Archive for February, 2013


A Permaculture Love Story, and Other New Books

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Tired of winter yet? Dreaming of spring? Our new crop of spring titles have arrived to give you something to read until the thaw comes — all on sale for 35% off until March 15th!

From natural beekeeping and saving seeds, to cold weather gardening and growing perennials, our newest books (and DVDs!) will teach you new skills for a holistic and sustainable future.

 If you’re a small farmer who wants to leave fossil fuels behind, Stephen Leslie’s book The New Horse-Powered Farm will teach you how to use draft horses to grow vegetables — and put your tractor out to pasture. For aspiring orchardists, we’ve brought a revised and updated edition of The Grafter’s Handbook back to print—this indispensable manual will remain the go-to guide for a new generation of orchardists.

In case you missed it, Anne Raver of the New York Times wrote about the “permaculture paradise” in Paradise Lot for Valentine’s Day: “It was the build-it-and-they-will-come principle…two self-described plant geeks [bought] a soulless duplex on a barren lot in this industrial city 10 years ago and turned it into their own version of the Garden of Eden. Their Eves, they figured, would show up sooner or later.” Spoiler alert: it worked!

We hope love grows in your garden this spring too.

Happy Reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

 

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Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.

Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied.

Order Heirloom Seeds from Carol Deppe, Author of The Resilient Gardener

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

…And order them now! Quantities of these special seeds are extremely limited.

Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, sells packets of the seeds she raises. With a focus on the survival crops she describes in The Resilient Gardener, her seed catalog doesn’t read like your typical, flowery missive from Burpee or Seeds of Change. Deppe carefully and simply explains the virtues of each crop, such as the ease of drying possessed by ‘Costata Romanesco’ Squash, and the delicious, distinct flavor of ‘Black Coco’ Bush Dry Beans, (“…bland just doesn’t cut it for me.”).

Deppe also hints at a tiny bit of the story of developing each crop, which she has carefully bred to its current form. And reminds growers of qualities you might not be familiar with if you typically purchase large-scale commercial seed.

The entry for ‘Gaucho’ Bush Dry Beans cautions, “I’m expecting about 1% off types from this year’s crop. Just cull anything that dries down much later than the Gauchos or is a little viney instead of bushy. Give your Gaucho dry beans as much isolation as you can from your Phaseolus vulgaris green bean types, but don’t worry overly much about purity. Gaucho wasn’t pure when I got it, as is common with heirloom beans.”

If you’ve read The Resilient Gardener, your mouth is probably already watering at the chance to get the perfect corn to grow for Carol’s Universal Skillet Bread, or her favorite snack food, pop beans.

Download a PDF of the Fertile Valley Seeds catalog here (ordering instructions are on page one).

Also available as a Word document, and in Rich Text Format.

And just to reiterate, quantities of these seeds are extremely limited. So don’t wait too long to place your order.

New Books from our Publishing Partners

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Chelsea Green creates most of our books from scratch. We determine the next great topic for a book in, say, sustainable agriculture, find an expert who has perfected that practice, and steward their book from start to finish (and sometimes, all the way to the New York Times best-seller’s list!).

But we also offer a helping hand to smaller publishers and the growing number of authors who are choosing to self-publish their work. Because they’re small, or based in another country, these publishers and authors can lack access to markets here in the United States, so we distribute their books and DVDs to mainstream retailers and indie bookstores alike.

If you are an author with a book or DVD on sustainability, ecological agriculture, or ethical food, you can find out more about our distribution process by downloading this PDF.

Below are the latest titles from our publishing partners.

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More than just a cookbook, Long Way on a Little presents farmer and author Shannon Hayes’s practical knowledge about integrating livestock into a sustainable society with her accessible writing and engaging wit.  Designed to be the only meat book a home cook could ever need, Long Way on a Little is packed with Hayes’ signature delicious no-fail recipes for perfect roasts and steaks cooked indoors and out on the grill, easy-to-follow techniques to make use of the less-conventional, inexpensive cuts that often go to waste, tips on stretching a sustainable food budget, and an extensive section on using leftovers and creating soups; all with the aim of helping home cooks make the most effective and economical use of their local farm products or their own backyard livestock.

