Tuesday, November 30, 2010
A Few Things Keeping Me Awake at Night
I have always loved books. As a kid I would forsake sleeping and read late into the night, often devouring an entire book in one all-night session, typically reading ten books a week. As an adult, however, I have grown to appreciate sleep more, and generally read only a couple chapters before turning off the light.
One exception is the book I just finished, The Dirty Life: On Farming Food and Love, by Kristin Kimball. I heard Kristin interviewed on public radio while driving, and when I got home I immediately went online and ordered her book. Kimball is a former NewYork City journalist who was smitten by a farmer while interviewing him for a story. As a result, she dived into raising pigs, milking cows, making cheese, haying, and living a very intense, exhausting and unavoidably dirty life. Their upstate New York farm has the most audacious goal of raising ALL the food required by 100 people each year- including meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, grains, and sugars (in the form of maple syrup), and accomplishing this farming with draft horses. I don't know how she ever found the time to also write a book, but it is a great read and I finished it in two nights. (I am getting too old to read books until 3 a.m.!)
I rarely buy books new - I find plenty of wonderful books at the Salvation Army thrift store for a dollar or two, sometimes even valuable resources on organic gardening or raising livestock. Although I enjoy fiction, usually I am drawn to nonfiction. I want to learn, learn, learn as much as I can about everything and anyway, real life is so amazing, who needs fiction? For instance, in Swimming to Antarctica, I followed Lynne Cox, an incredible woman who broke the world record swimming the English Chanel as a teen, then went onto ever more astonishing feats, even swimming across the Bering Strait (it may be close enough for Sarah Palin to see Russia, but there are strong currents and the water is frigid!) and through icebergs to Antarctica. If this story was fiction it wouldn't be believable.
Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon, is not the genre I usually choose, but Rog and I have had three fantastic backpacking treks in the Grand Canyon, so I was drawn to this fascinating adventure book. The authors, Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers, documented all the deaths recorded in the Grand Canyon in every conceivable manner from dying of thirst to drowning, from falling from the rim to having rocks fall on you, accidents to idiocy to murders. A good book to require your risk-taking children to read before embarking on a backpacking adventure.
I read a lot about farming. Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind by Gene Logsdon has given me new appreciation for poop and inspired me to deal with manure in some new ways. Only Gene Logsdon could write about manure so engagingly. All of his books are wonderful. He is my farming hero. A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil has some clever insights about how suburban developments could raise food sustainably (but given a choice, read Michael Pollan first).
The books I am now immersed in are: Creative Inc: The Ultimate Gide for Starting a Freelance Business (in preparation for leaving my job to focus on making art!), Joel Salatin's passionate, irreverent new book The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, The Rodale Book of Composting (more manure) and Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats (just in case goats are in my future...)
You can't learn everything you need to know about farming from books, but you sure can learn a lot!