO Tony Hayward should be in jail, not a distraught shrimper!”

Wilson has been working for decades fighting the polluting of the Gulf. She wrote the book An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas detailing her years long fight against oil and chemical companies in her community. She went on to say, “I have seen the oil and chemical companies destroying our air, water, our wildlife–and the government going along with it. Politicians like Murkowski take campaign money from big oil and then get in bed with the same oil and chemical corporations. This must stop. Enough is enough.” Read the full text of Diane’s statement here.

Wilson is also a co-founder of the organization CODEPINK Women for Peace. She was in front of BP HQ in Houston, Texas two weeks ago to protest the oil spill and draw attention to BP’s legacy of negligence. Read her most recent article, “The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico” published on

In the News

Grist: The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico
By Diane Wilson

The Hill: Salazar testimony sullied by ‘oil’ spatter
By Alexander Bolton

Spreading the Word

Last Word Books

Common Dreams (formerly


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