The reason I went into the publishing business in the first place was that most of my favorite books were out of print. It was frustrating — people would ask me what books I recommended, and then not be able to get their hands on them. Often they couldn’t get them even through inter-library loan. So I started publishing my favorites.
I stuck to poultry books for the last few years, but now I’m branching out. I’m starting with my favorite back-to-the-land books, the ones that either inspired me to get out of Silicon Valley or educated me once I’d escaped.
A lot of people think that the back-to-the-land movement was a Sixties thing, but it’s something that’s happened repeatedly. Milo Hastings mentions it in his 1909 book, The Dollar Hen. Both the Depression and the end of WWII saw their back-to-the-land movements. People get tired of city life and yearn for the country in every age: it’s universal.
In a previous post, I announced the availability of Edmund Morris’ 1864 book, Ten Acres Enough, which I like to compare to Thoreau’s Walden, since Morris actually stayed on his farm (and kept up his literary career), while Thoreau went scurrying back to the city after only two years. If you read both books, you’ll see why.
We Wanted a Farm is the story of how Kains got himself out of Manhatten and onto the farm in easy stages, without quitting his day job. Written in 1941, it’s interesting and entertaining, and provides food for thought. I’ve run into too many people whose back-to-the-land efforts were little more than a naive act of faith, and they run out of money and faith before they’ve picked up the skills they need to be successful. Kains did it more slowly, building up his skills before buying a full-sized farm.
While Kains’ book emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and orcharding, Gold in the Grass focuses on pasture and livestock management. Written in 1954, it describes Margaret and Alfred Leatherbarrow’s struggles on a farm that was played out. Crops wouldn’t grow, they had no money, and they seemed doomed. What saved them was the use of soil reclamation and sustainable agriculture techniques, which restored the fertility of their farm and provided superior nutrition to their livestock. This book is a great read, in addition to being thought-provoking and inspirational. It helped convince me that permanent pasture is one of the keys to dealing with exhausted soil (of which I am amply supplied, thanks to overgrazing by previous owners of my farm.)
So check out the books: I’m sure you’ll like them.