Sustainable Vegetable Production From Start-Up to Market
by Vernon P. Grubinger, Ph.D.
280 pgs., copyright 1999 by Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service
$42 & $5.50 postage and handling & 8% sales tax for New York residents.
Gardening or small scale farming is a passion of mine, so I was anxious to read Vernon Grubinger's book ***Sustainable Vegetable Production From Start-Up to Market.*** Vern spoke last year at MOFGA's Organic Short Course and his talk was well worth attending and taking copious notes. Having all of those notes, and much more, in a more readable format is exciting.
For folks who are just starting to farm, Vernís book has a great deal of clearly explained information, as well as drawings of various tillage and cultivating equipment with helpful descriptions of how the numerous attachments work. The text also includes advice about which bits work better in different situations. A very good discussion covers soil pH and its relation to mineral availability. Other topics range from an explanation of sustainable agriculture, to suggestions about where to locate your farm to meet your growing needs; managing employees; crop rotation and cover crop possibilities; weed types; and harvesting methods. The appendices are full of resources: addresses of suppliers, crop nutrient requirements and more.
The Grower Profiles were the most fun to read and had the most specific information. One discussed Ed Person of Moultonborough, N.H., who produces many crops in a dozen greenhouses and unheated tunnels. (Person, who also runs a greenhouse manufacturing business, donated the greenhouse to MOFGA's Common Ground.) Another profile tells how Dennis King of Penobscot grows rutabagas. Still other profiles cover growers who produce everything from asparagus to field tomatoes.
If youíre trying to figure out how to change your rotation system, which cover crops to order, or how to display your tomatoes at the farmerís market, this book would be a valuable addition to your library.
Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs
A few years ago, Maine herbalist Gail Edwards self-published her herb book, Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs. It was a work that truly sprouted and flourished from Gailís heart and spoke to the hearts of those who love plants, nature and health. Not only was it full of practical advice, but Gailís personal stories also produced a strong sense of love, caring and sharing. Now, Opening Our Wild Hearts has been republished by Ash Tree Publishing (PO Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498; copyright 2000; $13.95) in a format that is easier to handle and is even more beautiful than Gailís original, wonderful book.
The cover of this 8 1/2 x 5 1/2" paperback glows with a multicolor painting of a heart, a sun and Ladyís mantle, done by Tess Hartford. Within the book, each herb is discussed in two or more pages, and the first page of each description has a green line drawing of the species with the text superimposed over it in black print. The design and arrangement of the book is one of the best Iíve seen among herbals.
The text is divided into three major parts: the first, an introduction to the "Wise Woman" tradition of gathering and using herbs; the second covering medicinal trees, from apple to willow, and healing herbs, from agrimony to yellow dock; and the third telling how to make medicines from fresh or dried, cultivated, wild or purchased plant material. A glossary, list of resources, and a superb index (thank you Gail!) complete the book.
In reading Opening Our Wild Hearts, I learned not only much about herbs, but also that Gail and I share a common background: We were both raised as Catholics. In an essay about smudging (burning dried herbs to nourish the spirit and invoke the sacred), Gail writes, "I feel instantly reverent when I smell frankincense, which was burned in Catholic church during my childhood. Many cultures believe smoke from burning herbs clears unwanted energies and carries prayers to the Great Spirit." My own memories of smelling frankincense in church recall a feeling of deep relaxation, of the wonderful, all-encompassing, other worldliness of the atmosphere in the church--despite the conflicting messages that were being spewed by the priest about how everyone but good Catholics would be damned! I guess the frankincense was needed to clear the air...
In a list of visionary herbs, Gail includes (in addition to frankincense) milkweed. "Grow milkweed in and around your garden to attract winged beings, especially devas, elves, faeries, and Monarch butterflies." This is truly the Wise Woman thing to do, as genetically engineered crops, development, habitat destruction and herbicide-intensive farming systems threaten milkweed and monarchs--not to mention devas, elves and faeries.
Some of the medicinals that Gail describes are common. About apples, for instance, she writes: "Hildegard of Bingen prescribed raw apples as a tonic for healthy people and cooked apples as a first course of treatment for any sickness. Dentists recommend eating raw apples because they reduce cavities by cleaning tartar deposits from teeth and stimulate blood flow to the gums. Chinese physicians use apple bark to treat diabetes. Several modern studies suggest apple pectin helps those dealing with hypoglycemia or diabetes to control blood sugar levels. Eating an apple a day really does help keep the doctor away."
Among the many other tips that Gail provides are these:
Nationally renowned herbalist Susun Weed says in the introduction to Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs: "The Wise Woman shines here--wild, free and generous--in every story Gail tells, in every remedy she shares. May these Wise Woman Ways be of benefit to you through this offering. Surely the GrandMothers are smiling." So am I.