Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Medicine of the Earth
Return to Pleasant Valley

Medicine of the Earth
Legends, Recipes, Remedies and Cultivation of Healing Plants
by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi
Rudra Press, 541 NE 20th Ave., Suite 108, Portland, OR 97232
354 pages, 8-1/2 x 11, over 200 black & white illustrations, $16.95

Medicine of the Earth is the European equivalent of Gail Edwards’ Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs (reviewed in The MOF&G in Sept. 1996). The organization is the same: each chapter covers a single herb, with history, folklore, medicinal properties, and recipes for both healing and for delicious meals. Also like Gail, Fischer-Rizzi writes in a comfortable, engaging manner, as if she were sitting across from you at the table drinking herb tea and enthusiastically imparting her extensive knowledge to you at the same time. The reader feels a connection to both writers.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1952, Susanne Fischer-Rizzi has spent most of her life studying and refining her understanding of herbs and their power to heal. At the age of nine, when her grandfather gave her a small book on herbs, he sparked a flame of interest that has lasted. Now an expert in naturopathy, Susanne has an active private practice, has started her own school for herbal medicines, and has published nine books on herbs.

In 1972, she made her first extended trip to Asia, where she learned Ayurvedic and Tibetan herbal healing practices and studied Ayurvedic methods of preparing herbal medicines. After her return to Germany, she studied for three years at the Josef Angerer Naturopathy College in Munich.

Since 1992, Susanne has dedicated herself to teaching and sharing her knowledge through her books (including The Complete Aromatherapy Handbook) and articles in European magazines. She is the mother of two children and lives in Sulzberg, a small village in southern Germany.

Medicine of the Earth includes instructions for collecting, propagating, harvesting and processing herbs; mythological, historical and modern tales about herbs; and culinary, cosmetic and medicinal uses of herbs. Black and white illustrations of each herb greatly enhance the beauty of the book and its usefulness. A sample chapter on sweet woodruff is in this issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, and a review copy of the book is available in the MOFGA library.

– Jean English


Return to Pleasant Valley
Louis Bromfield’s Best from Malabar Farm & His Other Country Classics
Edited by George DeVault
Copyright 1996 by The American Botanist, Booksellers, PO Box 532, Chillicothe, IL, 61523
318 pgs., paper, $19.45 (postage paid)

Louis Bromfield became one of the original sustainable agriculturists a couple of generations ago – but not directly. Born and raised in Ohio, he became a journalist (after dropping out of Columbia School of Journalism), served in France in World War I, wrote for the Associated Press and others, and wrote novels, mostly from the countryside of Paris. A contemporary of Hemingway, Thurber and Steinbeck, he won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for literature for his third novel, Early Autumn.

What more could a man who had hunted tigers with royalty want out of life? A nagging thought kept telling him that there was something else he wanted to do, and in 1939, he began to do it: He bought three depleted farms in Ohio, put them together, named them Malabar Farm, and soon tripled yields on the 1,000 acres using ecological methods to do so. He wrote about his experiences and feelings about the farm, too, for magazines and in his own books. Sixteen of these writings have been collected by Rodale editor George DeVault and put into the highly readable Return to Pleasant Valley.

Bromfield writes, for instance, about his neighbor Walter Oakes, who walked his land religiously and knew it intimately. He took Bromfield to a hedgerow once, pointed and exclaimed, “Look at the little devils.” Oakes had to show Bromfield what he saw so easily: seven tiny quail hidden in the dry, brown leaves. “They used to laugh at me,” said Oakes, “for letting the bushes grow up in my fence rows, but they don’t any more. When the chinch bugs come along all ready to eat up my corn, these little fellows will take care of ’em … Henry Talbot, down the road, lost ten acres of corn all taken by the bugs. Henry’s a nut for clear fence rows. He doesn’t leave enough cover along ’em for a grasshopper. He thinks that’s good farming, the old fool!”

In his essay, “Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Us?” Bromfield laments “what a small trickle of information, much less inspiration, finally comes through [from the Department of Agriculture] to the average farmer.” He suggested that in the South and Southwest, “where actually there exists suspicion and hostility of most agents associated with government of any kind,” local preachers be “enlisted as a force for good agriculture, good diet and good soils.” This could be the message of local preachers and teachers, even today.

In “Up Ferguson Way,” Bromfield talks about a day when his father took him to visit an Ohio neighbor, Zenobia Ferguson. After Zenobia fixed them a vegetarian lunch, Bromfield’s father took a nap on the couch while Zenobia did the dishes and Bromfield went outside. Bromfield, a young boy then, began digging in the mud, while ducks and a cow and a squirrel came unusually close to him. “I stopped digging to watch and suddenly the calf became my brother, a small creature for whom I felt a sudden intense love, quite different from the sort of love I felt for any person … I knew suddenly what the ducks were quacking about and understood the look in the great brown eyes of the Jersey cow.”

Soon Bromfield noticed Zenobia watching him. “That one over there – the squirrel,” she told Bromfield. “He’s an impudent bad character but very comical.” When she called John (the squirrel) to her, he scrambled up her dress and onto her shoulder, where he and Zenobia had a conversation about Bromfield – Zenobia assuring John that “It’s all right. He knows what we know. He may forget it some day but in the end, it will come back to him. He’s one of those that is teched [sic] like us.”

The book ends with a chapter about Malabar Farm written by Ellen Bromfield Geld, Bromfield’s daughter, who now lives at Garlic Tree Farm in Brazil; directions for visiting Malabar (now an Ohio State Park); and a list of books by and about Bromfield. This is the book to keep by your bed at night in order to enjoy some good writing, valuable insights, and the inspiration to keep your own farm going.

Return to Pleasant Valley is available in the MOFGA library.

– Jean English


MOF&G Cover Spring 1997