Best Books About Practically Everything: Best Kids Books

Sharon December 10th, 2009

Here I’m mostly looking for non-fiction books that help teach kids about ecology, gardening, climate change, energy issues, although I’m open to good fiction that teaches the values of a fair share life, or the science involved.  It is so important that we begin to figure out how to address these things from the beginning with our kids. 

BTW, it would be great if you’d tell me why you like a book, and also give me a rough age guide for how old the kids should be to read it.

Thanks so much folks - from you prior suggestions, I have a reading list as long as my arm!


New Classes

Sharon December 9th, 2009

Aaron and I are trying to organize our classes from the old, haphazard method of handling them (ie, “So, you want to do something with gardening?”) to a more systematic method for a number of reasons.  That is, we want to run classes more or less consistently around the year, with a schedule, so that someone who wants to take, say Adapting-In-Place has some idea when we’ll be offering it. 

Right now, together we offer three classes together - Farm and Garden Design, Adapting in Place, and the new class for people not yet fixed in a spot “Making Your Place.  All classes are offered online and asynchronously, ie, you don’t have to be online at any particular time.   I also teach food storage, and Aaron has made noises about teaching a water class - on water wise growing, rainwater cachement, greywater and other water issues.

But I’m curious - are there other classes that you’d like see?  For people dealing with getting ready for climate change and peak oil, what would be worth taking for you, if anything, besides our regular offerings?  We’ve thought of some, but don’t know if there’s an audience.  We’ve thought about advanced AIP, beginning livestock, an AIP-with-kids class, a “understanding the whole long emergency class” in which we try and figure out how the whole energy/financial/climate mess is interconnected.   But I suspect you all have better ideas than we do.  What would you like to see?

BTW, just a reminder for anyone interested we will be running the “Making Your Place Class” (which is probably going to get a different title, but we’re still hashing it out) from January to mid-February, and “Farm and Garden Design” from mid-February through March, if you are interested.  Cost of each class is $180, but we also do have scholarship spots available for low income participants.  Please email me at [email protected] for more info.



The Big Blog Announcement

Sharon December 7th, 2009

Ok, folks, thank you for your patience bearing with me as I made noises about the blog shift, but wouldn’t reveal the actual details.  Here’s the link to the new blog!

Now this also comes with several other exciting announcements.  First and foremost, Congratulations to Anna Hess who won the blog banner contest.  I got some really awesome submissions, some of them astonishingly beautiful, but I admit, I couldn’t resist the skeptical and irritated expression in that hen’s face.  It was love at first sight, and Anna definitely earns her book!

Second, I’m offering another contest here at this blog - you see, it occurs to me that having two “Casaubons Book” blogs that are active is a little confusing.  So I’m taking suggestions for a new title for this blog.  Winner gets a signed book of their choice!  Make them in comments or you can email me at [email protected].

Finally, some really cool news - not only will writing over at scienceblogs give me a chance to be hooked into from the New York Times Science Pages, but Scienceblogs just announced (this weekend) a new partnership with National Geographic.  Our content will be appearing on and other collaborations will follow.  Given that National has 18 *million* unique visitors a month, that’s ummm…more traffic ;-) .  My hope is that at least two or three of those 18 million will be interested in what I’ve got to say. 

Again, this blog will remain active, primarily for class material from Aaron’s and my classes (and look for some new stuff in that department shortly), Independence Days and Food Storage Quickies.  The archives will be here as well, although eventually they will also be copied over to the science blogs site as well.  But your blogiste’s primary ruminatin’ will be done over at the new site, so check it out, and bookmark me or subscribe to the new RSS feed.

Thanks, everyone!

Updated To Add: Apparently I jumped the gun, folks - I’m not listed on Scienceblogs directory yet, and the RSS feed is not active yet.  I think the problem may be our definitions of “morning” - the admin for Science Blogs is on the west coast, I think, and so when I got up bright and early this morning, excited about going live, she was still properly unconscious, since it was freakin’ 4am ;-) .  I’m hoping the issue will be resolved today!  Meanwhile, you can still check out the site and leave comments through the link above.


Independence Days Update: As the Snow Falls

Sharon December 7th, 2009

I haven’t done an ID update in a couple of weeks because of the Thanksgiving holiday (ie, I was gone for most of a week) and various other things, so this will cover a bit back. 

