Nature & Environment Archive


Capturing Landscape in a Wine: The Unlikely Vineyard

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Deirdre Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

Our farming came from wanting to grow particular vegetables for our restaurant kitchen. Once we started going with the restaurant garden and farm, I also became interested in the process of making wine. I was doing a lot of work representing organic and biodynamic wine growers on our wine list. Intellectually, I knew the whole process of making wine, but I had never done it on my own. I wanted to do that, just for my own edification,” Heekin told Modern Farmer in a recent interview. “In the second year we went to go visit another Vermont vineyard that was making some really lovely wine and it dawned on us. We have a fantastic south facing slope that would be perfect for a vineyard, there are some great people doing it in Vermont — let’s just do it. We left that particular winery with 180 plants that day. We planted that summer. It has been full tilt growing as we go along. We are now in our fifth vintage.”

AnUnlikelyVineyardChallenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Heekin and her husband set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant—Osteria Pane e Salute, a restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos (Heekin is also an avid Instragrammer), this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir by Deirdre Heekin is now available.

In Memoir, Environmental Insider Calls for Radical Change

Monday, October 20th, 2014

As an influential figure in America’s environmental movement, Gus Speth can boast quite a remarkable resume–co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, founder of the World Resources Institute, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, environmental advisor to Presidents Carter and Clinton, and the list goes on.

Yet, as a southern gentleman, boasting isn’t really his style. Instead Speth prefers to acknowledge the long list of people that have helped him along the way—his “angels by the river, ” as he calls them.

Speth’s new memoir, Angels by the River, follows his unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism. He explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone who now believes the US inaction on climate change is, as he puts it, “the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the republic.”

If you are wondering how to make a difference in this increasingly complex world and looking for inspiration, let Gus Speth’s own life’s arc be a guide, and his clarion call for widespread system change be your call to action. Listen to his interview on Vermont Public Radio about his reflections on the environmental movement. Chelsea Green’s Shay Totten also sat down with Speth to talk about his new book and what it has been like to live his life on the front lines of change. See below for their conversation.

Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave “Gus” Speth is on sale now.

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A Conversation with Author Gus Speth

ST: Let’s start with the title of the book – who are your angels, and what role did this river of your youth have in shaping your early thoughts about nature and life?

GS: Starting with a real river, the Edisto in the South Carolina lowcountry, I imagine my life as a journey down a river, and around almost every bend there have been angels waiting. It’s very clear to me that without the love, support and intense collaboration of the angels in my life, starting with my family, I would have gone off in some terribly wrong directions and many key things simply would not have happened. I wrote this memoir in large part to recognize these remarkable people.

Imagination aside, the Edisto, with its dark, tannin-stained waters and ample hardwood bottomland swamps, was where I first discovered the natural world, and girls.

ST: Your hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina was the scene of the horrific Orangeburg Massacre. That year, 1968, is often remembered as a pivotal year in US history. You were at Yale Law School at the time of the shootings, but you had been living in, and writing about, some of the tensions that preceded the shootings.

GS: In the mid 1960s I did what I could to support and encourage the moderate whites in Orangeburg to move forward on the civil rights demands of the town’s black community. And they did try, indeed try hard, but without success. I relate that story in the memoir.

Orangeburg had been a hotbed of resistance to racial progress since the early 1950s, and that continued through the 1960s. This situation helped set the stage for what happened there in 1968, a great national tragedy but one that has been little noticed outside the state, even today.

ST: Did attending a Northern school – Yale University and later Yale Law School – help to shape, or reshape, your views about the world, and in particular that of race? If so, how? What did you intend to study at Yale, and what did you end up studying?

GS: I devote a chapter in the memoir to what happened to me when I “went North” to school. The chapter is called “Things Fall Apart,” and at Yale my views on race, society, and the South did in fact come crashing down around me. As I explain in Angels by the River, that can be a terrifying experience, but I discovered in the end that that unmooring from the past was entirely liberating and that I was free to think afresh about the world. I realized also that I had uncritically accepted the status quo and that I never wanted to do that again.

I went to Yale to study science and was a biochemistry major for two years, but in the nick of time I realized I wasn’t getting a rounded liberal arts education and so switched to political science and later to an individualized curriculum Yale allowed me to create.

