LocalHarvest Newsletter, February 29, 2012

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

Rare is the book I want to carry around with me from room to room. This month I have been in the clutches of one such, and remain utterly smitten. Oddly enough, it's a book about gardening. I usually avoid these because they make me feel bad. My garden looks nothing like the pictures and my yields are never as described. Well-intentioned as I am in early spring, as the months go by other priorities inevitably arise and by September either the garden or I look pretty bedraggled. Sometimes both. That is why the author of The Resilient Gardener had me from the first page when she wrote, "Reality is, there is almost always something going wrong. Hard times are normal." Reading those lines, I felt my shoulders relax. Of course we all know that hard times are normal: life teaches us early and often. Still, we usually act as if it were otherwise, as if setback and loss and injustice and the long slow uphill were anomalies, in and outside of the garden. By making the truth of hard times her starting point, author Carol Deppe dismisses the lovely but unlikely ideal, and instead turns her considerable attention toward the real world of drought and injury, slugs and power outages. In her hands this world, too, is lovely, and that is reason number one that I love this book.

Reason number two is found in the subtitle: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. I don't know that I have read anything else that treats the subject of climate change with such a level head. She applies this same sensibility to its impact on food production: "The last hundred years has apparently been unusually stable with respect to both weather and climate. … We have learned to garden and farm in the context of unusually stable times. We now need to learn to expand our perspectives and learn, or relearn how to garden and farm in wilder times."

Deppe spends much of the rest of the book telling readers how to do just that. She describes how she stocks and rotates her larder to make sure she would not go hungry or thirsty should her outside food and water supply be cut off for a few weeks. But remarkably, there is not one molecule of fear to be found in any of these discussions. She just keeps an eye on the reality of interruptions to the norm, and plans accordingly. "This is the kind of stashing and storing I suggest: a style designed primarily to enhance the quality of our lives in ordinary times -- which, secondarily, also serves to enhance our personal and regional resilience in hard times."

The Resilient Gardener contains an abundance of solid gardening information. I read it with a pencil in hand. Beginning and seasoned farmers and gardeners will find plenty to chew on here, as will those whose main gardening experience is "virtual."

A gift of equal measure is the author's own voice. Deppe is a good companion. Here is a sample, "Only some things are worth doing well. Most things that are worth doing are only worth doing sloppily. Many things aren't worth doing at all. Anything not worth doing at all is certainly not worth doing well." See what I mean? Likewise, Deppe is as keen an observer of herself as she is of her garden. This leads to discussions on topics ranging from her distaste for exercise to her treatment protocol for restless leg syndrome, from her discoveries about more usable forms of omega-3 fat to her back-saving planting techniques, all of which manage to be simultaneously wise, intimate, interesting and infinitely practical.

Reading books that replenish our stores of courage, hope and resourcefulness is good medicine for hard times. If you have books you'd recommend for this, or would like to comment on The Resilient Gardner, we'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, take good care, and eat well.

Erin Barnett

p.s. -- If you'd like to read the first chapter of The Resilient Gardener, you can download a copy here.

From the LocalHarvest Store:

With cold season dragging on, and the cleansing season of spring coming soon, it is a great time to stock up on some herbal medicines to support your physical health. We work with several well-versed herbalists, whose products are among our most popular.

Speaking of health, few decisions affect it as much as your food choices. How about trying a CSA this year, and giving your body plenty of fresh, tasty vegetables? Looking to grow your own? There's still time to order seeds for some of America's favorite veggies, from our farmers to you!

CSAware: Get ready for your 2012 CSA season!

For those of you who have been wanting to take a look at our CSA management software, CSAware, this winter would be a great time to do so. We love working with CSA farmers in this way. It is so gratifying to be creating software that really improves the day to day operations and the bottom line on our users' farms. If you have a CSA farm and would like to see the software, let us know and we'll set you up for a tour.

Food from the Garden: Jacob's Cattle Bean, Kale and Chèvre Soup

If you live in an area where winter drags on, this is a good soup to bring some heart to cold nights. It is rich and flavorful, one of those soups that makes a great meal when company comes, and is even better at lunch the second day. I never would have paired kale and bell peppers, but they are fast friends in this soup. The heavy cream and goat cheese might not bet for everyone; I ended up using 8 oz. of chèvre instead of the recommended 12, but perhaps you're made of stronger stuff than I. Either way, it is delicious.