Sunday, May 31, 2009


The frailty of the human condition. I/we are often making bold statements and resolutions to improve ourselves. This might manifest itself, for example, as saying to my beloved over breakfast, “shall we have a no-alcohol day?” The easy answer, “Yes” is followed by a hard day’s physical work (justification) the turning of the clock to 6pm (tradition) and perhaps cooking up some of last year’s lamb for supper (obligation) we find ourselves glass-in-hand (transgression). Hmmm.


The words “ecologic” and “economic” share the “eco” bit. Post Christmas, embracing “the global financial crisis” and the fall in the value of the £pound in relation to the €uro, I decided, for “eco” reasons, to have a book-buying embargo. I have a bit of a book-buying fetish, not the worst of vices compared to sex-drugs, rock and roll perhaps, but a burden nevertheless. The period of denial was between the present-receiving times of Christmas and my mid-March birthday. I’m proud to say that I controlled myself during the prescribed period of abstinence but rather let myself down by gorging after the famine, using my generous parents’ birthday money to buy, let me be honest, three-months worth of books at one go. Hmmm.


Before I go and roll about in patches of fresh nettles (which are growing strongly all over the place) in penitence, I shall tell you what I bought and why. In no particular order:


Victorian Farm, by Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn and Ruth Goodman. Résumé of a recent series on the BBC of a year-long re-enactment of life on a Victorian Farm, a period of immense change in agriculture. Current reading, looking good so far.

The Hand-Sculpted House, by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley. A how-to, and somewhat philosophical, tome on cob (earth) building, recommended by Rachel and Tom, architect friends of ours. We’ve both read it cover-to-cover and it makes our Top Ten of eco-building books.

Surviving and Thriving on the Land, by Rebecca Laughton. Recommended by my permaculture teacher, Patrick Whitefield. Not yet opened.

Mole Catching: A Practical Guide, by Jeff Nicholls. I’m interested in this elusive creature and how it might actually benefit the land, as well as obviously being a pest at times. I’ve already read the Shire Album on the mole and, while I’m not looking to learn how to trap or kill this furry, myopic, subterranean critters, the book (apparently) explains about their lives and habits. Also unread.

Sacré Cordon Bleu, by Michael Booth. Travel writer and restaurant critic spends a year in Paris at the famous Cordon Bleu. We’ve both read it. He writes very well; it’s informative and often funny: recommended.

Clear Heart, by Joe Cottonwood. Recommended by our friend, Kristen. A good read and a good change for me to be reading a work of fiction, rather than yet another how-to book. Recommended.

The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry. I became aware of Wendell Berry, through his agrarian essays. He’s an organic farmer, essayist, poet, and writer of fiction. Jack’s life related during a day of reminiscences, starting slowly, it ended up un-put-downable with perceptive characterisation. Recommended.

Gaia, by James Lovelock. The original Gaia hypothesis with up-to-date corrective notes by Lovelock. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, it will change the way you look at the world. For a scientific book, it’s easy reading. Highly recommended.

Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps, by Claude Goodchild and Alan Thompson. I was taken by the retro cover. Published in 1941 to advise rationed householders how to put their own eggs and meat on the table. Dated, of course, but nevertheless some interesting tips.


An eclectic mix: I'm enjoying having a pile of books on my beside table, working through them one at a time. Stage 2 of my book-buying embargo is currently in progress, “delayed gratification” the new mantra. The spirit is weak, however and I can’t promise anything.


Continuing this perma-Cultural theme, I’ll tell you about the recent eco-film festival at our local cinema soon. And getting back to more conventional aspects of permaculture, I shall pose (and then answer) the question: “digging swales isn’t exactly rocket science, is it?” And tell you about our recent trip to a local apiculteur (bee keeper).

2 comments :

DOT said...

It is always the same, isn't it? I learnt the meaning of a swale from you and now the word is mentioned every five seconds on The Archers - Pat & Tony are building a wetland system for their waste.

You're not ghost writing the series at the moment, are you?

Also, I'm reading Steinbeck's East of Eden and the opening chapter is chock-a-block full of swales.

I am beginning to feel waterlogged.

Joe Cottonwood said...

Bonjour et merci! Now at least two people in France have read my book! I am honored. Please pass it around. Books are meant to be shared. At least, mine tend to circulate like a fresh joke. Or the flu...