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate tells the story of what that next movement in the fine flavor chocolate symphony might hold. Told in four lively parts covering everything from before the bean to after the bar—genetics, farming, manufacturing, and bonbons—the book features interviews with dozens of international stakeholders across the fine flavor industry to consider the promises and pitfalls ahead. It looks through what is happening today to understand where things are going, while unwrapping the possibilities for the millions and millions of us who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.

In Build Your Own Barrel Oven, Max and Eva Edleson offer a comprehensive guide for planning and building a practical, efficient and affordable wood-fired oven. The barrel oven offers surprising convenience because it is hot and ready to bake in within 15-20 minutes and is easy to maintain at a constant temperature.
The Passivhaus Handbook is an essential guide for everyone wanting to realize a supremely comfortable, healthy and durable home with exceptionally low energy costs. Whether you are building an extension, renovating your house or starting from scratch; and are new to low-energy design or already have some experience, this book will help you navigate the potential pitfalls and misconceptions. It brings together current thinking and best practices.
In Sustainability: A Cultural History, Ulrich Grober reassesses the concept of sustainability using a range of fascinating historical instances of its application. He considers the vision of men such as Hans Carl von Carlowitz, credited with having first formulated the three pillars of sustainability: environmental equilibrium, economic security, and social justice. The journey takes in Francis of Assisi‘s thirteenth-century “Canticle of the Sun,” as well as Greek philosophers and Enlightenment scholars. Whether in the court of Louis XIV or the silver mines of Saxony, Grober reveals that sustainability is always born of crisis and yet also marks the birth of a new awareness, a realization that the planet we live on has to be sustained and preserved for future generations.

Hot Beds is a practical, illustrated guide has everything you need to understand about how to utilize this highly productive, low-cost, year-round, eco-friendly gardening technique. Straightforward explanations, diagrams, and examples show how the natural process of decay can be harnessed to enable out-of-season growing without using energy from fossil fuels or elaborate equipment.

From award-winning journalist Jared Flesher comes Sourlands, a film that weaves a provocative tale of ecology, energy, and agriculture. From a deep forest surrounded by the sprawling suburbs of New Jersey, Flesher’s film lays out a story that feels simultaneously intimate and expansive.

In the film Genetic Roulette, from Jeffrey Smith, never-before-seen evidence points to genetically engineered foods as a major contributor to rising disease rates in the U.S. population, especially among children. Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, inflammatory diseases, and infertility are just some of the problems identified in humans, pets. livestock, and lab animals that eat genetically modified soybeans and corn.

For the second year running, Slow Food International offers an English language edition of annual wine guide, Slow Wine, which adopts a new approach to wine criticism and looks at qualities that extend well beyond the palate. Slow Wine doesn’t simply select and review Italy’s finest bottles. It describes what’s in the glass, but also tells you what’s behind it. Namely the work, the aims and the passion of producers, their bond with the land and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques — favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices. That’s not all! This year over half the producers listed will offer you a discount of at least 10% on your purchases, if you visit them with a copy of this guide in your hand.

Plant the Seeds of Greatness

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

This month, plant the seeds of a great growing season. Spend some time planning what you’ll do in the spring, so as soon as the soil thaws you can get planting.

Want to incorporate permaculture principles into your vegetable beds this year? Curious about trying new varieties of plants this year, or a new method of composting?

These select farming and gardening books are on sale to help you have an abundant and joyful harvest in the coming year.

Sepp Holzer is known around the world for bringing deserted landscapes back to life using his unique methods of creating water-retention basins. In Desert or Paradise, Holzer applies his core philosophy for increasing food production, earth health, reconnecting mankind with nature, and reforestation and water conservation across the world. He urges us to look beyond failed “solutions” to drought by learning from his lengthy catalog of successes in arid, rainfall-dependent regions such as Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal.

From his twenty-seven years of experience at Cate Farm in Vermont, Richard Wiswall knows firsthand the joys of starting and operating an organic farm—as well as the challenges of making a living from one. Farming offers fundamental satisfaction from producing food, working outdoors, being one’s own boss, and working intimately with nature. But, unfortunately, many farmers avoid learning about the business end of farming, and because of this, they often work harder than they need to, or quit farming altogether because of frustrating—and often avoidable—losses. In this set, featuring The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, plus the DVD Business Advice for Organic Farmers, Wiswall shares his story, and offers detailed advice on how to make your farm production more efficient, better manage your employees and finances, and turn a profit.

