Staff Book Reviews-Debbie

Reviews by Debbie Stewart, Library Specialist

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener’s Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History by William Woys Weaver, foreward by Jere Gettle, and photography by L. Wilbur Zimmerman

Gardening, 481 pp.

William Woys Weaver inherited heirloom plants from his deceased grandfather. He salvaged a large collection of baby food jars stowed away in the very bottom of his grandmother’s freezer. Freezing prolongs the viability of most seeds, and in those jars were some of his grandfather’s rarest peppers. They had been given to him by a friend, Horace Pippin, a local artist who struck up a friendship with him in the 1930s.

Their mutual interest was not art but bees, for his grandfather had also kept hives. Pippin had a bad arm, a war injury, and he often visited grandfather to get his arm stung. Grandfather did not like wasting good honeybees that way (honeybees die after they sting), but because this was an old-time remedy for rheumatic pains, he obliged Horace as a favor. Pippin brought Weaver’s grandfather a great many seeds through his well-established connections.

Although some of the heirloom vegetables mentioned in this book are not adaptable to Montana’s hardiness zone, there are plenty of tried and true varieties to choose from. Among these are: radish, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, peppers, berries, peas, lettuces, cucumbers, parsnips, and onions. This work also includes colorful local history and stories of how these old heirlooms ended up on the table.

The authors’ gardens are like living museums. The heirlooms included offer a taste of the past. You can enjoy the same vegetables as Thomas Jefferson or you can plant the same varieties as your great grandmother.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the heirloom food and garden movement.


Crops In Tight Spots By Alex Mitchell

Gardening, 175 pp.

Review by Debbie Stewart, Library Specialist

Once you’ve eaten your first homegrown tomato, further resistance is futile!

Why grow your own fruit and vegetables when they are so readily available in stores? The answer is that it is fun! But it also tastes better when you pick it fresh and it is naturally organic. Bringing living plants into your world is transformative and with this book you can create your own sanctuary unique to you.

The author divides the chapters into areas of space: indoors, ledges and sills, terraces and courtyards, roofs and balconies, small gardens, and other awkward spots. She also adds the difficulty level from easy to moderate to ambitious. A chart divided at the end of the book shows which crop and wear to plant from indoors to small gardens.

I love the idea of “think like a plant.” The needs of a plant are simple: water, food, decent compost, space to spread, and something to cling to or stop it from toppling over. “The secret to raising healthy and productive plants is to put yourself in their shoes.”

Whether you have a small garden, a terrace, a balcony, windowsills, or no outside space at all, Crops in Small Spaces aims to show you that there is always something fresh, healthy, and delicious you can grow.

Carving Out A Living On The Land By Emmet Van Driesche

267 pp.

Tie a wreath, master a bowline knot, learn new skills, take advantage of core opportunities, design a logo, build your reputation. A Christmas tree farm is the author’s vehicle as a springboard to showcase business and common sense principles associated with small business startup. The author’s approach is not a blueprint for other farmers. His situation is unique and he made certain choices for his own circumstances. What he does advocate is a certain road to farming that values flexibility and diversity over scale. Carving Out a Living on the Land examines what it means to make land productive and how you can combine your interests with what your land can produce to piece together a living.

He offers advice concerning his goal, not necessarily to make more money each year, but to position yourself to a stronger place for the future.

A highlight of the book is the author’s take on integrity, the sum of your words and deeds:

  1. Treat everyone with respect. Even rude people. Respect is the foundation of all peaceful relationships.
  2. Keep your word. If you say you’re going to show up, show up. If you say you will deliver something, deliver it on time.
  3. Tell the truth. Sometimes this means acknowledging your own mistakes or wrongdoing.
  4. Be a champion. Stand up for what you believe in.
  5. The right thing to do is always the right thing to do.

Emmet has a great story here for a wide-reaching audience.

The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease And Joy At Any Age By Toni Gattone

Gardening for seniors, 214 pp.

Review by Debbie Stewart, Library Specialist

“Never give up,” “believe,” “create,” “remember”: words to live by, and words the author uses to explain her purposes. The Lifelong Gardener empowers you to adapt gardening to your senior needs. Toni shares what she has learned to help us keep on gardening even when your back or knees are screaming at you!

Writing about adaptive gardening she states, “I believe there’s always another way to get it done.” With this train of thought, never give up what feeds your soul. Believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. Train your thoughts on the positives in your life and the things you can do that bring you joy. Be creative. Remember to keep a log when you fertilize, photograph your garden each year to remember what you planted where, tag your plants, and keep a garden journal.

Lastly, con amore (with love), we can garden for life. We create community when we garden together. “I prefer not to dwell on the physical challenges but instead to focus on proactive solutions to those challenges. Some of the tips may not resonate with every gardener. We are all so different, and we approach gardening from a different mindset, not to mention numerous growing zones and microclimates. Just as there are no two gardens alike anywhere in the world, there are no two gardeners alike. Each of us chooses what will work for us in our gardens. Take what works for you and pass on tips to friends who may need them. Sharing knowledge makes a better world for us all.”

The Lifelong Gardener is a wonderful book with great ideas and very helpful tips. The adaptive gardening action plan at the end of the book outlines a fine way to organize your thoughts and put your new ideas to work.