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"At either end of any food chain you find a biological system -- a patch of soil, a human body -- health of one is connected, literally, to the health of the other."
- Michael Pollan
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MOF&G Cover Spring 1999

  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 1999Reviews – Spring 1999   
 Reviews & Resources – Spring 1999 Minimize


Books
• Solviva – How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre & Peace On Earth
• Happiness Is a Kitchen in Maine: Recipes From Real Women
• Good Bugs for Your Garden
• Spoiled: Why Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It
• Rolling Prairie Cookbook; Over 130 Recipes Celebrating Fresh Produce
Resources
• Biological Pest Control Catalog Available
• Composting for Municipalities
• Dairy Feeding Systems
• Natural Horse Care


Solviva – How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre & Peace On Earth
By Anna Edey
1998 Trailblazer Press, RFD 1 Box 592, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; Tel. 508-693-3341 224 pgs., paperback $35 plus $3 shipping (priority mail); payable by VISA, Master Card or check

In addition to the Solviva title, the rest of the cover of this book reads: “Good News from the Front; Learning the Art of Living with Solar-Dynamic, Bio-Benign Design; Revealing the Truth About How We Can Provide Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Transportation, Food, Solid Waste and Wastewater Management in Ways that Reduce Pollution and Depletion of Resources by 80 Percent or More and That at the Same Time Reduce Cost of Living and Improve Quality of Life.” Not a bad goal!

This attractive book (printed on chlorine-free paper with high recycled content) begins with an introduction, followed by 38 pages of color illustrations of solar designs for homes and businesses, for animal shelters, for greenhouses; of waste treatment facilities and parking lots; and more. Great care has gone into making this book both informative and attractive.

That sense of caring has come from Edey’s lifetime of looking at and loving her environment, and of thinking of ways to maintain it ecologically. As a young bride in the ‘50s, she came from Sweden to the United States, and after a while moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her husband and daughters. After a divorce, she and her girls lived in a simple, rural home on the Vineyard – and that’s were she had one of her first catalytic experiences: They collected urine in chamber pots on nights when it was too cold to go to the outhouse. The urine was poured here and there each day, and the following spring, Edey was amazed to see the extra growth made by wild plants where the urine had been dumped. She later found that urine, diluted 1:10 with water, was a good fertilizer. She called it by various names: peace-on-earth; you’re-in-charge; you’re-in power. The urine experience got Edey thinking about simpler ways to treat waste than the huge treatment plants that we build today.

Edey is a thinker (and doer), and she didn’t stop with urine. She went on to design homes and businesses that collect solar heat and efficiently use it to warm air and water; to grow plants; to heat swimming pools; and much more. Her “Solviva Backyard Food Factory,” for example, provides enough vegetables, eggs and meat for a family (chickens and rabbits are part of the design), while being automated enough that the owner can be away for a week or more without worrying. She has designed a commercial greenhouse that is heated by direct and stored solar heat and by the heat given off by animals (rabbits – for angora; chickens – for eggs; and sheep – for fleece). The greenhouse holds heat in “waterwalls” – 65 triple, black poly bags filled with 50 gallons of water each, set in wood-framed compartments on the back wall of the greenhouse. Using her collection and storage systems, “neither the water nor the soil ever fell below 55” degrees. “The water in 65 bags picked up 650,000 BTUs of solar heat – about equivalent to burning 6 gallons of fuel oil each day.” The design has enabled Edey to grow enough greens to provide 1,200 bagged salads per week to Boston-area restaurants.

Edey says that such designs can be used to retrofit classrooms, businesses, homes and large urban buildings. She has designs for a restaurant/business center with a minifarm on two-thirds of an acre; for a Solargreen White House that preserves the architectural integrity of that historic building; for a “biocarbon” septage treatment facility that requires 1 acre of land and transforms 5 million gallons of septage per year into clean water, excellent compost and healthy plants – without producing odors, and at a fraction of the cost of conventional systems, and causing 90% less pollution than systems currently required by the state – in many cases at far less cost than those conventional systems.

On the home front, she has designed composting toilets and a flush toilet that uses a composting system. She has found ways to keep chickens and sheep together so that the chickens clean up the parasite eggs and larvae of the sheep while the sheep mow her fields. She has calculated that the heat output from rabbits and chickens – 8 BTUs per hour per pound of body weight – is enough to equal 2 to 3 gallons of heating oil. One of my favorite designs discussed in the book is for an “ecocommunity recreation center,” with swimming pools, a health food restaurant, a solar greenhouse, and more. Edey recommends enlisting the military to help build a model center – because the military has the know-how and personnel, and because such solar buildings will contribute to our national defense by lowering our dependence on foreign oil.

The greenhouse designs in Solviva are complemented by information about soil building, plant growing and pest control. Marketing ideas for maximizing income from small areas are also given.

This review is not coming close to doing justice to Solviva – the most important, most significant book I have read in years. If I were in charge of picking a set of nonfiction books that would guide the rebuilding of communities, Solviva would be in that set – along with Eliot Coleman’s books and the Olkowskis’ The Integral Urban House. I hope that MOF&G readers will buy this book for themselves, their town planners and their libraries. I recommend it as the book that all University of Maine students should read next year, and as a blueprint for restructuring society so that we are less susceptible to disturbances in national and international food, power, transportation and defense systems. Oh – It’s a great book for someone who wants to start farming, too!

