Saturday, July 16, 2016

Books, Buckwheats and Burro

Blooming Red Buckwheat ( Eriogonum grande var. rubescens)
What We Find by Robyn Carr, one of my very favorite novelist

I am not a big fan of novels that focus on dysfunction, aka childhood trauma, particularly those stories where the protagonists are stuck victims and the writer wallows in that stuckness. Recently I read an enjoyable novel with two main characters working through those childhood traumas with awareness and viewing themselves in charge of their lives. The package of physical embodiment includes for each and every one childhood trauma, some of course are more violent than others.  Maggie Sullivan and Cal Jones certainly had different childhood’s, one dealing with her parents’ divorce and the other with a schizophrenic father and a mother who enabled her husband rather than focusing on raising her children. Both found they were “burnt out” from their fast track of being a neurosurgeon (Maggie) and a defense lawyer (Cal) and found happiness and balance in a campground, owned by Maggie’s father, surrounded with beauty, peace and loving community. This is a great Summer read for anyone who likes “happy endings.”

Mustard Every Monday: From Secluded Convent to International Adventure by Anne Fangman

This memoir is written by my dear friend. It is a wonderful telling of a child of an alcoholic mother and an enabler father. Since the mid 80’s I have read numerous of her manuscripts, each one an improvement, reflecting her 35+ years of growth and healing her particular childhood traumas. I highly recommend this read for anyone who admires a woman with courage and gumption, as my Grandma Haynes would say.

Can you find the native insect?
Understanding Roots: Discover How to Make Your Garden Flourish  by Robert Kourick

This local self published author has written numerous books over the years I have lived here in Sonoma County. Early on I heard him speak about his book on lavender. The most recent book contains amazing information about roots. He has included a wide swath of global research about roots. There are two excellent appendixes which are worth the price of book in my opinion: Allelopathy, which is the study of root exudates, and Phytoremediation, which is “the science of using the roots of living plants to accumulate heavy metals and other toxins from the soil.” There is also a third appendix:  “Roots Depth and Width” which is an extremely helpful guide to those of us who have a tendency to over plant. Anyone who gardens with some thought will cherish this book and its vast knowledge of roots. “This book gives us an understanding of the whole plant, and that can only make us better gardeners,” says Jeff Cox who is a former managing editor of Organic Gardening.

The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy, and Serenity by Carol Deppe

This is the second book by Carol Deppe I have consumed with joy and lust. The author is a plant breeder living in the Oregon Willamette Valley with a PhD in biology from Harvard University. One would expect a dry tedious read; however, this author presents scientific facts and her take on them in a funny, riveting way. While I do not agree with all of her practices (like tilling), I do appreciate her clearly presented perspective of a molecular geneticist on growing food and her sheer joy of participating with a “garden’s dance of life.”  She shares her journey of developing “varieties of seeds chosen primarily for flavor and for high vigor and yield when grown under organic growing conditions” in her particular part of the United States. She participates with the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) where the “fight to take back our seeds is happening.” A wonderfully entertaining book for anyone interested in growing food, whether in a few containers on the deck or farming a few acres.

Saint Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum)
Tipping Point for Planet Earth by Anthony D. Barnosky and Elizabeth A. Hadley

This husband and wife team of palaeoecologists have spent over a quarter of a century traveling the globe. The environmental change they have observed at an accelerated rate as the planet’s population explodes, gobbling up the natural resources at an unprecedented rate, has nudged them to write this book.  Their hope is that, journeying with them, each human who reads this book will comprehend that each individual “really do(es) have the power to change the world.” The authors believe, as do I, that “if we, as in all of us, act fast” we can alter the cataclysmic path we humans have set for Planet Earth.

Flat top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)
which, when the picture was taken,
was covered with many different species of native insects not evident in this photo. 
Many years ago when I was first introduced to Permaculture I was fortunate enough to hear its founder, Bill Mollison. He with David Holmgren jointly evolved the framework for a sustainable agricultural system based on multi-crop of perennial trees, shrubs, herbs (vegetables and weeds), fungi and root systems they call “permaculture.” Over the next 10 years this agricultural system was expanded to include much more so those practicing could be fully self reliant. Anyway, Bill Mollison was a realist about what was happening to our planet way back in the 60’s living in Tasmania. During his talk he shared his belief that the chance of humans changing to ameliorate the crisis happening on the planet was nil, and he dealt each day with this belief was by practicing what he loved: building “good biological systems.” In 1981 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. Remembering his statement clearly assists me when I grapple with the state of the planet and my love of maintaining the native ecological system here at MuRefuge.

Shasta kissing a neighbor's burro who LOVES Shasta but only tolerates her kisses.

As each one of us reconsider with conscious thought how we live each moment on this planet in crisis, may we


  1. Wonderful recommendations all! As for climate change noticings - the Sierra had its first "normal" snowpack in years this year and we have a normal summer - so far. However, I was in Paris when the torrential rains caused the Seine to rise so high it overflowed its banks in places, all boat traffic ceased, and the Louvre moved its treasures to higher ground. A greater sensitivity to our lovely green planet is called for - thanks for the work you do.

  2. Thank you friend for the lovely words which are coming at time I am questioning how I spend my time and energy.

  3. Email from my friend in Palm Springs: "Another great blog Cathie. Love the pic of Shasta and the burro. The books sound very interesting... especially the Tipping Point for Planet Earth.
    Enjoyed your wonderful gardens last week.
    We re going into monsoon season in a few days with high humidity and the usual heat....110- 114. This will last for 2 to 12 weeks.
    Thank you for the time spent in cool weather with great company.