For the past week, I have been reading Nick Hornsby’s collection of essays Ten Years in the Tub, where he lists the books he purchased for the month, and then comments upon the books he actually read that same month. Any serious reader knows that the two lists are not the same, but tracking the books that actually caught his interest, and how they wove into his life, makes for lively reading. I can recommend it. It also got me thinking about our significant books, the ones I head back to, over and over again. This bibliography is for homesteading—The Best Books ever will wait for a slow, hot summer afternoon, after I finish reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder one more time.
Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1958 edition
My mother believed that this was a wedding present, but the dates do not line up. However, it was my first cookbook. It taught me to make bread and cookies, how to set a formal table, to look cheery when my husband came home from a long day’s work, and to have “something special” at every meal. I still love reading the little biographies of the women who sent in recipes for publication.
The Enchanted Broccoli Forest
Molly Katzen taught me how to cut vegetables, consider how a different seasoning changed the entire feel of the rice from Italian to Middle Eastern, to Chinese, and to talk to the yeasties. It was my first vegetarian cookbook where the food tasted good. I have followed both Molly Katzen and the Moosewood Collective for thirty years; their food is easy and tasty.
Diet for a Small Planet
I bought this book when I was living by myself as a college senior. Meat was just expensive for one person and, after a summer as a meat wrapper, did not appeal. It revolutionized the way I viewed food. She was, however, a bad cook.
Chez Panisse Fruits and Vegetables and The Greens Cookbook
When we shifted over to eating mostly local produce, the beauty of these books was clear. The Chez Panisse books are just beautiful, but they also talk about what to do with cardoons (cook with cream!). The Greens recipes are sorted subtly by seasonally available produce, starting in February (probably January in the Bay area) and working through the year.
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades and Gardening when it Counts are the two best volumes on growing food in my bioregion, which is not the same as any other. Steve Solomon is a clear and frisky writer and I have spent many winter hours reading over his work. The Territorial Seed Catalog is an excellent annual resource.
American Gardens of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Ann Leighton
This is a series of meticulously researched books examining the evolution of garden style which I used for research purposes throughout college and grad school.
Permaculture Handbook by Bill Mollison and The Earthcare Manual by Patrick Whitehead are my primary source materials for garden design and deep planning. There have been many, lightly written books extolling the beauties of permaculture design but I prefer the original works.
Design and Philosophy:
The Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
This changes everything. After reading the Pattern Language, our entire view of the built environment shifted. Six foot porches—that explained why those balconies were never used. Nine percent for parking?—that would transform our neighborhood. Site repair?
Walden by Thoreau
Our backpacking read for years, it is still relevant today, once you dig through the convoluted nineteenth century language.
One Man’s Meat by E.B. White
White moved to the coast of Maine in the early 1930s but continued to write for The New Yorker. These essays capture his life on his saltwater farm. If I could write like anyone, I would want to write like White.
A Beekeeper’s Year by Sue Hubbell
I first read Hubbell in The New Yorker years before I considered owning bees. I was reading her work in our hammock the day we had our first wild swarm. Her prose mixes science and philosophy beautifully, even if you do not love bees.
Chicken Tractors, Worms Eat My Garbage, The Humanuare Handbook, Greywater Design and The Home Energy Handbook have all been useful and inspiring reference works.
Ful-- Fava Bean "soup"
Fava beans are a little early this year, so we were able to eat ful after weeding onions at Sunbow on Memorial Day.
Start with about five pounds of fresh favas in the shell. Shell the beans, parboil for about three minutes, and peel. There will be a huge reduction in volume and a lot of fiddly work....
Saute three chopped cloves of garlic in about four tablespoons of olive oil. Juice a lemon. Chop a handful of parsley. Mix the favas into these seasonings, add salt and pepper, and warm up. Eat with fresh, warm flatbread and a huge salad for dinner.