Friday, March 25, 2011

The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening - Book Review

The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening by Gene Logsdon, my new favorite author.  Reading what is written by Gene makes me feel like I'm listening to a grandfatherly character talk about his days on the farm. He is a remarkably good storyteller and can make even books about farming and gardening seem like  a fun quick read.  I have not read any of his novels yet, but I intend to as soon as I can get my hands on one.  Our local library only has two of his books, I think he has written thirty or more, so I'll buy them as I can.  You can also read his blog post at or where his post from the first site are posted in conjunction with several other like minded authors.

The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening is about gardening, but not in the same way that most books on gardening approach the subject.  He discusses why we need to garden as a nation, not only to provide food for ourselves, but to break our dependance on industrial agriculture (which will eventually fail).  Then he discusses his version of deep mulch gardening that I have previously posted about. He has animals so his approach is slightly different. He takes one of his pasture paddocks which has had years of manure added and mulches it in the fall, then plants it in the spring with successive plantings till winter.  then the next summer he plants corn, his own open pollinated sweet corn, for people food and animal fodder (the whole plant ears, leaves, stalks, and all).  Then he plants winter wheat which starts growing in the fall and comes back in the spring to make grain.  In the spring he seeds clover in with the wheat.  Then when the wheat ripens in early summer he cuts it, and the clover.  This provides animal food and wheat for the kitchen or the chickens.  After the cutting the clover grows back for either grazing or making clover hay.  He has both permanent pastures, the hilly uneven ground, and temporary pastures, the flat ground.  The temporary pastures are for grazing, hay making, and gardening.  The wheat leads into Flour gardens and Pancake patches.  His discussion on how to grow all of your own grain.  He has another book that goes into more detail, but I haven't read it yet.  The grain discussion leads to husbandry, chickens at a minimum.  With animals he also discusses how to grow your own worm farm, either for money, fishing, or just to turn kitchen scraps into compost fast.

Now that you have a garden you need to protect it from wild critters that want to eat it as much as you do.  This does not mean bugs, on a diversified deep mulch garden this isn't a problem, it means wildlife. Did you know that in 1950 that farmers in the USA lost 7% of their crop to insects while only using 5 million pounds of pesticides.  Now we use billions of pounds of pesticides and lose an average of 13% of our crops to insects.  Then the conversation turns to water gardening, growing aquatic plants and fish to eat.  And finally a great essay by him to close the book.

Whether you want to garden, farm, or just enjoy a great read this is the book for you.

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