BTW, some of you may have wandered over from the new site, and be wondering what the heck this is all about - the Independence Days project arose from a quote of Carla Emery’s (she of the awesome _Encyclopedia of Country Living_) in which she suggests that people wanting to grow and put up food do as she does - try and plant something every day in that season, harvest something every day, do a little preserving every day.  We all know we’re not always going to do something every day, but the hundreds of people involved in this project are trying to do a little bit each day or week or month to get them a bit more food self-sufficient. Instead of staying home for a week and canning a truckload of food, and then saying “no, this is too much” we’re all just doing a little bit at a time.  What’s amazing is that it adds up - and here’s where you get to post your update (or a link to your blog) and tell us what you accomplished this week, and let us see how it does add up.

There’s no formal sign up process, you just join in.  We have seven categories, and obviously, not every one will apply in every season or to every person, but you get credit for everything you do:

Plant something: Whether seeds you are starting indoors or fall crops planted in your garden, you get points for everything you grow for yourself.

Harvest something: This covers things from your garden and wild foraged food and things you glean - this the food you take home.

Preserve something: This could mean a pantry full of glass jars, but remember, canning isn’t necessary to life.  It includes the cold spot you put your potatoes in and the sun you dry your strawberries in, the cool place you put up squash and sweet potatoes, the mulch you cover your greens with in the garden, the fresh pickles you have on your kitchen shelf…you name it.

Waste Not: Reducing waste in all its forms is essential.  Did you do something new this week - save something from the trash, reduce your own food waste stream, reduce packaging, mend something, compost or feed a creature with your scraps?  This is important stuff.

Want Not: For those of us trying to build up a reserve of food in case of an extended power outage or an emergency, a job loss or so you can help others, adding a little bit to your pantry at a time is important.  Tell us what you did, what good deals you found.

Eat the Food: What especially yummy ways did you find to eat the products of your garden, your freezer, your CSA, your farmer’s market? 

Build Community Food Systems: Everything from sitting down with your neighbors to talk about storing food to putting in school gardens, bartering in your community, starting farmer’s market, or just telling everyone how great the food is.  The more you do for this, the more resilient the system is!

We’d love it if you’d join us!

Right now things on the farm are quiet - the snow on the ground means a lot less digging around.  We had about 4 inches a few days ago, and we’re still living in fairy-land.  Unlike in populated areas, where the snow turns grey and dingy almost immediately, our area stays stunning until mud season in the spring ;-) .

We’re not yet cutting wood, really, which is the big project this time of year - Eric is too frantic with the end of his term for either of us to have time.  The big project is watching for signs of heat on the goats.  Since we don’t have  a buck (and I think a buck is definitely in our future, since this is a PITA with 7 goats to breed), any sign of heat means we whisk them into our car and drive off to our friends with the boys.  We thought that Bast, our adolescent goat, would come into heat this weekend, and had arranged everything to get her there.  She didn’t.  So we’re back to waving the buck rag (a piece of cloth that stinks of boy goat) past the goats every day.  Wheee.

The other immediate project is the butchering of the turkeys that weren’t ready by Thanksgiving.  If anyone in my general area (I’m about 45 minutes west of Albany, and could probably deliver to Albany or Schenectady) is looking for a heritage turkey for Christmas or Chanukah, I’ve got some - you can email me.  They were really terrific last year.

Once the turkeys are out of the barn, life will settle down a lot - 15 turkeys is just too many in a winter barn.  The goat babies are very excited about snow and its capacity for play, and so are the kids.  I’ve bark to collect for my herb projects and wood to cut for next year’s burning.  And once Eric is done with exams, we get to relax a little, clean the house, hang out and think seed catalogs. 

Chanukah starts Friday, of course, but the great thing about Chanukah is that it is a minor holiday.  The kids are excited, and there’s some minor getting ready, plus the kids like the decorations, but it really isn’t even remotely equivalent to the scale of Christmas for most Americans.  We’re having one bash - a joint birthday party for Isaiah and Chanukah party, and after that, we’re going to take most of the rest of December as easy anyone with kids, a farm and a blog can.

Ok, here’s my update:

Plant something: I did plant a few bulbs and a couple of heads of extra garlic I had lying around on the 60 degree day we had last week.

Harvest something: Kale, beets, parsley, sage, chard, arugula

Preserve something: Quince Applesauce, I attempted to mimic these great red cabbage/cauliflower pickles we had at Kathy Harrison’s house the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Time will tell if I have succeeded.

