The weather has been a bit against us so not much happening on the plot but I’ve been catching up on my reading. I get quite a few books sent to me for review usually gardening or poultry books of course.
Sadly there’s a lot of them that quite frankly have little to recommend them. Repetitive, derivative and over-hyped by publisher’s marketing departments. I do try to be kind being aware of the sheer effort that goes into writing a book but some of them are so obviously jumping on the bandwagon it’s positively annoying. However, these two books are different.
The Gardening Club by John Boman
This is not my usual read at all. For a start it’s fiction. Now I do read a lot of fiction, but it’s science fiction that I usually read. Not just any science fiction either, I love hard sci-fi. Authors like Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Vernor Vinge rather than fantasy.
So the gardening club was well outside my comfort zone. The main characters are basically a bunch of old boys on an allotment who have had enough of the endemic crime that plagues their town.
We’ve all met them, on the site every day spending more time gassing in the shed over a brew than growing, but still with perfect plots. These old boys take it a step further. I don’t want to give away and spoil the story, but they move from small revenges to mass murder and mayhem! It’s darkly funny but some parts are so sad they bring a lump to your throat.
It took me a little effort to get into, but then it gripped me and I read most of it in one long sitting. So if you fancy something different to read based on characters that are very real and well known to any allotment holder, this is the one. You’ll not look at the old boys in the same way afterwards!
The author – John Boman – has a website here: The Gardening Club
The Smallholders Manual by Katie Thear
We sell this book in our specialist bookshop section on the Poultry Pages but that’s not why I’ve been reading it. The reason is we’re hoping to move to a place with a little land next year, something we’ve wanted for many years.
Now the most inspiring work on smallholding and self-sufficiency will, for me, always be The Complete Book of Self-sufficiency by John Seymour. No two ways about it, that was the book that made it all sound so possible and fun. Katie, however, is a different sort of author.
Her book is, above all, practical. Katie isn’t writing for dreamers, she’s writing for those who are serious about getting a smallholding. It’s not full of traditional methods for ploughing with oxen like a medieval peasant, she discusses rotovators and small tractors.
There are practical check lists on what to decide upon and look for before you buy, which I found very useful. Introductions to kitchen gardening, keeping chickens and a wide range of poultry as well as larger livestock such as sheep, goats and cows.
I don’t believe it is possible to cover all that she does thoroughly unless the work is the size of an encyclopaedia but she tells you enough to help you decide if sheep are what you want to do etc.
It’s modern, originally written in 2002, but I wish it had been around in 1976 when I first thought of a smallholding. If it had have been around then I think we’d have made the jump many years ago.
I can recommend, as a serious but very readable book on an important subject, “Organic Gardening – The Whole Story”.
It tells the story behind what is now the organic gardening centre at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, the most influential organisation of its kind in Europe (see the link).
It is written by a couple, Alan & Jackie Gear, who dropped out of their professional careers to work for just pocket money because they believed in what became known as organic gardening.
Borrow it from your library or buy it from Amazon – it’s a good Winter read.