With The Winter Harvest Handbook, anyone can have access to Eliot Coleman’s innovative, highly successful methods for raising crops throughout the coldest of winters.

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm.

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

Get the best information on growing these easy and interesting crops from Eric Toensmeier in this Book & DVD set, featuring his award-winning book Perennial Vegetables, and tour his own lush forest garden in the new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Pastured Poultry Profit$ by Joel Salatin shows how a couple working six months per year for 50 hours per week on 20 acres can net $25,000-$30,000 per year with an investment equivalent to the price of one new medium-sized tractor. Seldom has agriculture held out such a plum. In a day when main-line farm experts predict the continued demise of the family farm, the pastured poultry opportunity shines like a beacon in the night, guiding the way to a brighter future.

Go Beyond Sustainability with Community Resilience Guides

Monday, February 18th, 2013

As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, how will we face the problems our industrial economy has caused? Globalization pretends that place no longer matters, and that moving jobs to distant countries is no more important a decision than making a tax deduction. Burning fossil fuels is becoming increasingly expensive both financially and environmentally, while climate change threatens the very foundations of our civilization, and our ability to feed ourselves.

The threats are clear, yet the governments of the world do nothing. It turns out that many of the best solutions to the myriad afflictions we face are not to be found in national policy, but instead through hyper-local action. And, in fact, cities and towns across the world are already succeeding where federal authorities have failed.

Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Post Carbon Institute to publish a series of Community Resilience Guides to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable of local efforts to counteract the negative effects of globalization, climate change, and the industrial food system.

We hope these guides will inspire you to imagine a different way of doing business, and empower you with resources and ideas to enact the same change in your community.

We’ve made the Guides available as a set — get them for 35% off when you get them as the full set. You can also purchase the books individually by clicking on the cover images below.

Learn more about the series at Resilience.org.

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems

by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Rebuilding the Foodshed refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.

Power From the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects

by Greg Pahl

More than ninety percent of the electricity we use to light our communities, and nearly all the energy we use to run our cars, heat our homes, and power our factories comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Power from the People, energy expert Greg Pahl shows how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofits, governments, and businesses are already putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.

Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity

by Michael H. Shuman

How can people increasingly concerned with the poor returns from Wall Street and the devastating impact of global companies on their communities invest in Main Street?

In Local Dollars, Local Sense, local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors, including the nearly 99% who are unaccredited, how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies—and profit in the process. Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices—from institutional lending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.

Join us at the NOFA Vermont Winter Conference!

Friday, February 15th, 2013

This weekend at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Chelsea Green staff and a selection of our northeast-based authors will be attending the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s annual winter conference.

If you’re an aspiring farmer, or a seasoned pro looking to learn some new skills or network with others in your field (pun intended, sorry), the NOFA-VT conference is a great place to spend a day or the full weekend.

Below is a list of authors, the workshops they’ll be leading, and the time of their book signings. Their books will also be on sale, and Chelsea Green staff will be tabling and hosting their signings, so stop by and say hello!

Registration info and further details can be found here.

NOFA-VT (February 15-17)

  • Eliot Coleman (The Winter Harvest Handbook) Saturday, 2:15 –3:30PM- Keeping Four Season Farming in the Family • Book Signing Following Workshop •
  • Ross Conrad (Natural Beekeeping Revised and Expanded Edition) — Sunday, 2:15-3:30 PM - Apitherapy: Health and Healing from the Hive
  • Ben Falk (The Resilient Farm and Homestead) — Saturday, 10:45-12:00 PM - Homestead Resiliency: Principles in Practice
  • Stephen Leslie (The New Horse-Powered Farm) — Saturday, 3:45-5:00 PM - The New Horse Powered Farm
  • David Buchanan (Taste, Memory) — Friday, February 15 – Fermenting the Harvest
  • Jack Lazor (The Organic Grain Grower) — Sunday, 10:45- 12:00 PM – Growing and Processing Oats for Human Consumption in VT
    Sunday, 2:15 – 5:00 PM (Double Session) – Making Organic Even Better by Producing Nutrient Dense Crops for Ourselves and our Livestock
  • Susan Clark (Slow Democracy) — Saturday, 10:45AM- 12:00 PM – Slow Democracy: Skills for Success in Community Change • Book Signing Following Workshop •
  • Grace Gershuny (Compost, Vermicompost, and Compost Tea) — Sunday, 3:45 – 5:00 PM – Is Organic Sustainable?
  • Philip Ackerman-Leist (Rebuilding the Foodshed) — Sunday, 1:00 PM • Book Signing Only •