ST: You helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council. What was missing from the environmental movement at the time that the NRDC was created? Did it achieve what you had hoped?

GS: When big new causes open up, as happened for the environment in the late 1960s, there often occurs an intense period of institution building—a creative period when organizations rise to meet the occasion. In a chapter called “The Greening,” I describe how I and others, seeing the moment, were able to launch two much-needed environmental groups, NRDC and the World Resources Institute. Both are powerhouses today. I often joke that all my groups do better after I leave.

I shudder to think where we would be without the successes of our mainstream environmental groups, but it is obvious now that America’s mainstream environmentalism is not up to today’s environmental challenges, like climate change.

ST: What changed for you personally that led you, someone known for groundbreaking legal and policy work, to get arrested in front of the White House?

GS: In 2012 Wen Stephenson interviewed me for an online article and when it appeared, here was the title: “’Ultimate Insider’ Goes Radical.” I spend a generous portion of the memoir describing how a conservative, Southern white boy became a civilly disobedient, older, still white guy bent on transformative change to a new system of political economy. Among other things, we’ll need a new environmentalism in America to make this transition, one that is deeply committed not just to traditional environmental goals but also to challenging consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer, rejecting growthmania and pioneering a redefinition of what society should be striving to grow, challenging corporate dominance and seeking a redefinition of the corporation and its goals, joining the struggle for social justice and fairness, and launching a powerful assault on the anthropocentric and contempocentric values that currently dominate American culture.

To drive these deeper changes we’ll need a powerful movement and the rebirth of activism, protests, demonstrations, and sometimes civil disobedience.

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

In Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman — a longtime vegetarian — argues that cattle are neither inherently bad for the Earth nor is meat bad for our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe.

Hahn Niman, a former environmental attorney and activist, dispels popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world the author shows how foods from cattle – milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass – are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.

She also criticizes the modern, industrial food system — especially as it pertains to meat production — for being harmful to animals, the environment, and our health. Here’s a short excerpt from the book’s final analysis:

“I will be the first to agree that industrial methods for raising farm animals are indefensible, and I believe all people should join in rejecting them. Having seen it in all its gory details, I have no qualms about calling industrialized animal production a routinized form of animal torture. While Prohibitionists attacking innocent apple trees with axes seem absurd to us today, a lot of discussion over the ethics of meat eating likewise focuses on the wrong villain. Industrial animal production is rightly vilified; animal farming, on the other hand, is not.

What has really fostered my interest in the debate over meat eating is not a desire to encourage meat consumption but a longing for some nuance in the discussion. The issue is far from black-and-white, and polarized camps lobbing accusations at each other only hinder movement toward a better system. Building a food system that is more ecological and more humane is far more important to me than whether or not so-and-so is eating meat.

I believe the real issue is whether we humans are living up to our responsibilities of good stewardship of animals and the earth. Michael Pollan and others have proposed the idea that animals “chose” domestication based on a sort of “bargain” with humanity.  (…) However, it’s reasonable to assume, as well, that animals would never have opted for such an arrangement if torture had been part of the deal. Stated simply: By raising animals in factory farms, humans are violating their age-old contract with domesticated animals.

(…)

Individuals and groups are rightly concerned about adequate food supplies for the future. But they would do well to focus their attention on this imminent crisis, and on the way livestock are managed on the land, rather than on the absolute number of livestock, which has little significance. Properly managed grazing animals are an important part of the solution to feeding the world in the future.”

 For more from Defending Beef, click here to read the Preface and Introduction.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

Carbon Shock-onomics: Climate and the Economy

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Millions of people take to the streets this weekend around the world — with tens of thousands headed to New York City for the People’s Climate March — to show that people want action from global leaders, not more talk when it comes to responding to the growing climate crisis.

Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro, author of Carbon Shock, has pulled together some key facts that all climate marchers should know about the climate and the economy — today, and going forward as climate talks take shape next year in Paris.

carbon-shockTHE COSTS
Climate change is the biggest economic challenge of our times. The world’s two biggest economies—the US and Europe—estimate hundreds of billions of dollars in costs from heat waves, floods, and an accelerating wave of climate refugees fleeing lands on which they can no longer sustain themselves.