Waste not: Went through the garden looking for hiding carrots and other roots to be fed to either us or the goats or bunnies, sorted through the apple bins and fed the wrinkly ones to various creatures, collected scraps for the poultry, the usual composting, mending, etc… 

Want Not: Added oatmeal and brown sugar to storage, canned up a couple of pumpkins that were being discarded by friends after the holidays, began cutting up old fleece pajamas for a quilting project for the boys, collected Thanksgiving decorations from friends getting rid of theirs - the decorative corn was eaten by chickens, the pumpkins by goats.

Eat the food: Found a lovely spicy kosher sausage, and made a big pot of my favorite Portugese Kale soup with the greens, enjoyed our favorite cranberry-chocolate chip cookies, discovered just how often fresh chevre is with homemade raspberry jam on homemade sourdough. 

Build Community Food Systems: Approximately 47,000 radio interviews for _Independence Days_, agreed to teach a couple of food storage classes, am planning some new projects that will be unveiled soon.

How about you?  BTW, the next post up will have all the new blog info, but ID updates will stay over here, along with the food storage quickies! 


Thousandth Post Retrospective

Sharon December 4th, 2009

Sometime last week, when I wasn’t paying attention, I hit the thousand post mark in my blogging.  There are only 982 on this site, but I have counted at least 25 posts that somehow went astray during the shift from the old blogspot blog, which puts me past the 1000 mark pretty solidly.  There are also a few that were never published here, but appeared first at Hen and Harvest, Grist, Groovy Green or Energy Bulletin.  And back in September, I hit the five year anniversary of my blogging endeavor.  Given that I’m in the process of shifting over to the third iteration of this blog (formal announcement coming Monday morning, along with the winner of the new banner ad!), it seems a good time to consider my past.

The blog has won a bunch of awards over the last five years, but the one I’ve probably best earned is the most typos in a published genre.  I’m a terrible self-proofreader, and I always miss a bunch of stuff.  So thanks to all of you who have corrected my more egregious errors over the years and borne with the boring ones. 

The best honors of this blog have never come as awards though - they’ve come in other forms, usually as the attention of someone I really admire - and occasionally not so much.  Still my favorite honor was when one of my posts was “debunked” by, a Fox News connected site that pretends to offer impartial analysis, but actually is a right wing political loon site (note, I am not saying here that being right wing makes you a loon, just that being a loon and a right winger has been known to happen ;-)), designed to slant science.  I’ve honestly never been so proud as when “The Ethics of Biofuels,” one of my early opuses hit their pages to their outrage.  Annoying complete twits is one of my favorite things!

My next greatest moment would be when George Monbiot actually argued with me in the pages of the London Guardian on my post “A New Deal or a War Footing” about what was required to address climate change.   That was just about as awesome as something could be.   

Mark Bittman made a kind mention of this blog on his blog once, thanks to reader Leila’s kind pimping of my site.  Since Mark Bittman is the holy grail of fabulous cooking this was utterly awesome.

Getting to blog over at Grist with so many wonderful environmental writers was terrific.  I eventually petered out writing there, because of the editing and length limits, and the comparative hassle of using their site, but getting to see my stuff up with David Roberts, Tom Philpott and Van Jones was awesome.

Rod Dreher, author of the awesome book _Crunchy Cons_ and the Crunchy Con Blog has kindly done an enormous amount to spread the word of my writing, and is living proof you don’t have to agree with all your friends on everything.  He also got me a chance to write columns twice for the Dallas Morning News, for which I am enormously grateful. 

Blog posts here have led to a number of news articles - I’ve been interviewed by the New York Times (not so successful, as you may recall), the Washington Post, the AP, CNN, Voice of America, NPR and a whole host of others. 

It is sort of funny what sticks and what doesn’t - apparently I’m very mildly famous as the inventor of the terms “slow clothing” and  “slow fashion” and periodically I get media requests for interviews about the subject.  Anyone who has seen me dress will probably laugh really hard at the thought that I do fashion interviews, but there it is. 

I’m a bit of a pugnacious type, and I rarely think twice about saying what I think.  When I was first doing the blog, I admit, it never really occurred to me that anyone would actually read what I was writing, so I was totally stunned the first few times I wrote a criticism of someone, only to find out that that someone read what I wrote and wanted to argue. 

