Guess what my favorite hobby is? Silly question, I know. Of course it’s gardening! I can spend hours in any garden—working, walking, or just reflecting—and totally lose track of time.
winters are long. And our springs (especially the current one) are often cold and rainy, and not exactly conducive to “enjoying” the garden. So, a Wisconsin Wisconsin gardener needs other hobbies to preserve his or her sanity.
My other top hobby is reading. I try to read at least one book a month, sometimes more depending on my schedule. My book club supplies a constant stream of phenomenal reading material. We read a good mix of fiction and nonfiction, and whenever I finish a book I can’t wait for the next “fix.”
So when Hanni at Sweet Bean Gardening tagged me to participate in The Sage Butterfly’s Earth Day Reading meme, I was thrilled! I’m a little late getting this post up, but the rules of the meme say the deadline is on April 23, so I’m squeaking by.
Part of the reason it took me so long was the difficulty of winnowing down the list to just three books that inspire me to live sustainably. But these "three" are definitely at the top of my list:
1. Just about any book written by Willa Cather. I first read “O Pioneers!” in high school. Since then I’ve read just about all of Cather’s books, and most contain an element of appreciation for the land and the beauty of the American landscape. Whenever I read a Cather book, it takes me to another time and place, but one that is close to home and a part of my ancestral heritage.
Nothing says it better than the opening lines of “O Pioneers”: “One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of
, anchored on a windy Hanover tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky.” Nebraska
Or this passage from “A Lost Lady,” describing the character Captain Forrester: “Anyone but Captain Forrester would have drained the bottom land and made it into highly productive fields. But he had selected this place long ago because it looked beautiful to him, and he happened to like the way the creek wound through his pasture, with mint and joint-grass, and twinkling willows along its banks…” I can get delightfully lost in a book like that!
2. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” by Michael Pollan. While I’ve learned a ton from every Pollan book I’ve read, “Omnivore” probably made the biggest impression. It’s the first of his collection that I read, and it caused me to really think about every type of food I eat.
While much of the information was not exactly new to me, Pollan goes into great detail about the origins of corn and how it became such a staple (probably to excess) in the American diet; the history and current state of American farming and animal husbandry; and the pure joy of foraging for berries, mushrooms, and other edibles in the wild. (I don’t trust myself yet in identifying the mushrooms, but I’m learning.)
3. OK, I’m cheating a bit with this last one. Just about any gardening book from Rodale Press offers loads of suggestions and practical guides for sustainable gardening and living. But most of what I’ve learned about organic gardening has come from the magazine of the same name. I’ve been a subscriber for most of my adult life.
Every time Organic Gardening appears in my mailbox, it’s a highlight of my day. I really can’t say enough about how much I enjoy it and how much it has taught me over the years.
At this point, mainly because of techniques I’ve learned from the magazine (and tips from friends and trial and error), my garden is 99% organically grown. We use corn gluten meal as a natural fertilizer/herbicide on the grass, beer to catch slugs and earwigs in the veggie/flower garden, and companion planting to avoid the need for chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
I don’t want to be preachy. Going organic was simply a personal choice for me, and it hasn’t really been that hard with all the great information available today.
Thanks, again, to The Sage Butterfly for hosting this meme! Fortunately, I’m posting too late in the process to have to select three other bloggers (click here for the meme's rules). You’re all great sources for information and inspiration!