WHO PAYS?
The public takes the risk and the fossil fuel intensive industries make the profits. That’s why the true costs of fossil fuels are called ‘externalized’ costs—costs that are often hidden through dishonest, but perfectly legal, accounting. Who pays those costs? Taxpayers. You and me.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Companies
Just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. Three thousand of the world’s biggest companies cause $2.15 trillion in annual environmental costs, most of those relating to climate change, according to a UN report.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Consumers
A quarter of China’s greenhouse gases can be attributed to the production of goods for export to the US and Europe. Who is responsible for those emissions: the producer or the consumer?

THE TRADE WARS
The first climate trade war is being fought by the US, China & Russia against Europe, over the European Union’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases coming from airplanes, which contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than any other form of transportation.

FOOD & WATER
Two of the greatest threats to the US government’s finances are the looming costs of the federally subsidized crop insurance system, due to climate-related drought and intensifying heat, and flood insurance.

AN OIL SPILL A DAY
Whether greenhouse gases are emitted from a car’s gas tank in New York or a gushing oil rig off the Louisiana coast, to the planet it’s the same: We’re letting loose an oil spill a day into the atmosphere. Every conventional U.S car comes with $2,000 in greenhouse gas-related lifetime costs, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WHAT WE MUST DO
Honest accounting: Set a global price for carbon to reflect its damage to the planet. Take the green dividend and invest in a low-carbon, equitable, economy that supports renewable energy, local food, public transportation, and livable communities.

 

Climate March Poster by Shepard Fairey

Farm the Woods: Grow Food and Medicinals in Forests

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

In the eyes of many people, the practices of forestry and farming are mutually exclusive, because in the modern world, agriculture involves open fields, straight rows, and machinery to grow crops, while forests are reserved primarily for timber and firewood harvesting. In fact, history indicates that much of humanity lived and sustained itself from so-called “forest farming,” and only recently has the forest been traded for the field.

In Farming the Woods, authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario, but a complementary one; forest farms can be most productive in places where the plow is not: on steep slopes and in shallow soils. Forest farming is an invaluable practice to integrate into any farm or homestead, especially as the need for unique value-added products and supplemental income becomes increasingly important for farmers.

“That Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel believe people should be empowered in pursuits of integrated, multifunctional forest management is clear. As a result, the book is better positioned to positively impact forest owners, farmers, policy makers, and general readers alike,” writes John Munsell in the book’s foreword.

At your fingertips is a useful and inspirational forest farming guide,” Munsell adds.

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests invites readers to view agriculture with a remarkably new perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and other nontimber products. To get a sense of what useful information and resources the book offers, read a sample chapter — Food from the Forest: Fruits, Nuts, and More — below.

It’s common knowledge that many of the daily indulgences we take for granted, such as coffee, chocolate, and a variety of tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But few know that such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ramps (wild leeks), maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals, and more. Readers are also provided comprehensive information on:

• historical perspectives of forest farming;

• mimicking the forest in a changing climate;

• cultivation of medicinal crops;

• cultivation of food crops;

• creating a forest nursery;

• harvesting and utilizing wood products;

• the role of animals in the forest farm; and,

• how to design and manage your forest farm once it’s established.

In addition, Farming the Woods includes profiles of forest farmers from around the country who are practicing many of the techniques detailed in the book.

“Forest farmers profiled in this book offer a vision for how more people can live—with and in the forest rather than outside it, as a foreigner who only visits from time to time. Human civilization is at a time when the decisions we need to make are unlike those any generation has had to make before,” write Mudge and Gabriel in the introduction. “With increasing inequality, the collapse of ecosystems around the world, and the uncertain effects of climate change, there is not a better time to consider farming the woods.”

Farming the Woods is now on sale for 35% off until September 24.

Farming the Woods – Sample from Chapter 4: Food from the Forest by Chelsea Green Publishing

Replacing Windows? Understand Your New Glass Options

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Having been in my passive solar home for 35 years, my original Alcoa windows were showing their age. The time had come to upgrade. My current experience of selecting which window and glass type to purchase turned out to be more formidable than I anticipated even as a professional in solar home design. There now are multiple choices of window types. Some of these new high efficient windows, however, may actually decrease the effectiveness of a passive solar home.

I didn’t expect to run into any problems with purchasing my new windows. Unfortunately, I was in for a surprise. What follows are some useful tips that I hope will help others select which glass option to purchase and help them to navigate the confusion, mis-information and lack of knowledge that I encountered.