– Jean English

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Happiness Is a Kitchen in Maine:
Recipes From Real Women

By Paula Boyer Rougny
Peapatch Press, 1998. 185 pp.; $12.95

I confess that when I picked up this simple looking cookbook, I was skeptical. Another hometown cookbook. As I browsed the pages I soon realized that Paula Rougny has created an extraordinary collection of recipes that capture the essence of present day Maine. Snippets of verse, opinion and reflection are interspersed with artful sparsity, like a bay leaf in a soup, just enough for good flavor.

The recipes mix together her forbears’ Scandinavian wholesomeness with the delicate Parisian cuisine of her husband, Jean Pierre. Add a few neighbors, some traditional fare, a friend or two with healthful suggestions, stir carefully, and you come up with a truly diverse cookbook. One that will get taken down from the shelf and used any time you need a new idea, or just a little inspiration.

Such recipes as Puglia and Potato Bread share a page. Plain Old Delicious Custard follows Creme Brulee. Other recipes include Better Butternut Bisque, Cape Porpoise Seafood Chowder, Provencale Tomatoes, Rhubarb Bread Pudding, Spanakopita, Bangor Baked Beans, Stephado, and Flemish Beef Stew.

Rougny, who has worked as a summer camp cook and as a commercial baker, writes that “the book is aimed at people who associate gardens and farmers markets with sitting down to eat at a table with doing something good for the world. It’s about simplicity, and women talking …”

Happiness is a simple cookbook, simple in its honest approach – like women talking around a kitchen table, sharing a recipe. Paula Rougny has captured the depth and flavor of Maine.

– Roberta Bailey

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Good Bugs for Your Garden
Written and illustrated by Allison Mia Starcher
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1995; 54pgs., $10.95

I was taught in college that horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. If that is so, then Allison Mia Starcher is a true horticulturist. In Good Bugs for Your Garden, she writes, briefly, about her philosophy of gardening – including as much diversity and color as possible, encouraging beneficial insects, not trying to eradicate harmful insects, not using toxic pesticides – then charms the reader with the most delightful illustrations of beneficial organisms and their habitats. These color illustrations are arranged so that one organisms is covered per page, and each page is like a small, artfully designed poster. The bottom of most pages shows the earth and what might be happening there in relation to the particular organism; the top shows blue sky; under the sky is some garden scene wrapped around the name of the particular organism; and the rest of the page has illustrations of the organism, both enlarged and actual size; illustrations of plants or structures where the organism might be found; handwritten descriptions of the organisms and their habits; and more.

The page on dragonflies, for instance, has illusfrations of the, miniature water garden in a half barrel; of a woman sitting on a rock by a pond, surrounded by cattails and a willow tree. The page on ground beetles shows the mature beetle and its larva; some of its hosts (snails, slugs, gypsy moth larvae and root maggots); and pictures of a stone path, white clover and a compost pile – all of which attract these predators. If you’ve ever wondered how Encarsia, Ichneumon and Trichogramma wasps differ in appearance and habitat, Starcher’s illustrations will help you sort them out. In addition to beneficial insects, other helpful organisms, such as spiders, mites, centipedes and earthworms, are covered in this little book.

You often hear that some book would be “the perfect gift” for the gardener. Good Bugs for Your Garden is just that. It would also be a good book to have in any classroom where the teacher wanted to show students how to become good observers of nature.

– Jean English

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Spoiled: Why Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It
By Nicholas Fox
1997, Basic Books, New York, N.Y.; 434 pages; $25 hardcover

Spoiled by Nicholas Fox deserves a place in every library, school curriculum and on the desk of your legislator! It is a well documented, carefully researched look at our present food supply and the problems surrounding it. MOFGA members will recognize the themes: an overzealous industrialized agribiz, bureaucratic and industry inertia, corporate denial, public demand for cheap food at any cost, intensive feed lots and a global economy. Each of these themes is well developed and make it abundantly clear why food-borne pathogens are having a field day.

Fox points out that by greatly altering the world ecology through deforestation, urbanization, industrialization and changes in food production, we have created new opportunities for the rapid spread of microbes. Change, be it though technology, consumer desires, or political maneuvering, is not automatically bad but it is seldom neutral. Newton’s laws apply to microbiology and food technology as well as physics – for every action there is a reaction and as we leap into new technologies without a thought for synergistic reactions we have opened a Pandora’s box.

Signs of trouble have been slow to surface publicly as the USDA, protected by the mantra “ America has the safest food supply in the world” and caught in its dual and conflicting roles of promoter of agriculture and protector of food safety, has failed to keep the public honestly informed. “In 1990 the GAO report on Federal efforts to ensure food safety noted the general agreement among its agencies that microbial contamination would become critical in the near future but the fragmented, complex federal food safety and quality regulatory system (consisting of 35 different laws and 12 agencies) was hampering efforts to do anything about the problem.” By 1996, the GAO noted that nothing had changed in spite of the growing problem of microbial contamination. Consumer information has been difficult to find. Thirteen states have “agricultural disparagement” laws designed by the American Feed Industry Association and the American Farm Bureau. These give growers and industry associations the right to sue anyone who says their product is a health hazard. They obligate the one bringing the suit to back it up with scientific evidence, a lengthy and expensive process that intimidates many concerned about food safety. The difficulties of obtaining true data about food-borne disease are overwhelming.