A Permaculture Love Story — Paradise Lot featured in the New York Times

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

New York Times garden columnist Anne Raver recently visited Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates’s Paradise Lot in Holyoke, Massachussetts.

Enchanted by the garden full of delicious perennials, and the charming love story that brought two plant geeks the “Eves” they dreamed of, she penned this piece.

Not only does Raver celebrate Eric’s new memoir, Paradise Lot, which tells the whole story of turning a barren Massachusetts backyard into a veritable Garden of Eden, she also highlights the practical beauty of permaculture — a holistic, beyond-organic, systems-thinking approach to gardening that Chelsea Green has been promoting for decades.

Eric Toensmeier has been a proponent of the low-work, high-yield system as well, writing Perennial Vegetables, co-authoring the two-volume Edible Forest Gardens, and starring in the new DVD Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier.

Read Anne Raver’s entire article on Paradise Lot here, and spread the word!

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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HOLYOKE, Mass. — It was the build-it-and-they-will-come principle that inspired two self-described plant geeks to buy a soulless duplex on a barren lot in this industrial city 10 years ago and turn it into their own version of the Garden of Eden. Their Eves, they figured, would show up sooner or later.

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City, by Eric Toensmeier, with contributions from Jonathan Bates, tells the story of how it happened. Published by Chelsea Green this month, it’s just in time for armchair gardening — and Valentine’s Day.

It’s a love story intertwined with the tale of how a small, barren backyard shaded by Norway maples, with an asphalt driveway in front, became a place that could sustain about 160 kinds of edible plants, including pawpaws, persimmons, Asian pears, gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries and rarities like goumi (tiny berries with a sour cherry zing).

Dwarf kiwi vines now climb up mimosa trees, with a lush carpet of shade-loving crops like currants, jostaberries (a cross between black currants and gooseberries), edible hostas, Solomon’s seal and May apples.

Ramps, that wild leek so coveted by foodies that it’s being stripped from eastern forests, thrive beneath the pawpaw trees, and so does giant fuki (Petasites japonicus Giganteus), with its four-foot-wide leaves. And fuki is not just a beautiful leaf that lends a tropical look to the landscape; like rhubarb’s, its stalks are edible.

“You can already see the flower buds, here and here,” Mr. Toensmeier, 41, told me one freezing day about two weeks ago.

He fingered the little bumps emerging from the frozen-looking ground, picturing a spring still invisible to the eye.

“It’s our first flower as soon as the snow is gone in March,” he said. “We eat the leaf stalk” — boiled and peeled, he explains in the book, then marinated in raspberry vinegar, shredded ginger and tamari — “it’s like weird-flavored celery.”

At the moment, however, this paradise is an icy landscape of bare trees, stumps and limp leaves, with sprigs of water celery peeking out of the frozen pool. In the summer, water lotus blooms here, but after last week’s storm, it’s under two feet of snow.

Marikler Giron Toensmeier reached down to pick a bit of water celery emerging from the frozen pond. It was about the size of a snowflake, but it was green and tasted like celery. “And look, praying mantises,” she said, touching one of the wrinkled egg cases stuck here and there among the dried grasses and twigs of the sleeping garden.

Ms. Toensmeier, 38, a native of Guatemala, is one of the Eves.

Keep reading…

The Magic of Seed-Saving

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“Seed is the vital link to our agricultural past,” writes John Navazio, author of our latest book, The Organic Seed Grower. Seeds are at the heart of local food and agriculture, and there is burgeoning interest in how to grow your own seeds.