When I was designing and supplying prefabricated Green Mountain Solar Homes, Alcoa windows were a ”price” product. Those Alcoa windows, along with other material savings, allowed me to supply these homes at affordable costs – including my own.

As Green Mountain Homes grew, we became Andersen window dealers. Having had lots of experience with Andersen’s products, I decided to use Andersen’s casement windows in our prefabricated homes.

When I built my solar home, I used Alcoa’s standard dual glazed windows with U-Value of 0.52 and Shade Coefficient of 0.88 (1993 ASHRAE Handbook Values). As some readers may know, the windows and patio doors in a passive solar home serve as solar collectors and are strategically placed on the east, south and west walls of the home. The U-Factor and Shade Coefficient are important considerations in choosing windows as solar collectors. The lower the U-Factor, the less heat is lost back out the windows. The higher the Shade Coefficient, more free solar energy is passed through the glazing.

For folks who have read The Passive Solar House, note that the Shading Coefficient (SC) has been succeeded by Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) in the United States, however older windows and doors may still refer to their SC value. The relationship between SHGC and SC may be approximated as: SHGC = SC × 0.87. [As a side note: The SHGC is not to be confused with the Solar Heat Gain Factor (SHGF). Solar Heat Gain Factor’s for each North Latitude are published in the ASHRAE Fundamentals and are also listed in Appendix 2 of The Passive Solar House. The SHGF is used to calculate the total amount of heat gained for each month.]

To refresh your memory, U-Factor is a measure of the rate of heat loss. SHGC defines the amount of solar radiation that will pass through the glass. Again, the lower the U-Factor, the less heat is transmitted out the window. The higher the SHGC, the more solar radiation (free heat) will be transmitted into the home.

Going to Andersen’s website, I found that the Series 400 is available with four different types of Annealed Glass:

1. Low-E4
2. Low-E4 Sun
3. Low-E4 SmartSun
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun

Note: The above designations are all registered trademarks of the Andersen.

Now the decision of which of the above would be the correct choice for my solar home in terms of efficiency in heat loss and effectiveness as solar collectors.

Using the “No Grilles” coefficients, the U-Factor and SHGC are as follows:

U-Factor                  SHGC

1. Low-E4                                       .28                         .32
2. Low-E4 Sun                               .28                          .20
3. Low-E4 SmartSun                     .27                          .21
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun                 .30                          .54

Note the significant changes in these coefficients from my original Alcoa windows to Andersen’s Low-E4 PassiveSun:

Old Style Alcoa Dual Glazing                                 New Low-E4 PassiveSun

U-Factor                                                      .52                                                                              .28
SHGF (SC x .87)                              .88 x .87 = .76                                                                       .54

In other words, Low-E4 PassiveSun will lose about half of the heat of my old style glazing, but will admit only 71 percent of the solar radiation. Low E glass has almost become the new standard window; however, if I selected Low-E4 glass, only 59 percent (.32/.54) of the free solar heat will get into the house. It’s obvious that Low E glass is best for applications that are purposely trying to keep heat out.

To help me further I decided to do some comparative calculations.

1. As the basis of the calculations, I will use the Saltbox example given in Chapter 6 of The Passive Solar House, which has the same windows in my own home. Table 6-15 shows the Saltbox to be 48 percent solar in Hartford, Connecticut.

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year

2. Substituting Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing and entering the same data into CSol (The Design Software included in The Passive Solar House), we get the following comparison:

The Passive Solar House book example using old style glazing:

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 48

Using Andersen Low-E4 PassiveSun Glazing:

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 34,970,000 Btus/year or 356 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 37

Note that the percentage of Solar went from 48 to 37 but the Purchased Energy is almost the same.

3. One more example, let’s see what happens if we select the now standard Low-E4 glazing.

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 42,760,000 Btus/year or 436 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 23

The above examples make it clear that the best choice for my replacement glass for my passive solar home in Vermont is the Low-E4 PassiveSun glass option. Using the standard Low-E4 glass simply was not the correct choice for me, as it would result in higher fuel usage (22.5 percent) in my Vermont solar home.

