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The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally Hardcover – October 4, 2011
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About the Author
Jere Gettle's passion for farming developed early, and by the age of seventeen he was in business, selling seeds from his bedroom in Mansfield, Missouri. He didn't set out to start an empire, but to save heritage plant varietals from being lost to genetically modified mega plants and to wave the banner for a way of life he saw rapidly disappearing. He began traveling to far off places, Asia, South America; anywhere he could find and swap rare and unusual seeds, and started a seed catalog that now has 350,000 devoted customers. His seed company employs over 200 full time staff and includes a store, vegan restaurant, and pioneer village in his home town of Mansfield, Mo., as well as two other retail operations--the Seed Bank in Petaluma, California, and Comstock in Westerfield, Connecticut.
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To address concerns you may have after reading other reviews: Yes, the first part is a biography of the author, some of his adventures, and where he is coming from both philosophically and geographically. It is probably shorter than it could be, but does take up about 42 pages out of 228. I found this section a fun and interesting read, and a great way to connect with the author. You may or may not enjoy it, but I do not feel that the rest of the book suffers due to this longer biographical section.
Yes, there are a lot of pictures, mostly of vegetables, to show the uniqueness and diversity that heirloom vegetables have to offer. If you have ever seen the magazine or catalog that Baker Creek puts out, their use of photography is similar in this book to those other publications. Personally I enjoy all the pictures of vegetable varieties that I may not have seen before.
The sections on how to garden make up about 30 pages total. There is enough information to get you going, with ideas for variations based on your particular gardening situation. I think that there is a lot of information here, but certainly not everything is covered. There are books that cover with much more depth areas such as pests, pest management, plant nutrition, etc. While that can all be valuable information when you need it, sometimes throwing it at a novice gardener can leave them feeling overwhelmed. So yes, there could be more information here, but I think that these few chapters are great. Some of the details not listed here are actually listed per vegetable in the next section.
The real gem of this book is saved for the second half (and takes up well over half of the book.) There is an A-Z guide to vegetables, with a lot of information on each one. Each vegetable is introduced with a nice picture and a bit of history. For each one, you get additional growing tips, pest information, seed saving instructions, and even a couple of kitchen ideas. Whoever thinks that this book doesn't tell you how to save seed did not look in this section. What is interesting is that you will find yourself actually reading each section here, even for vegetables with which you are already familiar. This compendium does a good job of being informative while still holding my interest as a reader. Use Amazon's "look inside" tool, search for a vegetable,and you will see what I mean.
I like that this book isn't too regional in its approach. This way, the information in here is equally applicable to people all over the country. When I need more specific information on local planting schedules or other concerns for my area, I turn to either the newspaper or publications from the county's agricultural extension (and if Las Vegas has these resources available, your area probably does too.) The page or two of regional information that I have found in other gardening books has never been too helpful, so I don't bemoan its absence here.
Overall, I think that this is a very good book, an enjoyable read, and something that reignites my passion for gardening. It is an excellent reference, and I think this may be the new book that I give people as a gift to start gardening.
If you raise heirloom vegetables, then you've heard of The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. (Many of my seeds have come from there.) Jere is a master gardener who has dedicated much of his life to the pursuit & preservation of unusual vegetables from all over the world. Along with telling the story of The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, the author has packed The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally with all the information you need to start your own garden, whether in a field or a window box. He even talks about storing the produce and saving the seeds.
You'll also find an A-Z listing of just about every vegetable you can think of along with a good many you've never heard of. For each the authors give the scientific name, a discussion of how to start the plants and transplant them to the garden, common pests and what to do about them, how to save the seeds, and how to prepare the particular vegetable in the kitchen. You will also find at least one picture of each type of vegetable, usually of some of the more unusual types that Baker Heirloom Seeds offers.
Grandma's $0.02 - The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally is a must-have book that belongs on every home gardener's shelf! Probably the single best source I've seen.
My favorite thing about the book is the list of 50 veggies with a brief history of them, tips to grow them, instructions on seed saving, and kitchen ideas. I was really interested to learn that cukes can be cut up and cooked w/other veggies to make a lovely topper for rice (jasmine is recommended, but depending on what you use to season the veggies, I imagine you can get really creative with the rice types, too). It had never occurred to me to cook cukes, but it's something that I will definitely try.
I bought this on my Kindle, so I really didn't get to enjoy the photos as much as I might (it's not a Fire, so no color or resizing options, etc.), and the many tips boxes were a bit hard to read because they were greyed out and the font was lighter. I had to hold my Kindle at a certain angle to read them, but it was worth the eye-strain because each tip box was chock-full of useful information.
There were some hidden gems that I hadn't known before or had suspected but not read anywhere else (such as the above about cukes, notes about what parts of plants are edible besides the parts we grow them for, and new--to me--ideas for natural pest control, etc.).
This book is really great, and it's worth buying just for the helpful reference on the 50 veggies. The rest is all bonus fun and information that's well-worth the read!