Decades have passed since I can remember a winter that persists as this one does. When a daytime high temperature of 35 feels balmy and the light coat gets worn rather than the parka. We were sprinkled with another light dressing of snow yesterday. Driving on snow covered roads has become all too familiar.
The last few years we would be making early harvests of perennial greens and spring onions starting about now. The kale that survived would be growing and pushing out new leaf. The buds on the early flowering trees would be swelling. Birds would be migrating through and their song would be a welcome addition. However, the snow shovel is still needed, and the dog has been confined to a smaller and smaller relief spot that will be an unusual mess when the snow melts. The puddle ducks typically have a multitude of lakes with open water to choose from but only the rivers are open so they all cram into the quiet eddies and wait. The kids who love to play on December snow are tired of the white mess and grump there is nothing to do. Where is spring?
Could it also be this longing that has me unhappy with what I’ve been reading. I turn to books for ideas and understanding, entertainment too. Jo Robinson’s, Eating on the Wild Side, was a disappointment. The book was well researched and written. The books’ focus on nutritional attributes of foods is something one would expect from a nutrition writer. Little aspects troubled me as well. New potatoes were mentioned. Unfortunately if it wasn’t a “new” potato it was called an “old” potato. How awkward! The author grouped certain categories of foods together that was confusing. Blueberries with Raspberries and Cranberries with Blackberries. What? Brambles together and small bush fruits together! Her research had a preference for West Coast info. Some of the writing showed an ignorance of the Great Lakes Region. The author is from Vashon Island. Maybe that isolation has kept her from a more inclusive vision. A final comment. Nutritional attributes of foods can vary depending on the fertility of the soils they are grown in. Albrecht worked hard to educate on this decades ago. His main points are overlooked in this work. It leads me to question the validity of the book.
I finished Stephen Leslie’s, The New Horse-Powered Farm. I was so excited when I saw this book. I finally got around to reading it this winter. I applaud the work and encourage small farmers to pursue animal power to provide work on their farms. At Tillers we are kindred spirits. Photos of work being done at Tillers is included in the book! If you want to learn about these methods and practices, no better place to learn than Tillers! I don’t want to be critical of this splendid work but find a desire to urge farmers to use their critical thinking skills when approaching tillage. In one illustration, about a seasons work in a field, the farmers make over 10 passes with tillage equipment. The preference for plowing, discing, harrowing and cultivating seems excessive. Horses can do this work so well, but the toll on soil life has to be questioned. We find fewer passes are better. Proving that you can get the horses to do your work is not the point. The highest efficiency is our goal. So sometimes grabbing a hoe and spending 20 minutes to weed the pepper row is all you need to do. Sure the horses could do it, but it takes as much time to harness/unharness the animals as it does to get the work done yourself!
Both of these works are highly thought of and widely recommended. I agree with Leslie’s work. I read every line in the book and found it very informative. Robinson’s work is best targeted to the conscious consumer. I found myself skimming through whole chapters wondering if anything was relevant. Sadly, I found little that was inspiring, thought provoking or entertaining.