Armed with this information, I went to two suppliers for price quotations. One is a national supply house and the other a local supplier. They couldn’t price out my requested Series 400 Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing option because Andersen’s pricing software only allows the supplier to price out the first three options listed above. In fact, both suppliers had never heard of Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. It took several emails and phone calls to Andersen to find out that there is an upcharge for Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. Further after placing the order, I later was advised that there would be a delay in getting my “special” order.

The lesson? Whether you are building a new passive solar home or upgrading an existing one, great care has to be taken in choosing what window type will be best for you.

This is a guest post by author James Kachadorian, who wrote The Passive Solar House, Revised and Expanded Edition.

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

What Can Humans Learn from Bears?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Imagine having an all-access pass to the world of bears. Being so comfortable with them, and they with you, that you are able to crawl into their dens, take photographs of their cubs and come nose to snout with them everyday.

Welcome to the world of black bear expert Benjamin Kilham. He has been studying wild black bear behavior for nearly two decades and his findings have shattered conventional wisdom about how these animals live their lives. Author Sy Montgomery calls his work, “more than just revealing; it’s revolutionary.”

Once thought to be solitary creatures, Kilham discovered that black bears actually have extraordinary communication and interaction with each other—creating and enforcing codes of conduct, forming alliances, and even sharing territory and food when supplies are ample.

Kilham’s book, In the Company of Bears (originally released in hardcover as Out on a Limb) tells the story of his experiences rehabilitating bear cubs and reintroducing them into the wild. Observing one bear, affectionately named Squirty, for the past 17 years, has given Kilham a unique and intimate lens into the black bear brain as he is allowed to watch his “foster daughter” find mates, form family units, and interact with other bears in her vicinity. Through these observations, he notes what bears can teach us humans about our past, present, and future as a species.

The book also details how Kilham’s dyslexia helped him to both gain insight into how bears communicate and how to best research them — through constant study and a hands-on approach rather than detached experiments.

“This fascinating book has detailed descriptions of bear body language, oral communication, and behavior—and how Ben learned to read them,” writes Temple Grandin in the book’s foreword. “I can relate to Ben and his story because his dyslexia and my autism have made us both visual thinkers who are very observant of small details that most other people miss. Animals live in a sensory-based world, and if you want to understand them, you must get away from the confines of verbal language.”

Learn more about the secret life of black bears in this interview with Ben Kilham on VPR’s Vermont Edition and watch him in action with his adorable bear cubs in this video:

In the Company of Bears is as much a peek into the personal lives of black bears as it is a look into Kilham’s own interactions with others. It is the story of a scientist once kept from a traditional science career by his dyslexia, only to find that thinking and seeing differently was his greatest gift and his best tool to interpret the non-human world.

In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition is now available in paperback and is on sale for 35% off until September 2.

An Exploration of the Magical World of Mushrooms

Monday, August 18th, 2014

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation reduce our dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to use mushrooms to clean up oil spills?

For more than twenty years, mycologist Tradd Cotter has been investigating the fascinating world of mushrooms and researching the answers to questions just like these.

In his new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter offers readers an in-depth exploration of best mushroom cultivation practices with the attitude that mushrooms can be grown on just about anything, anywhere, and by anyone. He also shares his groundbreaking research on challenges such as cultivating morels, “training” mycelium to respond to specific contaminants, and using mushrooms in disaster relief situations.

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation is divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 provide a basic foundation of knowledge about mushrooms as well as a series of low-tech applications for both indoor and outdoor cultivation, while Part 3 focuses on advanced and experimental techniques that require a higher skill level and more technical equipment. Finally, Part 4, “Meet the Cultivated Mushrooms,” includes informative profiles of over 30 mushroom varieties.

Cotter hopes this book sparks a passion in its readers and inspires them to contribute their own findings to the body of knowledge about mushrooms. “I hope this book serves you well in giving you the skills necessary to explore mushroom cultivation and empowering you to dream up experiments and ideas on your own, “ he says in his Introduction. “Part skill, part art, part intuition, mushroom cultivation will give you a lifelong relationship with this incredible kingdom of life.” Read the full introduction here.

We asked Cotter about his own relationship and work with mushrooms. Below are a few of his responses. To hear more from the author himself and to get a taste of his infectious enthusiasm for fungi, listen to this interview on Radio Vermont.

