Several excellent books are available for those who wish to learn more about the hows and whys of caring for the soil. Keep in mind that emulating nature while guiding the reforestation process is the most likely way to stabilize climate, slow erosion and create micro-climates that allow more hospitable conditions for a variety of species. The hands off technique that many employ when “managing” land is not condusive to the recovery of either soils or the organisms that used to thrive there. It took many thousands of years for climax conditions to occur after the last Ice Age, and less than one hundred to strip away that forest. If we start managing with the next seven generations in mind, perhaps we could reestablish stable ecosystems in a few hundred years. Do not dispair, our children will be smarter about these things than we were and if we send the right messages today, the process will continue to grow exponentially as the culture of lack, based on exploitation, power and control as well as top down management fades and is replaced with one of plenty that supports and exalts nature as the sole supporter of human life, as well as that of all species, on the planet. Nature and nurture are both required to go forward with a balanced approach. Educating ourselves on these matters is the only way to assure that these tenets are available for future generations.
One rather technical book about soils is called, Science in Agriculture, The Professional’s Edge by Arden B. Anderson. It is published as is the next book by Acres U.S.A. Hugh Lovell’s, A Biodynamic Farm, For Growing Wholesome Food is not only interesting, but has transformed countless acres from desolate waste land to productive and fertile soil. It goes to the heart of the issue of loving Mother Earth. For the librarian, nearly any book published by Acres U.S.A. can be recommended to the interested student of agriculture.
Iowa State University, located in Ames, Iowa has a smallish book out called Soil Science Simplified by Milo I. Harpstead & Francis D. Cole that is lavishly illustrated with many fine and informational diagrams. Even complex processes are broken down to a useable format for the unenlightened. This book can also help introduce newbies to the idea that there is a significant difference between dirt and soil.
Dover Press published a couple of my favorites. Even though I have been living on clay soils recently, Gardening On Sandy Soils in Northern Temperate Areas by Christine Kelway is an excellent and insightful way to get started on any soil. Growing Woodland Plants by Clarence & Eleanor G. Birdseye, although it encourages some less than perfect management approaches, explains the unique needs of many of our forest species.
A specific text about a specific, and relatively sustainable cash crop that I love is, American Ginseng, Green Gold (revised edition) A Grower’s Guide, Including Ginseng’s History and Use by W. Scott Persons. Again, the material appearing here for the mass production of this unique plant is over the top, but the information on woods grown ‘sang is invaluable. Paired with growing woodland plants, it could be the basis of quite the retirement plan for someone willing to put in a bit of sweat equity.
I also pour myself regularly into Michigan Trees, A Guide to the Trees of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region, to learn about habitat, soil requirements, affiliated species and specific ecotone related elements of different kinds of forests. Seeing the forest through the trees is an eye oppening experience for anyone interested in permaculture. This tome, assembled by Burton V. Barnes and Warren H. Wagner Jr. is published by The University of Michigan Press and is indispensible for anyone interested in the reforestation of the Upper Midwest.
For the beginner, nutrient cycling can be sped up significantly with the addition of livestock. They can assist humans in so many ways as to be an indispensible part of any agricultural system, including permaculture. Be forewarned that judicious fencing is the best way to manage any critters that you share your land with. The Homesteader’s Guide to Raising Small Livestock is worth it’s weight in gold. Jerome D. Belanger hit one out of the park with this smallish volume. It is so dense as to require plenty of time for digestion but is also extremely useable once you have your critters on the land and need good answers fast. Well-organized and insightful, this book needs to be on every homesteader’s shelf.
Good reads all, I also like to encourage those interested in transforming the environment to a more sustainable state to develop a spiritual connection to the land itself and to do this there are several good books. A strictly pragmatic approach can be studied in, The Natural Step for Communities, How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices, by Sarah James & Torbjorn Lahti from New Society Publishers. Another New Society offering is Thinking Like A Mountian, Towards a Council of All Beings by John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming & Arne Naess. I am in the first stages of planning a Council of All Beings Workshop for this Summer. If you are interested, please write to me c/o ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. 1445 porlier Street Green Bay, WI 54301 USA or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Ecoshamanism, Sacred Practices of Unity, Power & Earth Healing will help one to discover our walk in cadence with the ages and in harmony with the planet. James Endredy is the author and this book is published by Llewellyn Worldwide. I have an open offer to any seekers wishing to delve into this book to provide either guidance or consulting along this arduous path toward shamanism.
If you are just interested in seeing permaculture as it is being practiced, call on us and we will find time to take you on a tour of some of our plantings. Chances are that there will be food to harvest when you come, or sets to put out, or some other little thing that needs doing, so bring practical shoes and work gloves. We offer you a unique step into the realm of permaculture and ask for donations to continue our work. Whether you come or not, you can always make donations at Paypal. Use our e-mail address as the account number and let us humbly thank you in advance,
For the Earth, Tony C. Saladino-Director ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.