Chelsea Green Publishing

Flying Blind

Pages:224 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603585200
Pub. Date August 23, 2013

Flying Blind

One Man's Adventures Battling Buckthorn, Making Peace with Authority, and Creating a Home for Endangered Bats

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
August 23, 2013


When Middlebury writing professor Don Mitchell was approached by a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department about tracking endangered Indiana bats on his 150-acre farm in Vermont's picturesque Champlain Valley, Mitchell's relationship with bats—and with government—could be characterized as distrustful, at best.

But the flying rats, as Mitchell initially thinks of them, launched him on a series of "improvements" to his land that would provide a more welcoming habitat for the bats—and a modest tax break for himself and his family. Whether persuading his neighbors to join him on a "silent meditation," pulling invasive garlic mustard out of the ground by hand, navigating the tacit ground rules of buying an ATV off Craigslist, or leaving just enough honeysuckle to give government inspectors "something to find," Mitchell’s tale is as profound as it is funny—a journey that changes Mitchell’s relationship with Chiroptera, the land, and, ultimately, his understanding of his own past.

Ruminating on the nature of authority, the purview of the state, and the value of inhabiting one’s niche—Mitchell reveals much about our inner and outer landscape, in this perfectly paced and skilled story of place.


“So what happened to the idealistic ’60s youth who went back to the land? Flying Blind is one couple’s answer. Don Mitchell presents a rich, evocative account of wise stewardship—and of how making ends meet on a Champlain Valley farm in Vermont becomes a conservation success story in the fight to save endangered Indiana bats.”--Andrew Walker, executive director, Bat Conservation International

“Don Mitchell has written a classic story of Vermont, of family, of farming, and of the evolving, never-romantic, always crucial story of the encounter between people and the larger world.”--Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist



“In Flying Blind, Don Mitchell not only gives us a wonderful story about creating habitat for bats on his land, but tells about his own personal journey of becoming a bat-loving conservationist. In addition to the many scientific bat-conservation efforts taking place around the world, we also need stories like this—of an individual developing a greater understanding of bats, and of the natural world, and coming away better for it.”--Merlin Tuttle, founder, Bat Conservation International



"Receiving a government grant to control invasive plants in the bat habitat around his farm was just the beginning. Don Mitchell hilariously chronicles the official visits and requirements that soon became such a prominent part of his life, along with the stupefying labor involved in grubbing up all that garlic mustard. What makes Flying Blind such a remarkably powerful memoir is Don Mitchell’s capacity to connect both the ecological puzzle of bats’ susceptibility to white-nose syndrome and a personal resistance to bureaucracy with his passionate and lifelong resistance to authority. At the deepest level, this is a story about how forgiveness and celebration help him find a trail through the woods to family and home."--John Elder, author of The Frog Run and coeditor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing

“Don Mitchell’s Flying Blind does for rural New England what Wendell Berry’s essays do for Kentucky and Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It does for the American West. On one level, Flying Blind tells the engaging and often hilarious story of a man’s determination to make his upcountry Vermont farm a welcoming home for an endangered and much-maligned species of ‘flying rat.’ It’s also the story of how place, the past, family, and meaningful work can still form character at a time when much of America is increasingly alienated from nature, history, and community. Beautifully written, relentlessly honest, and unfailingly entertaining, Flying Blind is the book Don Mitchell was born to write.”--Howard Frank Mosher, author of The Great Northern Express, Walking to Gatlinburg, and On Kingdom Mountain


Don Mitchell

Don Mitchell is a novelist, essayist, and sometime screenwriter whose most recent books are The Nature Notebooks (a novel) and a guidebook to Vermont in the Fodor’s/Compass American series. He’s also the architect and builder of over a dozen low-cost, energy-efficient structures on Treleven Farm, and a shepherd with thirty-five years’ experience managing a flock of sheep there. One of his current interests is forest management with the goal of enhancing habitat for endangered bats.

From 1984 to 2009 Don taught courses at Middlebury College, primarily in creative writing–especially narrative fiction and writing for film–and environmental literature. Now he devotes most of his time to projects designed to enhance the farm and support the vision of Treleven, Inc.