An Interview with Mycologist Tradd Cotter

CG: What, or who, inspired you to get started growing mushrooms, and what keeps you inspired to continue?

TC: It’s hard not to be inspired by the mushrooms I grew myself. It just never gets old. After 22 years I can still honestly say I wake up anxious and excited to peek into the growing room or wander down the trail to see if anything is fruiting. From the moment I cultured my first mushroom after many failures, and not giving up, these mushrooms have taught me how to keep challenging myself to make these dreams come true.  Mushrooms are constantly surprising me and revealing their gifts, and I am lucky to have stuck with this so long to access their hidden talents and share them with the world.

My personal support comes from my wife Olga, who also runs the business and shares this life devoted to fungi, along with friends, family, professors, and most importantly our customers and attendees to workshops and lectures, where I look out and see a room full of amazed faces, smiling and grinning, having a good time.  I love to entertain and help people understand complex concepts through basic analogies and a little off-the-hip humor. The mushrooms themselves are very inspiring, too. I love a challenge, and many of them have never been cultivated before, so these mushrooms in particular are life-long dreams to be able to set goals high and keep making an effort to succeed. Fail forward as they say.

CG: One of the most interesting aspects of your book, and which sort of goes against conventional wisdom, is that you don’t need to invest in a huge amount of expensive equipment and infrastructure in order to get good yields. Can you give some examples of the “low-tech” and “no-tech” methods you describe?

TC: I began my journey cultivating mushrooms at a high-tech facility, then worked my way backwards to see how far I could go using very little—next to nothing in fact—to cultivate mushrooms just about anywhere on anything.  Since resources and equipment is a limiting factor for starting a mushroom farm for most folks, I wanted to show the world how easy it is to get started and build on a gradual degree of difficulty rather than trying to invest a lot of time and money into a project that may prove overwhelming. The entire concept of cultivation is scalable, so my best suggestion to growers is to start small, learn the easiest mushrooms to grow, then build on your success and expand your growing to a level you are comfortable with, whether it’s just a few logs at home or a large scale commercial operation. Training yourself to become a great, intuitive grower is better than fancy equipment and high-tech conditions if you don’t understand the fine-tuned details of every species, and failing at that level can be disastrous financially. Only a small percentage of the population will make the leap to the high-tech tier of cultivation, and so that is why this book fills the void for the rest of us! These small scale home and farm systems and experiments are all anyone may need to grow enough mushrooms for themselves or their family, it’s about finding a system that meets your comfort level, and there are many options in this book for everyone. From cultivating mushrooms on spent coffee grounds and paper waste at your home, office, or school to cloning mushroom with cardboard and expanding them like a bread culture into thousands more, this book is designed to teach you that there are no limits to your imagination.

CG:What’s the most exciting project you’re working on right now at Mushroom Mountain?

TC: I am working on several parallel projects, such as the fire-ant cordyceps, which is an amazing find that we are working with that could help millions of people and livestock, which is a fungus I discovered in South Carolina that is target specific to a small clade of ants that include Fire Ants instead of killing all of the insects and organisms in the area with broad spectrum, chemical based insecticides. The fungus mummifies the ants and sprouts small antlers from their brains!

But my favorite has to be the medical screening of fungi using a patented process we developed. I describe it in the book in a way that anyone can use the method for basic research, but it has really blown up into an amazing mistake. Sometimes we are so set in our way of doing things that making a error can make you notice another way that was always there, just hidden from view. Fungi are factories, and many mushrooms are tooled to create amazing combinations of antibiotics and enzymes, or medicinal and industrial products, much like an assembly line.  All I am doing in our lab is giving the mushrooms a challenge and direct them to produce a product that I am looking for. Imagine walking into a hospital with strep throat, where they take a throat culture, and one day later you have a personalized cocktail of natural antibiotics the fungus created just for you! I just don’t see any limits to this natural technology and see it as a game changing process that could lead to many discoveries and rattle the pharmaceutical industry.

I love these serendipitous moments of accidental discovery, and the realization that this will never get old to me. Every time we make a discovery of this magnitude it can lead to many more, and that is why I share my ideas like these in the book—so others can build on them and have fun exploring for themselves using my experience as a bridge to a new way of thinking.

 

Join Tradd Cotter and explore the magical world of mushrooms in Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation.

 


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