Notable New Books

The best new reads from our favorite publishers.

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An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment.

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its terroir, its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?An Unlikely Vineyard Book Cover

That’s what Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases.

Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Deirdre and Caleb set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place, and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

Buy this book from Chelsea Green: An Unlikely Vineyard


What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage, or at least make use of, invasive species such as kudzu and water hyacinth and thereby reduce dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to develop a low-cost and easy-to-implement mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation in the wake of a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success?Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation Book Cover

For more than twenty years, mycologist Tradd Cotter has been pondering these questions and conducting trials in search of the answers. In Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom-cultivation practices, shares the results of his groundbreaking research, and offers creative ways to apply cultivation skills—whether the goal is to help a community clean up industrial pollution or simply to settle down at the end of the day with a cold Reishi-infused homebrew ale.

The book guides readers through both indoor and outdoor cultivation. Covered skills include:

  • Integrating wood-chip beds spawned with king stropharia into your garden;

  • Building a “trenched raft” of hardwood logs plugged with shiitake spawn; and,

  • Producing oysters indoors on spent coffee grounds in a 4-by-4-foot space or on pasteurized sawdust in vertical plastic columns.

Geared toward readers who want to grow mushrooms without the use of pesticides, Cotter takes “organic” one step further by introducing an entirely new way of thinking—one that looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone.

Buy this book from Chelsea Green: Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation


Integrated Forest Gardening is the first, and most comprehensive, guide about plant guilds ever written, and it covers in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive color photography and design illustrations. Other books on permaculture cover this topic, but never in enough depth to be replicable in a serious way.

One of the essential practices of permaculture is to develop perennial agricultural systems that thrive over several decades without expensive and harmful inputs. Those systems include perennial-plant guilds, food forests, agroforestry, and mixed animal- and woody-species polycultures.

The guild concept often used is one of a “functional relationship” between plants—beneficial groupings of plants that share functions in order to bring health and stability to a plant regime and create an abundant yield for our utilization. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem.

The massive degradation of conventional agriculture and the environmental havoc it creates has never been as all pervasive in terms of scale, so it has become a global necessity to further the understanding of a comprehensive design and planning system such as permaculture that works with nature, not against it.

Integrated Forest Gardening will benefit readers of any scale, from permaculture designers and professional growers, to backyard growers new to the concept of permaculture.

Buy this book from Chelsea Green: Integrated Forest Gardening.


Earthen Floors Book CoverAs well as boasting a unique and beautiful aesthetic, natural building techniques are accessible, affordable and nontoxic. Earthen Floors: A Modern Approach to an Ancient Practice is the first comprehensive, fully illustrated manual covering the history, use and maintenance of this attractive, practical flooring option. This detailed, fully-illustrated guide explains every part of the process, including:

• Sourcing and harvesting materials
• Preparing the subfloor
• Pouring, finishing and sealing the floor
• Living with and maintaining your earthen floor.

Drawing on the combined knowledge of the most qualified earthen floor practitioners, as well their own substantial experience, the authors deliver the definitive resource for this exciting technique, perfect for everyone from the novice to veteran builder.

Sukita Reay Crimmel has installed over 20,000 sq ft of earthen flooring, and is one of the preeminent experts in the emerging field of earthen floors.

James Thomson is a part of House Alive, one of the leading natural building training organizations in the country.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store.


Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good book coverCommoning was a way of life for most of our ancestors. In Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good, author Heather Menzies journeys to her roots in the Scottish Highlands, where her family lived in direct relation with the land since before recorded time.

Beginning with an intimate account of unearthing the heritage of the commons and the real tragedy of its loss, Menzies offers a detailed description of the self-organizing, self-governing and self-informing principles of this nearly forgotten way of life, including its spiritual practices and traditions. She then identifies pivotal commons practices that could be usefully revived today. A final ‘manifesto’ section pulls these facets together into a unified vision for reclaiming the commons, drawing a number of current popular initiatives into the commons and commoning frame – such as local food security, permaculture and the Occupy Movement.

An engaging memoir of personal and political discovery, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good combines moving reflections on our common heritage with a contemporary call to action, individually and collectively, locally and globally. Readers will be inspired by the book’s vision of reviving the commons ethos of empathy and mutual respect, and energized by her practical suggestions for connecting people and place for the common good.

Heather Menzies is an award-winning writer, scholar and member of the Order of Canada, and the author of nine books, including Whose Brave New World? and No Time.

Buy this book from the New Society store.


The Farm Then And NowIn late 1960s San Francisco, the colorful and celebrated counterculture icon Stephen Gaskin set in motion a chain of events that would lead to one of the most dynamic social experiments of modern time.

"Monday Night Class," a weekly gathering which drew together an eclectic mix of truth-seekers and flower children, soon became a caravan of 60 school buses on an epic journey for peace and love.

Tennessee became the Promised Land, a place to put ideas into practice. It was here, on 1,700 acres of forest and a field, that The Farm, the world’s best-known intentional community, was born.

The Farm had one goal: change the world … and in many ways it did, but the world also changed The Farm. This is the story of The Farm Then and Now (New Society, 2014), told by Douglas Stevenson, a member for 40 years. The Farm has been featured on CNN, Vanity Fair and Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other regional and national publications.

The Farm Then and Now is the first insider look at the successes and shortcoming of this ongoing social experiment, tracing its evolution from what was once the largest commune in the world into an exceptional example of living lightly on the land.

Douglas Stevenson has been a member of The Farm Community for 40 years. His company Green Life Retreats hosts the Farm Experience Weekend and other instructional seminars about sustainable living.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store.


Rabbit Raising Problem SolverRabbits are popular with both farmers and families. With the increase in demand for locally sourced meat and many homesteaders keeping livestock of their own, rabbits are one of the most efficient animals to raise for healthful, high-quality meat with little space required. And more than 1.4 million households in the United States keep rabbits as pets. Rabbit owners of both kinds have questions about how to best raise their rabbits, and Karen Patry has the answers.

In her new book, "The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling" (Storey Publishing, 2014), Patry covers the full range of issues related to rabbits, whether they are pets, meat animals, or a source of fiber, with sections on rabbit basics, housing and feeding, rabbit breeding, and illness and injury. The book includes detailed information in each chapter, such as choosing a breed, understanding rabbit behavior, and handling a variety of common health issues.

With the convenient Q&A format organized by topic, readers can easily find the answers they are looking for. "Does a rabbit need a hiding box in a wire cage?" "How old does a rabbit have to be to start eating fresh veggies?" "My rabbit gave birth four days ago, but I haven’t yet seen her feed the babies. Should I be concerned?" Whether rabbit owners are keeping rabbits for meat, fiber, or pets, Karen Patry’s comprehensive answers will guide them to success.

"An excellent, well-written book that will become a classic resource for experienced and novice rabbit breeders." — Don Atchison, President of the National Rex Rabbit Club


Karen Patry owns Aurora Rex Rabbit Ranch and runs the popular website, where she answers thousands of rabbit-related questions. A member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and the National Rex Rabbit Club, she lives in Port Angeles, Washington.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store.

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