26 May 2010

A Slice of Organic Life

A Slice of Organic Life was generously donated to Parkview Neighbourhood Garden by DK Canada. I'm reviewing it on behalf of PNG.

The moment I saw this book I knew I wanted to read and review it. It's hard to resist the colourful cover bedecked with bright-eyed chickens! The overall design of the book is appealing, actually, with heavy (although not recycled) paper and plenty of beautiful full-colour photos. After a foreword by Alice Waters and an intro by editor-in-chief Sheherazade Goldsmith (fantastic name!), the main part of the book consists of over 80 projects grouped into three sections: No Need for a Yard; Roof Terrace, Patio, or Tiny Yard; and Yard, Community Garden, or Field. You can find projects to suit your needs in any of the three sections, but obviously some will be more suitable than others. I loved the idea of the book being divided this way; unfortunately the execution has some issues. There's too much repetition (e.g. "Start a Worm Composter" in Part 2 and then "Nourish the Soil" in Part 3, with nearly identical information), and I think it might have worked better if the categories were more strictly adhered to. But overall it's not bad.

You should also be aware that the book was apparently first published in the UK, so North Americans might have trouble with a few of the terms. Luckily measurements are offered both in Metric and Imperial.

I like that each project is kept short--there's nothing more tedious than authors who delve into every minute detail while neglecting the fun side of exploring a new subject. Unfortunately, if you're looking for in-depth instruction you won't find it here. Instead, I suggest you use A Slice of Organic Life as a starting point. Find out what interests you, get a feel for it here, and then round out your knowledge elsewhere. Chances are, once you start projects you'll be hooked and will naturally start learning all you can about the subject anyway.

The projects are surprisingly inspiring. Somehow I went from being opposed to livestock in the city (if you've ever heard the racket made by roosters, you would be too) to trying to figure out how I can get a pair of geese for my yard. In some cases my enthusiasm for things I used to do and drifted away from (like companion planting) was re-ignited. And best of all, I learned new things (bee-keeping)!

On the downside, I noticed several inaccuracies, a couple of which are actually dangerous. I was really surprised to read a suggestion of flavouring oil with garlic. I thought it was common knowledge that garlic stored in oil is a formula for botulism. Unless you add some acid (such as vinegar) to the mix, do not store garlic in oil. Another terrible suggestion: making flea collars using essential oils. Although my vet had to search a bit to confirm it, essential oils unfortunately do cause kidney damage to cats. It's fine to diffuse oils in a room with good air circulation, but anything in close quarters will hurt your cat (not to mention that they're extremely sensitive to strong smells). And although not dangerous, the idea that there's a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's has been disproven; no one should still be repeating it. This is another reason why further research is essential (luckily most of the problems seem to be in Part 1 of the book).

The book also has a few recipes, all of which look tempting indeed. I only tried one: Mushroom Frittata and it's already become a favourite. I'd love the chance to try more (I can see I'll be borrowing this book from PNG again)!

Here's some of what you'll find in A Slice of Organic Life:

Part 1: No Need for a Yard
Growing Pots of Herbs Indoors, Support Local Businesses, Grow Strawberries in a Hanging Basket, Campaign, Go Green in the Playroom, recipes for Mushroom Frittata (p 106) and Wholemeal Bread (p 57)...

Part 2: Roof, Terrace, Patio, or Tiny Yard
Keep Urban Honey Bees, Use Eco-Friendly DIY Materials, Make Your Own Barbecue, Grow an Apple Tree in a Pot, recipe for Blueberry Muffins (p 123)...

Part 3: Yard, Community Garden, or Field
Make Simple Preserves, Grow Your Own Vegetables, Plant a Fruit Orchard, Keep a Few Geese, Make Organic Drinks, Create a Pond for Wildlife, Keep a Milking Cow, recipes for Pumpkin & Apricot Chutney (p 193) and Damson Wine (p 290)...

The book ends with a reasonably detailed Directory and Resources section, which includes websites, books, and a few phone numbers, as well as the index.

This book is fun to read, inspiring, interesting, and lovely to look at. It's not rocket science, but then, that's kind of the point.

Quote: "...the small decisions we make can truly change the world."

1 comment:

bella said...

Sounds like an interesting read. I'll have to pick up a copy at the local library.