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Saturday Seven: Books on Gardening (or living off the land)

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews

Spring is trying to come here in the Northeast. My daffodils are fighting their way up through the snow.

And this makes me start thinking about planting and gardening and weeding (which, for those of you who don’t know me, I actually enjoy).

And, yes, I do have a slightly warped sense of humor.
That aside, I have a list of books you should try if you’re interested in gardening (or living off the land).
1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This book was fascinating. The author and her family decided to move away from where they lived to somewhere more conducive to being able to grow pretty much everything you needed to eat. They resolved to only eat things that were local and in season, if they used anything not from their own farm (this included eating out, so was a challenge). Each family member was allowed one exception (for example: coffee) to this rule. I got so involved with her story… it’s amazing. They even selected heritage turkeys, etc., and resolved to do their own butchering. A must read, IMHO.
2. Cooked by Michael Pollan
I suppose this is less about gardening than nutrition and eating, but I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan and reading about the origins of cooking and how the four elements of cooking affect food (and our bodies) was really interesting. He’s just such a common sense guy… I love everything he writes.
3. The Manual of Seed Saving: Harvesting, Storing, and Sowing Techniques for Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits by Andrea Heistinger
Heritage plants are tough to grow, honestly. They require more attention typically and frequently bear less fruit than the more common plants we’re used to. Growing heritage is a labor of love, as is collecting seeds to use for the next year. This book helps you understand how to do that and it’s very interesting and well written.
4. From the Ground Up: A Food Grower’s Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That’s Changing the Nation by Jeanne Nolan
This is more like that Barbara Kingsolver book, above, but can really inspire the desire to grow your own food. It’s interesting and a learning experience to follow her as SHE learns things. These are the types of non-fiction books I really like. Interesting and fun, but also one that teaches.
5. Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) by Angela England
For those of us who don’t think we have enough room! A Common sense guide.
6. Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
Learn all about the plants you want to grow! More “sciency” than the others it includes a depth of information that interesting and a must read for gardeners.
7. Mother Earth News
Okay, not a book. A magazine. But when we lived “off the land” years ago, this was our bible and it’s still relevant and useful today.
Do you have any suggestions for me? I’m always open to books on gardening!

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Hi, Marianne!
    Great post. Alas, I have a brown thumb, so you won’t find any gardening books on my shelves.
    I used to live in New England, though, so I very much remember the excitement of seeing the first daffodil shoots. Hope Spring arrives fully soon. I gather (from my siblings and friends in the northeast) that it has been a rough winter!

    1. I’m not sure this is the worst winter we’ve had of late, but it just feels like it will never end… probably because of the false spring (and temps in the 70s!) in February. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. This made me feel like Spring would “maybe” come. I love Barbara Kingsolver and I love to garden but…I hate to weed. I really want to check out “From the Ground Up”. Wanna come check out my weeds this summer?

    1. Re: weeds — my neighbors laugh, because if I’m visiting with them, I’ll typically sit down on the ground and weed their gardens while I’m talking. It’s a disease!

  3. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral was such a good read. Wasn’t there a scene in that book early on where the author’s daughter agreed to this diet only if the family could find some sort of fruit at the local farmer’s market? I think they started in the beginning of spring, and she didn’t want to wait months until she tasted fruit again. I hope I’m remembering it right. That scene made me chuckle.
    Michale Pollan is another great writer. I’ve made a lot of positive changes to my diet as a result of his books.
    My post:

    1. That scene sounds familiar, so it might be from there. I think I need to read that book again–I really did enjoy it. My daughter works at a little restaurant here in town that ascribes to “local” as much as possible. In fact, they’re working with a local farm this year to raise chickens for eggs JUST for this restaurant (which goes through about 30,000 a week, which is mind boggling).
      Michal Pollan is my hero. So much common sense. He’s not about “Don’t eat this food group” like so many other nutritionists, but just … eat FOOD, real food, food your grandmother ate and would recognize and the rest will fall into place. I love the saying, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. I know you do gardening some, and I think you’d enjoy these. Definitely try the Barbara Kingsolver book, though. It’s incredibly entertaining along with being edifying.

  4. What a great list! Thanks for reminding me of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle — I’m at the library right now and as soon as I finish this comment, I intend to find a copy to take home with me. I’ve also enjoyed Pollan’s book, and the one on Backyard Farming.
    I have to admit that once we lost all of our ducks, my interest in gardening/farming went with them. Anyway, I was always more interested in reading about gardens than actually making them.
    But reading about gardens and gardening is a delight. Here are a couple of other books I’d add to your list:
    –Living the Good Life (Helen & Scott Nearing), about their 60-year experiment living off the land in Maine
    –Green Thoughts (Eleanor Piryeni): The author was a baronness! And an editor at Harper’s and Mademoiselle! Read her obituary ( and then find a copy of this wonderful collection of essays as soon as possible!

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your ducks… aww. Thanks so much for your suggestions! They sound interesting and I’m going to check it out. The one about gardening in Maine is especially interesting, since I have so much trouble with the growing season here. Thanks!

  5. My talent with plants includes killing them. I’m horrible with them, despite the fact I love cacti. Wonder if I read some of these if they’d make me a better gardener? Hmmm…

    1. You can grow dogs and cats, I’m sure you could grow plants if you set your mind to it πŸ™‚

  6. Pollan is always on my bookshelf. He’s a keeper. I also have a soft spot for Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book. I just love her homespun style of story telling.
    Ruth Stout also has some good books on gardening. Like Carla Emery, she lived the life she preached. Another book I liked is the Have More Plan. It’s from the 1940s but still very relevant.
    Mother Earth News isn’t what it used to be. The issues from the 1970s were the most informative.
    I’m going to have to look for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

    1. I’ll have to check those out. I love reading actual stories about the people who tried this stuff. It’s an instruction manual, but far more entertaining!

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