So being a girl who has read more then her share of garden books I wasn't overly tempted to buy this book right away, sure I love Baker Creek but it seemed like just another gardening book, that is until they were nice enough to ask me to review it.
Title: The Heirloom Life Gardener
Authors: Jere and Emilee Gettle with Meghan Sutherland
First Edition ~ Copyright 2011
My book was sent in the mail and arrived maybe 4 days later (is true Baker Creek fashion), I ripped into the packaging exposing a beautiful hardcover book. I immediately got cozy on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me and dove in.
The first thing I noticed in the front couple pages of the book is that it is printed on sustainably harvested paper, I would hope for no less but glad they had the stamp and followed true to their ideals.
Next I did a initial flip through and was thrilled to see numerous colored photos, some taking up a whole page!
I then started reading..
This book is like sitting down with a old friend, you read it easily as the words flow off the page and you can almost hear them being spoken to you. It starts off with a basic intro.. why they wrote the book, what went into it, etc.. they also give a brief introduction into what a heirloom is.. summing up to a heirloom is a un-hybrid, open pollinated seed and in most cases have been around for over 50 years (many much longer), it also goes into Monsanto's chemicals and how our quality of our precious food is declining.
The first real chapter is Growing Up with Heirlooms and that's where the story begins.. starting out with Jere's childhood on their little homestead in the Boise Valley. Following this boys life from child to teenager is amazing and what many were hoping to read. Learning the joys a child find in nature, and the simple fun one can have in a patch of dirt is truly uplifting and wonderful to read. One part I really enjoyed was when he was speaking of being a young boy at his parents homestead and being sent out in the middle of winter to get food from the root cellar.. "I'd pull on my boots, clomp through snowdrifts, and shovel out a clearing so I could unlatch the enormous wooden door and climb down inside. Once I was down there, the earth warmed me- and then I'd remember the black widows that lurked in the dark corners, just as I was about to start hunting around for a jar of pink applesauce or a box of parsnips. Despite the snow and spiders, the taste of those veggies was always worth the search." I'm not sure why this stood out to me so much, it just seemed real, and lovely. Some might not understand how a jar of homemade applesauce or homegrown vegetables could counteract deep cold and spiders but I think those people must never have had the joy of eating those foods!
The book then follows Jere's journey to Baker Creek farm and the joy he and his family found there, starting a simple small seed business then as he made some money traveling to far off places to find and collect rare heirloom seeds. He writes about how he could not speak their language and that the farmers seemed confused that all he wanted was the seed and how he would take out a knife right there on the side of the street, cut into that vegetable, and scoop the seeds into a bag, label it, and move on. How wonderful these trips must have been, discovering foods you had not even thought would or could exist... eggplants in yellows and greens, tomatoes in whites and strips, squash in every size, shape, color, wow just wow.
After following Jere's journey to where he is now, we enter the typical gardening book. There's a small section of selecting you garden spot. Then preparing the soil, sowing cover crops (which helped me understand more how to do it vs. Other books that just say do it), then finally planting those wonderful seeds. After you plant the seeds there are brief descriptions about watering, mulching, and pest control. They of course warn you away from that awful chemical stuff and even give some examples of organic pest control methods which I found nice and helpful to some.
The 6th chapter is about seed saving. Its not long and drawn out but a simple start to saving. Basics are learned, and there are even lists of easy crops to save seed from and harder. They go more into detail about saving particular seed later in the book. Remember friends, seed saving is very important so we can save the future of these plants!!!
Chapter 7 is about the city farmer, I almost wish they had cut this out and extended something else in the book but it is pretty much a basic overview of container gardening, what grows well, their favorite container plants, and type of pots to use. It briefly goes into small gardens, and community gardens but just giving the basics.
I know that they wanted this book to be all inclusive but I just dont think it was "enough" to be included.
Though I love that they included a site to find community gardens near you.
Click Here for that Link
The last half of the book is their A-Z growing guide.. most gardening books have a version of this nowadays but I immediately loved this one because they included amaranth.. You almost NEVER hear about this veggie/grain and since I'm planning on growing it I loved that they included it! Now this Heirloom Life A-Z is different some letters have multiple plants and some letters are left out completely, I might have found a different name for it but their idea was pure. They include pictures, background, use, seed saving, and growing tips for each fruit or vegetable listed, and personally I think it's fun learning the history behind that little seed. :) Besides amaranth the include artichoke, cowpeas, ground cherry, kohlrabi, mustard, parsnips, rhubarb, sorghum, rutabaga, and then of course all the basics like cauliflower, cabbage, corn, melons, etc.
At this point you are coming the the end of your heirloom journey and they leave you by explaining simple ways to get your dose of heirloom fruits and veggies, you can go to a roadside stand, u-pick farm, farmers market, join a CSA, or attend a produce auction.
Even after my initial doubts this book wowed me so much many times I would read some aloud the my fiance or daughter just because I thought something was funny or interesting. The only thing I wish is that they would have expanded Jere's story more but all in all I consider this a must read by Baker Creek and heirloom enthusiasts alike.
Thank you Baker Creek for giving me such a wonderful chance to review this book. :)