A while ago I was sent a copy of Carol Deppe’s new book, The Resilient Gardener- Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times from the publisher Chelsea Green to review. I apologize that it has taken so long to get it done, I’ve had a busy winter on the farm and a very large “to read” pile in the book department.
I was first introduced to Carol Deppe as an author with her wonderful handbook on plant breeding, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. That book was one of the best books on husbandry I’ve ever read. So, when offered the chance to read her latest book, I was eager to dig in. The Resilient Gardener is an interesting book. Though it is evident that Deppe and the average North Country Farmer reader have different worldviews, the epistemologicaly self conscious person can glean much useful information. Ignore the Confucius quotes and Taoist nonsense and you’ll be just fine.
The first half of the book covers basic garden information and some of her philosophy on gardening in uncertain times. One thing I can appreciate is that she dose not use the “mad max” type of crisis to formulate her ideas. So many people waste time dreaming up crazy scenarios that never materialize, and build a plan from there. Her realistic approach is almost to tame for me, but offers a balance that is healthy. She devotes a few pages to climate change, but don’t get worried, she dose not promote the idea of man made climate change or crazy carbon based taxes. Her emphasis is on the fact that climate is always changing and never stays the same. Take the “little ice age” that we just came out of for example (1300-1850). I’ve read about the year without a summer, in 1816, in more than a few historical narratives. That crisis was caused by a volcano the year before. I thank Deppe for a fairly objective view of the topic and how it effects agriculture. This first half of the book also includes chapters on special dietary needs, water, and soil fertility. The second half of the book is dedicated to the most important staple crops. She covers potatoes, the laying flock, squash and pumpkins, beans and corn. She dose a great job with each crop, covering its importance for survival and how to grow it. She also covers seed saving considerations for each group. Her chapter on corn was good, especially her “defense of corn”. To many people have in their rejection of industrial agriculture turned corn into a “dirty word”. North Americans had better realize that corn is one of our native crops and is essential for our survival. Yes, Big-Ag has abused corn but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water! I’ve grown all the crops covered in this book and I learned a few new things by the time I finished. Her laying flock chapter is very interesting in that she has a duck flock for her egg production. I found it informative and folks from the Pacific North West might want to consider ducks. This was an area I had little knowledge of before reading the chapter. She also includes recipes and cooking tips for using duck eggs as well as covering chicken raising for those who live in more chillier locations. All and all, if your looking for another book on gardening for survival in uncertain times, I think you would probably learn a thing or two from this one.