Though we try to end just about every day with a book in our hands, during the growing season Audra and I often don’t take nearly enough time to read. Unfortunately, by the time we stop working and make it to bed, our ability to focus on reading for very long is a losing battle. This time of year, though, on these cold winter days and nights, we have been reading a lot more. We thought we’d share with you some of the books that have filled our heads and hearts this year. Some are farm related, others aren’t, but who wants a farmer who isn’t well read?
As I Lay Dying
by William Faulkner
First published in the 1930s, this book chronicles a poor “country” family whose matriarch is on her deathbed and wishes to be taken back to her hometown to be buried. In their efforts to honor her wishes, her family embarks on a misguided odyssey which, instead, dishonors her in just about every way imaginable. Faulkner’s famous “stream-of-consciousness” writing style is at times difficult to digest, and at other times just plain enlightening.
Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant
by Roz Chast
This tell-all memoir written in a graphic novel format explores the author’s years taking care of her ailing parents. It’s poignant, painful, and unabashedly honest. The mix of prose and comic-style panels provides a unique read about experiences that more and more adults are having to go through as they care for parents who continue to live longer.
The Market Gardener
by Jean-Martin Fortier
I read this book last year after we had already started putting plants in the ground. I liked a lot of his ideas, but it was too late to incorporate many of them into our production. I have re-read this book twice since then and am excited to start applying his ideas to our farm. Fortier farms nearly year-round on 1 ½ acres in Canada. His farm provides his entire family’s income, plus full-time income for a few others as well. He does it all relying on mostly hand tools and a BCS two-wheeled tractor.
The Lean Farm
by Ben Hartman
Using “lean” production methods first revolutionized by Toyota decades ago, Hartman shows his readers “how to minimize waste, increase efficiency, and maximize value and profits with less work.” Hartman’s entire family income comes from farming less than an acre of mixed vegetables and fruits–a lofty goal indeed. I keep coming back to this book as we look for ways to cut down on wasted labor and maximize our efficiencies around this place.
Lenny and Lucy
by Philip and Erin Stead
This is one of our favorite books to read to our son before bed. When the main character moves to a new house with his dad, he needs to “make” some new friends to help him and his dog, Harold, feel safe. Lenny and Lucy help him to “keep the dark woods on the other side of the bridge, where they belong.”
by William Alexander
One of my favorite gardening books is The $64 Tomato, the story of William Alexander’s very expensive first year gardening. In 52 Loaves, Alexander seeks to learn more about baking bread, the perfect loaf of bread, in fact. His journey takes him all over the world, and while he only minimally reaches his goal, he learns a lot more about himself along the way.
The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook
by Richard Wiswall
This is a no nonsense business book that avoids the typical romanticism attached to market farming and instead focuses on how to create and maintain a viable business. This book is not much fun to read, but the more I read it, the more I realize how much I need to learn about this industry.
by Brene Brown
This book is a game changer in that it has altered how we approach our interpersonal relationships. Brown dives head first into vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Plus she seems like the type of down-to-earth person you’d want to solve all of the world’s problems with over a beer.
by Michelle Robinson and Nick East
Audra is starting to hate this book since she’s read it so many times. To a kid obsessed with tractors, combines, and the like, this book is pretty magical, no matter how many times he’s read it.
Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus!
by Mo Willems
This is a fun book to read aloud. It also has a powerful message for today’s youth, because what is more dangerous than letting winged creatures drive motor vehicles on our busy roads and streets? It scares me just to think about it. No matter what you do, don’t let that pigeon drive that darn bus!
Stay warm, folks. And don’t forget about the value of a good book on these cold winter nights. A nip of whisky isn’t a bad idea either.