Reading Lists and Projects

some completed, some not so completed

This weekend was not as productive as I had hoped (shocker!). Juniper has been slowly getting pickier and pickier about eating. For most of the fall she would be standing by the gate to the round pen, ready and waiting to eat her breakfast; and she’d eat most of it, or rather, most of it made it into her mouth at some point though she lost a lot in the process. Side note – we’re hoping to find an equine dental specialist and have them out once it’s warmer to take another look at Juniper’s teeth. She is still having too hard of a time eating despite the dental float we had done this fall. Luckily Leeloo is always happy to eat up anything that Juniper drops. Anyway, as the weather has gotten colder we’ve had to add less water to Juniper’s food because even at her most excited Juniper is a slow eater, SLOW, and once the temperature really dropped her food would invariably start to freeze before she would finish it and then she didn’t want it anymore (Leeloo of course had no such compunctions). I have eased back the water to the point where it doesn’t freeze, but this also means Juniper is less interested in finishing it. She’s still super excited for that first bite, but sometimes we barely get much more than that. Some days she decides hay is better and stops eating if she thinks I’m about to come around with the hay sled and bites the bars of the round pen gate until we let her out. Some days she’s thirsty and wants to have a drink in the middle of breakfast. For a while I brought her, her very own small bucket of water for while she was eating breakfast and that worked for a little while, but it has stopped working. Some days she just wants us to hold it for her the way we hold it for Leeloo (I wish I was joking). My hope is that if we can feed Juniper (and Leeloo) in the “barn” shelter that I can throw a little hay in there, and her bucket of water, and then just leave her and Leeloo in there long enough for Juniper to finish eating. I’m also hoping that if we feed in a sheltered area instead of out in the open I can start adding a little more water to her food without it freezing. All of that combined with how much it sucks to stand outside in almost all weather feeding them has really motivated me to get that last “barn” shelter bay cleaned out so we can use it as the make-shift barn as I had planned. We ALMOST got there this weekend, almost but not quite. The stupid ice from last week has made getting in and out of that shelter very treacherous so Nate and I spent much of the weekend trying to rectify that situation instead of finishing the cleanout. The last thing I need is for the horses or for us to slip (again). Fingers crossed that by next weekend we are officially feeding in the “barn” shelter.

Though I didn’t make as much progress on the “barn” shelter as I had hoped, I did make a decent dent in my “I want to be a farmer” reading list. This urge to be some sort of farmer/food producer/livestock rancher is not a new thing for me, though it has never felt quite so urgent and immediate as it has now. Over the years I have done a variety of reading related to these farming dreams. Most of these were read back-to-back-to-back so I have a hard time remembering exactly which information I learned from which book, particularly since there is a lot of overlap. The exception being the book by Ruth Stout; that one I remember very well, and I highly recommend it – funny and informative!

books I read a while ago – I recommend all of them:

The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka – this is a book on many “must read” lists regarding sustainable, natural, regenerative, buzz word of your choice, agriculture.

The Soil Will Save Us. How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet. by Kristin Ohlson The subtitle tells you all you need to know, it was actually a pretty hopeful book. If you are feeling depressed about climate change then this book may help you feel better.

Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

Building Soils Naturally: Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners by Phil Nauta

Those last two had a lot of overlap being focused completely on soil, how it works, what makes it healthy, and ways to improve it. I learned a ton and if you are interested in soil I recommend them both (mostly because at this point they have merged into one book in my head).

Gardening Without Work. For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent by Ruth Stout – HIGHLY recommend. Not only was it informative but it was very entertaining. Her gardening method is extreme mulching and I had planned on trying it out last summer but then I randomly decided to bring Leeloo home and there went every free second.

books I have read in the past week –

The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening by Charlie Nardozzi. This one was good, but didn’t offer that much new information having read those previous books. He goes over many things a little bit but not any one thing in depth; mile wide, inch deep sort of thing. He did however give me a few things I want to learn even more about, in particular polycultures and keyhole beds. He also led to another book I’m currently reading, Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway.

The Ultimate Guide to Natural Farming and Sustainable Living by Nicole Faires. This book was meh and I didn’t finish it. Again, very mile wide and inch deep. Though if we’re comparing them it was more like 100 miles wide and a ¼ inch deep – except for the places where you fall in a trench. Perhaps it gets better if you read the whole thing but I have a pile of books I want to read and this one just wasn’t doing it for me so I moved on after only getting about 1/3 of the way through it.

Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer by Forrest Pritchard and Ellen Polishuk. This book was great! It both got me excited to start farming and also made me stop and think many times about whether I really want to do this. Again more on the mile wide, inch deep end of the spectrum but it was appropriate for the purpose of the book, laying out all the things a new farmer needs to think about and consider before starting a farm related business.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. This is the book I’m currently reading and I am really enjoying it so far.

I am also eagerly awaiting fall because I am hoping to take the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Class which is a year long program for new and prospective farmers and it starts again in September.

I’m also supposed to be doing reading for my two education-related classes, but it is much, MUCH, harder to motivate myself to read any of those books, even the ones I was mildly interested in a few months ago. My heart has without question moved on from teaching – now I just need everything else to catch up.