Abundant Design, LLC provides Des Moines and Central Iowa with Edible & Sustainable Landscaping, Regenerative Land Use Consulting, Permaculture Design and Installation services.
Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.
Last week we talked about some good books to learn about sustainable farming, regenerative practices and gardening for us. This week will continue with some good reads for your kids to read, and for you to read with your kids.
By far our favorite book isThe Little Composter by Jan Gerardi. The fun rhymes in this book have been read at bedtime for all of our kids, and the flaps are worn and have been taped multiple times. It's mostly out of print but you can still get copies on Amazon, or check your local used book stores.
Another favorite of mine is the counting book Uno's Garden, with its sorrowful story of conquest and urbanization, with a new hope in harmony and regeneration. The steady, soothing rhythms of Going to Sleep on the Farmhave relaxed me probably more than they have the kids, especially after a long days at work :)
Chapter books like the heart warming Charlotte's Web and then for older kids the heart wrenching Where the Red Fern Grows are classic stories that give an immersive view into farming and rural life.
The Little House on the Prairie series is a true epic story set in the pioneer period in Minnesota and South Dakota as the Ingalls family struggled to make it during the settlement of the prairie. Farmer Boy chronicles farming life on a more established farm as experienced through Laura's future husband Almonzo's eyes.
Jennifer Ward's books i love dirt! and let's go outside! are great inspiration to get kids outside. Once out there working on the activities described they can go beyond to play with their craft and further explore. That's where they can really learn and experience nature outside the box! These experiences are critical for physically and mentally healthy kids. Parents can read more about that in Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods.
I hope you found some ideas for books that you hadn't had and can share with your kids. It's actually not too late to grab some as gifts if you get FREE two-day shipping with an Amazon Prime account. If you don't have one you can get a membership here.
Enjoy some good reads this winter, and get outside as much as you can!
With howling northwest winds and below freezing temperatures even for the daytime highs, the weather is becoming more and more like winter.
With conditions like this the evenings are great times for snuggling up by the fire with a good book. Maybe with a mug of hot chocolate, coffee or a cup of egg nog, 'tis the season!
Right now I am reading a paperback copy of Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, the popular introduction into permaculture and ecological design for home gardeners.
I'm also reading the e-version ofA New Vison for Iowa Food and Agriculture by Francis Thicke, a past candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, who raises pastured dairy using natural systems as a model. I'm enjoying his commentary on the status quo and Iowa's potential. If you're lucky you might be able to get some of their milk through the Iowa Food Cooperative.
I just loaned out my copy of Mini Farming:Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham. This was one of the first books I read after we moved into this home and started our gardens.
Also on my reading list is Shrink-Smart Small Towns: Communities can still thrive as they lose population by David Peters available to download for free from Iowa State Extension. I'm really interested in preserving our rural communities, the schools and economies, and am hopeful that regenerative agriculture will play a part as time goes on.
Here are some other books I would recommend for readers interested in a good book to help inspire a landscape change or just kindle the dream of next season while the fireplace crackles.
Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmier and Jonathan Bates is the story of two plant geeks and their experience transforming a tenth acre lot surrounding a Holyoake, Massachusetts duplex into an edible oasis.
If you like this book and are really interested in a deep dive into forest gardening Eric's 2-volume book Edible Forest Gardenswith Dave Jacke is a veritable encyclopedia of theory and examples.
Taking the forest gardening concept to large scale agricultural systems is Mark Shepard. His book Restoration Agriculture explains how by mimicking natural ecosystems we can create diverse, and profitable, agricultural systems that provide all our needs of food, fuel, building materials and more with more resiliency with less reliance on input heavy annual crops.
Along the same lines and previous to Mark's work is one of the inspirational works that led to the origin of Permaculture is Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J Russell Smith.
Another book I have to read this winter was a gift from a customer this year. Thank you! The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone is a practical hands on guide to growing food for profit in your own and others backyards. Curtis is a regular on the Permaculture Voices podcast with Diego Footer and our own local urban garden market, Dogpatch Urban Gardens, took the lessons in this book and ran with them.
I've used this word to describe what Abundant Design does and some people may not understand why I feel it better describes what we do better than sustainable. Sustainability is a big buzz word these days with even industrial agriculture giants Monsanto, Syngenta and more using it to describe their actions. They may not use it how I would use it, but maybe something is better than nothing. Or is it just corporate "green-washing"?
That is why the distinction is even more important!
If we consider the default mode for extracting resources, such as mining, you could say we are being 'degenerative' where there will be less and less of the resource over time. The word sustainable means the ability to continue without change or degradation. Is that really what we want? To continue with the status quo, as is?
The term regenerative means renewal, regrowth and restoration. I much prefer to regenerate topsoil, restore water quality and rebuild our lost natural diversity!
Here is a video about the 777 Bison Ranch that uses Holistic Management, a regenerative approach made famous by the TED talk by Allan Savory. I used to drive by there on my way to Rapid City from Hot Springs when I did my internship at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.
So maybe we should think about the term sustainability and consider striving for a more regenerative lifestyle. Instead of leaving a legacy of doing "less bad" we can really improve things for future generations.