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.


Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

By Gary Paul Nabhan

How to harvest water and nutrients, select drought-tolerant plants, and create natural diversity

Because climatic uncertainty has now become "the new normal," many farmers, gardeners and orchard-keepers in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt their food production to become more resilient in the face of such "global weirding." This book draws upon the wisdom and technical knowledge from desert farming traditions all around the world to offer time-tried strategies for:

  • Building greater moisture-holding capacity and nutrients in soils
  • Protecting fields from damaging winds, drought, and floods
  • Harvesting water from uplands to use in rain gardens and terraces filled with perennial crops
  • Delecting fruits, nuts, succulents, and herbaceous perennials that are best suited to warmer, drier climates

Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world's experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For this book he has visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens. This practical book also includes colorful "parables from the field" that exemplify how desert farmers think about increasing the carrying capacity and resilience of the lands and waters they steward. It is replete with detailed descriptions and diagrams of how to implement these desert-adapted practices in your own backyard, orchard, or farm.

This unique book is useful not only for farmers and permaculturists in the arid reaches of the Southwest or other desert regions. Its techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and the U.S. Southwest and adjacent regions of Mexico.

Available in: Paperback

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Gary Paul Nabhan, Bill McKibben

Paperback $29.95

Climate Change

Climate Change

By Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert

You know that the ice caps are melting, the seasons are changing, sea levels are rising, storms are on the increase, but what can you do about it? Plenty!

This book puts the power back into your hands in the face of the doom and gloom of climate change. You don’t have to wait for someone else to sort it out; rather than worry and feel helpless, you can get up and do something.

Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference is packed with ideas for action, from simple everyday things that cost nothing to bigger projects that involve more time and money. For example:

Get on your bike • Buy local food • Turn off your TV • Insulate your attic • Recycle and compost • Take the train • Turn down the heat • Install solar panels

Do your part and protect the planet for today and tomorrow.

Available in: Paperback

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Climate Change

Amanda Cuthbert, Jon Clift

Paperback $7.95

Gene Everlasting

Gene Everlasting

By Gene Logsdon

Author Gene Logsdon—whom Wendell Berry once called “the most experienced and best observer of agriculture we have”—has a notion: That it is a little easier for gardeners and farmers to accept death than the rest of the populace. Why? Because every day, farmers and gardeners help plants and animals begin life and help plants and animals end life. They are intimately attuned to the food chain. They understand how all living things are seated around a dining table, eating while being eaten. They realize that all of nature is in flux.

Gene Everlasting contains Logsdon’s reflections, by turns both humorous and heart-wrenching, on nature, death, and eternity, all from a contrary farmer’s perspective. He recounts joys and tragedies from his childhood in the 1930s and ‘40s spent on an Ohio farm, through adulthood and child-raising, all the way up to his recent bout with cancer, always with an eye toward the lessons that farming has taught him about life and its mysteries.

Whether his subject is parsnips, pigweed, immortality, irises, green burial, buzzards, or compound interest, Logsdon generously applies as much heart and wit to his words as he does care and expertise to his fields. 

Available in: Hardcover

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Gene Everlasting

Gene Logsdon

Hardcover $24.95

Lean Logic

Lean Logic

By David Fleming

Lean Logic is David Fleming’s masterpiece, the product of more than thirty years’ work and a testament to the creative brilliance of one of Britain’s most important intellectuals.

A dictionary unlike any other, it leads readers through Fleming’s stimulating exploration of fields as diverse as culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology, being made up of four hundred and seventy-two engaging essay-entries covering topics such as Boredom, Community, Debt, Growth, Harmless Lunatics, Land, Lean Thinking, Nanotechnology, Play, Religion, Spirit, Trust, and Utopia.

The threads running through every entry are Fleming’s deft and original analysis of how our present market-based economy is destroying the very foundations—ecological, economic, and cultural— on which it depends, and his core focus: a compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that might weather the consequences. A society that provides a satisfying, culturally-rich context for lives well lived, in an economy not reliant on the impossible promise of eternal economic growth. A society worth living in. Worth fighting for. Worth contributing to.

The beauty of the dictionary format is that it allows Fleming to draw connections without detracting from his in-depth exploration of each topic. Each entry carries intriguing links to other entries, inviting the enchanted reader to break free of the imposed order of a conventional book, starting where she will and following the links in the order of her choosing. In combination with Fleming’s refreshing writing style and good-natured humor, it also creates a book perfectly suited to dipping in and out.

The decades Fleming spent honing his life's work are evident in the lightness and mastery with which Lean Logic draws on an incredible wealth of cultural and historical learning—from Whitman to Whitefield, Dickens to Daly, Kropotkin to Kafka, Keats to Kuhn, Oakeshott to Ostrom, Jung to Jensen, Machiavelli to Mumford, Mauss to Mandelbrot, Leopold to Lakatos, Polanyi to Putnam, Nietzsche to Næss, Keynes to Kumar, Scruton to Shiva, Thoreau to Toynbee, Rabelais to Rogers, Shakespeare to Schumacher, Locke to Lovelock, Homer to Homer-Dixon—in demonstrating that many of the principles it commends have a track-record of success long pre-dating our current society.

Fleming acknowledges, with honesty, the challenges ahead, but rather than inducing despair, Lean Logic is rare in its ability to inspire optimism in the creativity and intelligence of humans to nurse our ecology back to health; to rediscover the importance of place and play, of reciprocity and resilience, and of community and culture.

Lean Logic is a comfort in disorientating times. A book to keep at your side. A dictionary of empowerment.

Available in: Hardcover

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Lean Logic

Shaun Chamberlin, Jonathon Porritt, David Fleming

Hardcover $49.95