The editors here at Chelsea Green are constantly seeking out what’s new and important in the world of sustainable living. As part of an occasional blog series, our editors are sharing what they’ve been reading, researching, or just plain pondering. Below Senior Editor Fern Marshall Bradley daydreams about the coming growing season and reflects on some radical gardening ideas inspired by Maine farmer […]
By Will Bonsall
"Society does not generally expect its farmers to be visionaries." Perhaps not, but longtime Maine farmer and homesteader Will Bonsall does possess a unique clarity of vision that extends all the way from the finer points of soil fertility and seed saving to exploring how we can transform civilization and make our world a better, more resilient place.
In Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening, Bonsall maintains that to achieve real wealth we first need to understand the economy of the land, to realize that things that might make sense economically don't always make sense ecologically, and vice versa. The marketplace distorts our values, and our modern dependence on petroleum in particular presents a serious barrier to creating a truly sustainable agriculture.
For him the solution is, first and foremost, greater self-reliance, especially in the areas of food and energy. By avoiding any off-farm inputs (fertilizers, minerals, and animal manures), Bonsall has learned how to practice a purely veganic, or plant-based, agriculture—not from a strictly moralistic or philosophical perspective, but because it makes good business sense: spend less instead of making more.
What this means in practical terms is that Bonsall draws upon the fertility of on-farm plant materials: compost, green manures, perennial grasses, and forest products like leaves and ramial wood chips. And he grows and harvests a diversity of crops from both cultivated and perennial plants: vegetables, grains, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and nuts—even uncommon but useful permaculture plants like groundnut (Apios).
In a friendly, almost conversational way, Bonsall imparts a wealth of knowledge drawn from his more than forty years of farming experience.
"My goal," he writes, "is not to feed the world, but to feed myself and let others feed themselves. If we all did that, it might be a good beginning."
A forager and permaculturist with roots in rural Nebraska, Jerome Osentowski lives in a passive solar home he built at 7200 feet above Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. Director and founder of Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute and a permaculture designer for thirty years, he has built five greenhouses for himself and scores of others for private clients and public schools in the Rockies and beyond. He makes his living from an intensively cultivated one acre of indoor and outdoor forest garden and plant nursery, which he uses as a backdrop for intensive permaculture and greenhouse design courses. Among his accomplishments is hosting the longest-running Permaculture Design Course in the world, now at twenty-nine years running. Jerome and Michael have also been instrumental in identifying, conserving, and propagating heritage fruit trees that have survived and borne crops for over a century in the harsh environment of the Roaring Fork Valley. Jerome’s explorations of sustainable systems and his travels for development projects have taken him to Baja, Nicaragua, Patagonia, Finland, Australia, and the Caribbean.
Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, and a New York Times bestseller, The Art of Fermentation is the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published. Sandor Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough to guide a reader through their first experience making sauerkraut or yogurt, and in-depth enough to provide greater understanding and insight for experienced practitioners.
While Katz expertly contextualizes fermentation in terms of biological and cultural evolution, health and nutrition, and even economics, this is primarily a compendium of practical information—how the processes work; parameters for safety; techniques for effective preservation; troubleshooting; and more.
With two-color illustrations and extended resources, this book provides essential wisdom for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, gleaners, foragers, and food lovers of any kind who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation, and part of the roots of culture itself.
Readers will find detailed information on fermenting vegetables; sugars into alcohol (meads, wines, and ciders); sour tonic beverages; milk; grains and starchy tubers; beers (and other grain-based alcoholic beverages); beans; seeds; nuts; fish; meat; and eggs, as well as growing mold cultures, using fermentation in agriculture, art, and energy production, and considerations for commercial enterprises. Sandor Katz has introduced what will undoubtedly remain a classic in food literature, and is the first—and only—of its kind.