Navazio’s foundational book will help skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, grow seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, Navazio offers many of the tricks of the trade used by professional seed growers.

If you’re interested in growing your own vegetables better suited to your taste and hardiness zone, Carol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is a perfect place to start for any gardener or small farmer.

For first-time seed savers, Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed is a perfect starting guide. If the magic of saving rare seeds catches your fancy, Janisse Ray’s latest work of literary nonfiction, The Seed Underground, offers inspiring stories of eccentric and impassioned seed-savers across the country. As Ray puts it, seeds are “the most hopeful thing in the world,” and “there’s no despair in a seed.

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production

Retail Price: $49.95
Discount Price: $32.47

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower includes detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables and provides users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

WATCH John explain why organic seed is important

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Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

Retail Price: $24.95 
Discount Price: $16.22

Seed to Seed describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables, and is widely acknowledged as the best guide available for home gardeners to learn effective ways to produce and store seeds on a small scale.

Reader Review: “I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’ve been hunting for a reference guide that tells me exactly how to save each type of vegetable seed, and this book is it…This book should be on every sustainable homesteader’s reference shelf.”

Browse the Table of Contents…

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The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food

Retail Price: $17.95 
Discount Price: $11.67

We are losing our seeds. Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost — forever.

In The Seed Underground Janisse Ray brings us the inspiring stories of ordinary gardeners whose aim is to save time-honored, open-pollinated varieties like Old Time Tennessee muskmelon and Long County Longhorn okra—varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save, and swap the seeds.

READ: Excerpt from The Seed Underground – How to Save Tomato Seeds

 

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Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving

Retail Price: $29.95
Discount Price: $19.47

All gardeners and farmers should be plant breeders, says author Carol Deppe. Developing new vegetable varieties doesn’t require a specialized education, a lot of land, or even a lot of time. It can be done on any scale. It’s enjoyable. It’s deeply rewarding. You can get useful new varieties much faster than you might suppose. And you can eat your mistakes.

Authoritative and easy-to-understand, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is the only guide to plant breeding and seed saving for the serious home gardener and the small-scale farmer or commercial grower.

“This is the best book to help adventuresome gardeners become plant breeders and seed savers. But it does more. It explains in clear, readable terms what’s going on with the genetic modifications of our food system and why backyard plant breeders are a crucial link to a healthy future for our food system.”—Will Raap, President, Gardener’s Supply Company

Browse the Table of Contents…

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Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

Retail Price: $25.00
Discount Price: $16.25

Daughter of Iowa farmers, Missouri homesteader, and mother of five, Diane Ott Whealy never anticipated that one day she would become a leader in a grass-roots movement to preserve our agricultural biodiversity. The love for the land and the respect for heirloom seeds that Diane shared with her husband, Kent Whealy, led to their starting Seed Savers Exchange in 1975.

Ott Whealy’s heartwarming story captures what is best in the American spirit: the ability to dream and, through hard work and perseverance, inspire others to contribute their efforts to a cause. Thus was created one of the nation’s most admired nonprofits in the field of genetic preservation. 

Read a review of the book from Civil Eats

 

More Seed Titles On Sale

New Arrival: Save 25% on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural towns to the most urban of cities streets, people are growing, fermenting, enjoying, and celebrating food produced close to home. “Local food” is a thriving movement and also a fad, an evocative trend that captures people’s imaginations — sometimes even moreso than it translates into actual regional food production. When even Frito-Lay can claim that its mass-produced potato chips are “local” because, lo and behold, the majority of them are grown in Hastings, Florida…then it’s time to take the conversation to the next level.

Rebuilding the Foodshed, a new book by Green Mountain College professor and farmer Philip Ackerman-Leist, refocuses the locavore lens on rebuilding robust regional food systems. Only by taking a systems-thinking approach can we successfully replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands both affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead as we face a shifting, unpredictable climate and uncertain fossil fuel supplies.

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed the book. “For a somewhat wonkish book about food policy, Rebuilding the Foodshed is unusually humorous and open-minded. Vermont farmer and professor Ackerman-Leist ruminates his way through the conundrums and possibilities of local food, demonstrating how words and their definitions can shed light on and transform our understanding of the rapidly evolving, often confusing, emotion-fraught questions of what people eat, where the food comes from, who has access to what, and how the answers to these questions affect the lives of eaters and growers. With insight, he demonstrates how communities can bridge and transcend the “false divides” he pinpoints in the local-food conversation: urban/rural, small-scale/large-scale, local/international, and all/nothing.