The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

By Marie-Monique Robin

Monsanto's controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world's food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this widely praised film exposes why Monsanto has become the world's poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology.

Also on the DVD:
Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, A film by Jeffrey M. Smith

Dairy products from cows treated with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) may sharply increase cancer risk and other diseases, especially in children. Already banned in most industrialized nations, it was approved in the U.S. on the backs of fired whistleblowers, manipulated research, and a corporate takeover at the FDA. This must-see film includes footage prepared for a Fox TV station—canceled after a letter from Monsanto's attorney threatened "dire consequences."

Bonus CD:
"Don't Put That in Your Mouth," a speech by Jeffrey M. Smith

You'll want to stop eating genetically modified foods after you learn how they're linked to toxic and allergic reactions; sick, sterile, and dead livestock; and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.

Available in: DVD

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The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

Jeffrey M. Smith, Marie-Monique Robin

DVD $19.95

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

By Brad Lancaster

Turn water scarcity into water abundance!
Earthworks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways of passively harvesting and conserving multiple sources of water in the soil. Associated vegetation then pumps the harvested water back out in the form of beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and passive heating and cooling strategies, while controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.

Building on the information presented in Volume 1, this book shows you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site.

  • Real life stories and examples permeate the book, including:
  • How curb cuts redirect street runoff to passively irrigate flourishing shade trees planted along the street
  • How check dams have helped create springs and perennial flows in once-dry creeks
  • How infiltration basins are creating thriving rain-fed gardens
  • How backyard greywater laundromats are turning "wastewater" into a resource growing food, beauty, and shade that builds community, and more.
  • How to create simple tools to read slope and water flow
  • More than 225 illustrations and photographs


Available in: Paperback

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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Brad Lancaster, Joe Marshall

Paperback $39.95

Waiting on a Train

Waiting on a Train

By James McCommons

During the tumultuous year of 2008--when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California--journalist James McCommons spent a year on America's trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?

Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads.

While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America--and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation's stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.

Available in: Paperback

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Waiting on a Train

James McCommons, James Kunstler

Paperback $19.95

Surviving the Future

Surviving the Future

By David Fleming and Shaun Chamberlin

A Story from Lean Logic

Surviving the Future is a story drawn from the fertile ground of the late David Fleming’s extraordinary Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It. That hardback consists of four hundred and seventy-two interlinked dictionary entries, inviting readers to choose their own path through its radical vision.

Recognizing that Lean Logic’s sheer size and unusual structure can be daunting, Fleming’s long-time collaborator Shaun Chamberlin has selected and edited one of these potential narratives to create Surviving the Future. The content, rare insights, and uniquely enjoyably writing style remain Fleming’s, but are presented here at a more accessible paperback-length and in conventional read-it-front-to-back format.

The subtitle—Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy—hints at Fleming’s vision. He believed that the market economy will not survive its inherent flaws beyond the early decades of this century, and that its failure will bring great challenges, but he did not dwell on this: “We know what we need to do. We need to build the sequel, to draw on inspiration which has lain dormant, like the seed beneath the snow.”

Surviving the Future lays out a compelling and powerfully different new economics for a post-growth world.  One that relies not on taut competitiveness and eternally increasing productivity—“putting the grim into reality”—but on the play, humor, conversation, and reciprocal obligations of a rich culture. Building on a remarkable breadth of intellectual and cultural heritage—from Keynes to Kumar, Homer to Huxley, Mumford to MacIntyre, Scruton to Shiva, Shakespeare to Schumacher—Fleming describes a world in which, as he says, “there will be time for music.”

This is the world that many of us want to live in, yet we are told it is idealistic and unrealistic. With an evident mastery of both economic theory and historical precedent, Fleming shows that it is not only desirable, but actually the only system with a realistic claim to longevity. With friendliness, humor, and charm, Surviving the Future plucks this vision out of our daydreams and shows us how to make it real.

Available in: Paperback

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Surviving the Future

Rob Hopkins, Shaun Chamberlin, David Fleming

Paperback $17.95