Fox ends with a plea to consumers. “We are clearly at a turning point – the BSE-CJD (mad cow disease) crisis, E. coli 0157:H7, the other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and the tremendous increase in Salmonella enteritidis and all the other emerging food-borne pathogens are ample evidence. If sensible agricultural practices are to take hold in the United States, the momentum will come from the bottom up: consumers who are angry enough to demand clean food.”

– Anne Johnson, Orono, Maine

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Rolling Prairie Cookbook
Over 130 Recipes Celebrating Fresh Produce

By Nancy O’Connor.
Illustrations by Karen Kerney, foreword by Laurel Robertson.
1998; Spring Wheat Nutrition Education Services, 1198 N 700 Rd., Lawrence, Kansas 66047. Softcover, 221 pages, $14.95, plus $3.00 shipping and handling.

“Daikon! What can I do with a daikon radish?”

That’s a question a new subscriber to Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance CSA might be afraid to ask.

Each summer week, nutrition educator Nancy O’Connor has supplied such answers in the Rolling Prairie newsletter, “In The Bag.” After four years, she has added to and gathered the newsletters into Rolling Prairie Cookbook.

Each fruit, herb and vegetable offered has a chapter following the same pattern: a drawing of the feature; a word picture; directions for handling and for basic preparation. Turn the page and find two or three delicious, often unusual recipes.

For daikon, you’ll find a relish, a stir-fry with parsley and a salad with zucchini. With each recipe is a nutritional analysis, and the chapter ends with nutrition information for the vegetable alone, listing calories, fat, fiber, minerals and vitamins. The print is easy to read, and sometimes there’s extra space below a recipe – a good spot to add your own notes.

All of the recipes have been tested, often on the author’s own family as well as at a local co-op grocery in Lawrence, Kansas, where she is a full-time nutrition educator.

Why should somebody in Maine turn to a cookbook from northeast Kansas? Because it’s a pleasure to read, practical and features organic produce that can be grown in our region. Those mystified by some ingredients will appreciate a list – with definitions – of such staples as balsamic vinegar, seitan and turbinado sugar. This is followed by an explanation of the nutritional analysis, then a bibliography and the index. Laurel Robertson, of Laurel’s Kitchen, sets the mood of the book with her enthusiastic foreword.

Here’s a book to savor, to inspire (turned down corners on pages – with recipes I’ll try – adorn my copy) and to use for the best and freshest provender of summer. It’s a celebration of local growing of the tastiest, healthiest food one can procure. Rolling Prairie Cookbook belongs on any organic cookbook shelf, for ready reference. It’s the sort of volume which may accumulate little slobbers and stains as the cook follows its recipes. That’s praise!

– Carol Howe, Rockland, Maine

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Resources

Biological Pest Control Catalog Available

The Green Spot, Ltd., a major supplier of biological pest control agents and integrated pest management paraphernalia, has a free, 40-page catalog available. Contact The Green Spot, Ltd., 93 Priest Rd., Nottingham NH 03290-6204; Tel. 603- 942-8925; Fax: 603-942-8932; email: GrnSpt@cwixMail.com

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Composting for Municipalities

Composting for Municipalities: Planning and Design Considerations, published in Nov. 1998 and containing 136 pages, is available for $18 per copy plus $3.50 shopping and handling from NRAES’, Cooperative Extension, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-5701. Make checks payable to NRAES. For more information or for a free catalog, contact NRAES at 607-255-7654; fax 607-254- 8770; email NRAES@CORNELL.EDU; or visit http://nraes.org.

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Dairy Feeding Systems

Dairy Feeding Systems: Management, Components and Nutrients, NRAES-116, is available for $30 plus $5 shipping and handling from NRAES (see address above). The 408-page publication was published in Dec. 1998 and is the proceedings of the conference by the same name held in December in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

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Natural Horse Care

Natural Horse Magazine, a new, monthly publication, began in January 1999 with a focus on natural care for horses and other animals. It discusses humane and natural alternatives to today’s “traditional” means of horse care in order to expand the reader’s knowledge and understanding of complementary methods, thus bringing greater well-being to the horse and his world while improving the relationship between man and animal. Feature topics include nutrition, including the values of organics, as well as homeopathy, herbs, massage, chiropractic, acupressure and acupuncture, aromatherapy, and how to use these complementary therapies along with current veterinary techniques. Other features include humane training, care and maintenance of the horse; care of pets and other animals; information and fun for children; do-it-yourself ideas for riders and owners; case histories, book reviews and more.

For more information, see www.naturalhorse.com; email publisher@naturalhorse.com; or call Randi Peters, Editor, at Natural Horse Magazine, 717-284-3720.

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