The Week in Books 2009, No. 19

Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting is an enthusiastic manual for growing food in small amounts of space in an urban or suburban setting. The author is able to produce a prodigious amount of food in inches of space, and this book will help you if you don’t have much to work with – even pots on balconies can yield a good amount of produce if you plan it right. I was interested in the ways the author described crop rotation in small spots and how to enhance soil without resorting to chemical fertilizers. I’d love to try growing berries and dwarf fruit trees, but I’ve been reluctant to invest in fruit trees without knowing how long we’ll live in this house. It’s not that we have a small space – our yard is huge actually – but I don’t have a lot of time for weeding and tending a gigantic vegetable patch right now so the techniques in this book might help me with the flower beds I already have.

Even more helpful were the chapters on sprouting and making fermented foods. I’ve tried sprouting before but forgot about it, so I plan to get that started again. I also used to make our own yogurt but got away from that as well and have been inspired to go back to that. If I could find a source for kefir grains I would love to get some and make kefir. I even considered making some kimchi!

Fresh Food also contains information on composting, lasagna gardening, raising chickens and bees in small spaces, and using earthworms. I’m sure my husband is relieved to know that I’m not going to start raising worms any time soon, although the author suggests that the top of your washer and dryer would be ideal for that purpose, if you can handle the fruit flies.

Gross. Me. Out.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book, aside from the final section about surviving food shortages which I thought was a little hysterical. Although I think it’s likely that food prices will go up in the near future, I’m not convinced that impending global meltdown or the prospect of overpopulation mean I should fill my garage with shelf stable victuals. Still, there were good points about food preservation and storage even in that section, and I’d recommend the book to gardeners or aspiring gardeners.

The Three R’s is an encouraging book detailing the basic things children need to learn from kindergarten through third grade. Directed at parents who are homeschooling or trying to give their child a leg up by teaching things at home after school, the book lays out the information you need to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to young children. The author, Ruth Beechick, suggests methods for gently teaching reading in incremental steps, as opposed to big expensive reading programs, advocates using copying and dictation for teaching writing, and describes how to work with a child’s natural progression from understanding math with manipulatives to working with numbers in more abstract, symbolic form. This book is not a curriculum, but rather a vision for what you should aim to accomplish in your child’s early education. You could easily adapt the framework to create your own curriculum if you want to, or you could use it to evaluate what types of programs would work best for you and your child.

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