From Books to Garden Plots, Gifts of Love

Dec. 16, 2011
Garden plot to books: Give a truly organic ‘gift of love’

Looking for a quick Christmas present? Why not give the gift of good, wholesome, nutritious food!
All you need is a little elbow grease, some simple tools like a shovel and willingness to dig.
Like last year, I’m suggesting that if there’s anybody you can think of who can no longer fend much for themselves and would appreciate it, such as an elderly neighbor or family members, that you give them a gift certificate for a “Jim’s Plot.”
That is, offer to put a 4-by-8-foot plot of ground in their yard, perhaps by the kitchen in a sunny place, where simple greens or vegetables can be grown – and then keep it tilled and planted throughout the year.
Call it a gift of love. What could be more loving than the gift of health?

Books are good gifts, too. And also for treating yourself with when relatives give you a check or gift certificate for your Kindle, Nook or iPad – or bookstore!
Here are a few books I’ve written about in the past year:


Looking for an “edible yard,” or swapping your lawn for an edible landscape? Pioneered by Rosalind Creasy, with The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques (Sierra Club Books, 1982, and several other books since then), and boosted by other such popular books as The Edible Landscape by Tom MacCubbin (1998), shifting yards to make them into foodscapes has become a national movement.
Check out Eliot Coleman’s classic: The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (Chelsea Green, 1995, $24.95).
Or Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses (Chelsea Green, 2009, $29.95).
For unique views on farming, check out: The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin (Polyface, $25)
Or, to learn what’s really going on with your yard or pasture, see: Weeds: Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters (Acres USA, 1999, $25).
Or take a “hands-free” approach to growing: The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (New York Review of Books Classics, $15.95, 2009).
For a classic on permaculture, see Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (2000, updated 2009, Chelsea Green, $29.95).
Like healthy foods you can make during the winter? See: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green, 2003, $25).

Classics to be:
Brad Kessler’s book is one of my favorites, a “must” read for anyone who longs to “go back to the land” and raise goats: Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese (Scribner, 2009, $24).
Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, by Maria Rodale, (Rodale Books, 2010, $23.99).

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals by Gail Damerow (Storey, 2011, $24.95).
Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume (Skyhorse, 2011, $16.95).
Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create by Renee Wilkinson (Fulcrum, 2011, $26.95).

Good reading:
The Wisdom of the Radish: And Other Lessons Learned on a Small Farm by Lynda Hopkins (Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2011, $23.95) is a sweet, sometimes humorous and sometimes bittersweet tale of a young woman learning the joys and heartaches of growing food for others.
Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted & Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You by Margaret Floyd (New Harbinger, Oakland, Calif., $16.95) is an eye-opening book about eating raw food; it’s not naughty but gives the straight skinny on nutrition!
Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and All Seasons by Felder Rushing (Chelsea Green, $29.95); not organic, but our local horticulturist has some great ideas!
Honeybee: Lessons From an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese (Black Dog & Leventhall Publishers; $14.95), details a woman’s education from knowing nothing about bees to becoming a master “beek,” with lots of culinary and medicinal lore learned along the way.
Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting America’s Bees and Butterflies by The Xerces Society (Storey Publishing; $29.95).
Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs by Tammi Hatung (Storey Publishing, 2011; $19.95).
The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook: Simple Food Solutions for Everyday Meals (Oxmore, 2011, $21.95).

Online: Want a quick gift? Give a donation in someone’s name to the International Rescue Committee:

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit


One response to “From Books to Garden Plots, Gifts of Love

  1. Hi Jim,

    I like what you write. It’s important to keep the information flowing. I was a student of Alan Chadwicks 40 years ago. I’ve been designing and building gardens since then. I now write a blog on edible landscaping, hoping to provide information and inspiration to people who might not otherwise try it. I hope you might visit my blog and let others know about it. Thanks, Avis

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