Books for all of us

I find reading and self educating to be one of the most important things you can in your life. I believe we should read a little about every thing most importantly read and educate your self about view points other then your own but if you are on this site you are probably interested in homesteading and sustainable living, so here are my personal favorite books that I have read and listened to (its hard to weed your garden with a book in one hand).

books

 

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of Food Life Barbara Kingsolver
I guess you could sum this book up as one family, one year one county. Barbara and her family go on a yearlong journey of eating only local food, very local food. This book is great for anyone who wants more information on the financial feasibility of locally sourced food or how to get the entire family on board with local agriculture.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” Michael Pollan
The bible of food sourcing, Micahel Pollan gives it all a try, where does fast food beef come from? A certified organic chicken from a store? A local pasture raise animal? Vegetarian or vegan what helps the Earth? How is killing your own food humane? He doesn’t just state facts and talk to experts he lives 4 very different meals that are truly life styles. For anyone considering a lifestyle change weather you want to go raw vegan or go out in the woods and shoot a bear and eat him this book will shed some light on the truth behind all types of food sourcing.

“Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World” Joel Salatin
From homesteader to those who live in a NYC high rise this book is a must read. To all those who preach about their carbon foot print or how they support organic farmers, well you’re probably going about it horribly wrong. Joel’s sense of humor and blunt writing style make this an easy read, or listen, I listened to this book while driving home from California and let’s just say I took Joel’s advice. Each chapter is ended with Joel setting simple steps as to how we can live a better life and change the world we live in. The most important thing I took from this book is everyone should grow something, even if that means one vegetable plant on your high rise balcony. I have had the pleasure to meet Joel and his son Daniel on their iconic farm in the Shenandoah Valley and I must say he is the real deal.

“Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, And Saving The Family Farm” Forrest Pritchard
The story of a man rejuvenating the family farm, a true story of struggle hard work and persistence

“The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love” Kristin Kimball
This book is farming in the raw, yup I said it, do you want to know what it’s like to wake up to see your own animals grazing in your vegetable garden or know what it is like to chase livestock down the street in a pair of shorts and rubber boots? Kristin does an amazing job not holding any punches when she describes what it is really like on a true organic farm in the North East.

Fishy Fish?

fishy fish market

When it comes to seafood, it can be hard to make an informed decision for the conscious buyer.  Many New Englanders want to enjoy the local seafood catch that the region has enjoyed for generations.  There are many choices on the market, but one should consider the state of the fishery before making a purchase.  While it may seem responsible to buy local, it is not always the case with seafood.

A brief history is needed in order to understand your choices. Fishing for groundfish such as cod and haddock has been going on in the North Atlantic Ocean for centuries.  When the Colonies of the Americas were founded they knew that they had an excellent resource for fish in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the Grand Banks.  The fish were so abundant that they viewed the resource as unending.  Using colonial techniques, this may have been true.  As boat and fishing technology advanced, fishermen were able to land more fish in a trip, and make more frequent trips.

 

Many fishermen believe that as long as they are catching fish, then there must be a population that can reproduce.   Fishermen can be insulted when a scientist tells them that the fish population has severely declined because that fishermen knows exactly where to go to find a school of these fish to fill his boat, and make money to feed his family.  These fisherman have been able to influence regulators of the fisheries to keep fisheries open with the help of economic arguments.  For instance, the cod fishery was completely closed when fisheries managers determined that the population was almost completely depleted to avoid a crash of the waterfront economy.

 

Fish population decimation has had trickle down effects on other marine life communities.  A very recognizable effect of this has been seen in lobsters, no longer hindered by predators like cod.  The catch of lobsters has risen steadily over the past few decades.  This has created what many people call a sustainable fishery.  It may be possible to harvests millions of pounds of lobsters every year, but it is based on an marine ecosystem that has been altered by centuries of fishing.

 

The key to sustainable fisheries is proactive management.  Look into the species you are interested in and research the management.  Wild caught fisheries are still abundant resource, we just must be wise about which species to eat.    As always, fresh fish is the best tasting, so find a market that has a good source for what you are interested in.

 

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to choosing a responsibly harvested fish.  Be sure to ask your fishmonger what the source of his products are.  Don’t assume that a species was locally harvested just because you are at a local fish market.  Talk to fishermen and see what they are catching “too much” of.  Get creative with whats available to help bring the balance of species back into balance. I will finish with a short list of tasty ocean creatures which are currently good choices for wild caught species in New England:

 

1. Lobster – currently abundant and locally caught

2. Dogfish “Cape Shark” – freshness is key with this small shark

3. Soft-shell Clams “steamers”  – limited to hand harvest

Richard May has worked as a freshwater fisheries technician, managed  shellfish harvests in Downeast Maine, and is currently working in stormwater management.