Rebuilding the Foodshed is the third installment in the Community Resilience Guides series. Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Post Carbon Institute to publish this series to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable efforts currently being taken to restore local supplies of capital, food, and power. We’ve made them available as a discounted set here.

Learn more about the series at Resilience.org.

Renowned chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison contributed the Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed, which you can take a look at below.

Enjoy! 

Deborah Madison’s Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed by

When Technology Fails: Make Your Own Shoes

Friday, February 8th, 2013

The latest installment in our series of projects for the hardcore DIYer is a great idea for the post-apocalyptic future…but also a challenging and fun craft for any era!

Matthew Stein’s book, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, offers this quick guide to making your own shoes. The book is packed with useful tips for saving money, living a sustainable lifestyle, and surviving in a savage, Road Warrior-like dystopia.

We hope that will never happen, but if it does, at least your toes will be stylin’ and safe.

Have you made your own shoes? If you do, share a picture with us! Visit our Facebook page and join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

The following article was adapted for the web from When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency.

In pioneering days, a good-fitting pair of shoes was a truly valuable possession. Often, when shoemakers passed through a village, they would make several pairs of shoes for each person who could afford them, as it might be years before they had the opportunity to purchase another pair of good-fitting shoes. Making your own traditional boots is not easy, but sandals and moccasins are easy and rewarding leathercraft projects for the beginner.

Soles can be attached with stitching, primitive hide glues, more modern glues such as Barge Cement, or nailed in place (cobbling). McNett Corporation makes an excellent urethane shoe-repair cement, called Freesole, which can be used to repair holes in shoes and worn soles or glue new soles in place. Freesole is available through backcountry suppliers and shoe-repair shops. It is reportedly much stronger than Barge Cement and withstands much higher temperatures, but I have not tried it yet for gluing soles in place. See Chapter 14 for instructions on how to make your own glues.

Sinews, heavy waxed nylon thread, or multistrand wire are all good, strong materials for stitching together footwear. If you scavenge wire for thread, make sure that the strands are fine or else constant flexing will cause the metal to fatigue and the wire to break. Shoe soles and straps can be nailed together by a process called “cobbling.” Shoe soles that were attached by simply nailing short nails through the soles into the midsole would soon work loose and fall off. Traditional cobblers use nails with slender, tapering tips that are nailed through the straps and soles against a metal anvil, bending the nail tips backward so that they form a hook shape. By bending the nail tips, the sole or strap is captured in such a way that the nails can’t easily work their way back out.

Cast-off rubber tires make great sandals and soles. Thomas J. Elpel, author of Participating in Nature1, believes that the best all-around homemade footgear is a tire sandal worn over a moccasin. You can wear holes in a pair of moccasins in less than a day of rough travel, and tire sandals can wear a hole in your feet (blisters) in a few hours. When you wear the two together, you get the comfort of moccasins combined with the durability of tire sandals. Around camp you can wear just the moccasins. When fording rivers, wear just the sandals. Using a band saw, sharp knife, chisel, hacksaw, or coping saw, cut tire sandals and buckles from older-style tires that don’t have steel belts.

Use the pattern shown in Figure 10-27 as a rough guide. Start by tracing the outline of your foot on a piece of paper. Add about 3/8 inch to the front and sides, but not the heel area. Make two marks at the centers of your anklebones (A) and a mark at the side of the ball of your foot, directly behind your big toe (B). Draw lines through these points, as shown in the pattern, to help you locate the strap loops. The strap loops are designed for 3/4-inch-wide webbing. If you use a different size of strap material, adjust and customize your pattern as necessary to fit your foot. Cut out your pattern as you would a paper doll, and lay it on the tire to mark the outline for cutting the rubber (Elpel 1999, 134).

Click here to listen to the story of the shoe cobbler on NPR.


1. Elpel, Thomas J. Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel’s Guide to
Primitive Living Skills
. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 1999.


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