What’s even funnier is how often someone I start out attacking becomes a friend - that happened with Toby Hemenway - one of my early posts on the old blog was an attack on an essay he’d written.  We fought it out in comments, and later, he invited me out to teach with him in a Permaculture class.  Some of my favorite readers are people who started out battling with me - and who still do.  I appreciate the degree to which people do respectful and thoughtful debate here and I hope it will continue on the new site.

The very best single thing about this blog is my readership - getting to know you all has been awesome.  I’ve met some wonderful people in person at various events, while others I will probably never have a chance to meet in person, but I’ve gotten an awful lot of kindness and aid from all of you - from the criticisms of my posts, which make them better (and which often affect how things that go into my books come out) to advice and assistance.  I know that whenever I have a question or a problem about something, I can ask here and find dozen readers with good advice. 

Over the years you’ve helped me improve my pita bread and figure out whether goat health problems were serious.  You’ve given me ideas about parenting and politics, soil amendments and safety, sex, drugs, rock and roll, lawyers, guns and money.  I’ve ummm…borrowed from you a whole lot.  So thank you! 

And I’m enormously grateful for the support I’ve gotten over the years - whether I’m whining about some small problem in my life or grumpy because I’m wrong and I secretly know it, I’m lucky enough to have readers who are supportive by being kind and also by occasionally providing a much needed kick in the pants. 

In over five years of blogging, I haven’t covered every conceivable subject, of course, but I’ve covered a lot them.  I’ve written posts that were serious and posts that were funny (or at least I was trying to be).  I’ve written about love and sex, death and birth, trivial things and really serious ones.  I’ve tried never to be a one-trick pony - because my life is such a muddle of serious and frivolous, hands-on and theory I’ve tried to run that through the blog, and it has been a lot of fun for me.

I think my favorite posts were the funny one “How to Explain Peak Oil To Anyone” may be my personal favorite but I also like “Get Out the Deprogrammers” mostly because of the lively discussion in comments about what the members of my personal cult should wear, “Get Thee Over By Me Satan” which explains how the 7 Deadly Sins can be properly adapted (and committed) after an energy peak,  and “We’re Gonna Need More Pie”.

My all-time favorite serious post is my essay on “The Theory of Everything” which of course, wasn’t my idea, even thought I’ve reprinted it in two of my books - it belongs to one of my oldest internet friends, Pat Meadows, who I’ve borrowed more ideas from over the years than anyone else.  She has given unstintingly to me, and deserves special attention.  So do MEA and Elaine Solowsky, who have written pieces that I’ve reproduced here, and done a great deal to influence my thought.

Your favorites and least favorites are probably different than mine - I’m always surprised by how much attention some things get, and sometimes I work for days on something that I think will really spur debate, and get none.  But hey, that’s writing.  A half-dozen of my posts have broken the 100 comment mark, including the dark “We Regret to Inform You”  and several of the Independence Days Challenge Start Up Posts. 

My biggest screw ups in five years?  Well, unless the financial crisis gets a lot worse a lot fast, the biggest one will probably have been last year’s end of year predictions - but hey, there’s three weeks to go in December yet ;-) .  I’ve certainly said some stupid things, and lost a few readers I wish I hadn’t.  If I’ve been out and out wrong, I’ve tried to say so, but I probably missed a few.  The ones I regret most are the ones where I wasn’t thinking enough about how other people would feel about something I said.

Besides the surprise of actually being read and writing books, I’d say that the biggest surprise has been how important my religious writings have become to me, and how much they’ve begun to shape how I’m perceived.  I didn’t think it was terribly unusual to be a religious person writing about energy and environmental issues, but I find myself now being asked almost daily to come speak to religious groups of many stripes, because I’m seen as unusual in being a person of faith who speaks about our predicament in that context. 

The other biggest surprise has been how tolerant and kind my whole family has been about becoming characters on my blog.  You now know my kids, my husband, my Moms, my in-laws and my extended family and friends as people in my story, and for the most part they never complain, even when I use them as comic relief.  The boys are continually thrilled that I wrote about them, and everyone else is pretty gracious.  I hope I say often enough that the portraits you get here are necessarily fond, but limited - all of them are way more awesome than you get to hear about.

Ok, that’s my five year, 1000 post wrap up.  The new blog’s tires will need rotating and a check under the hood eventually too, but that’s a long way off now.  See you in the new spot on Monday - look here for the announcement!


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