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This Organic Life Paperback – 10 Jan 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company (10 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931498245
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498241
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 926,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

This Organic Life In this bestselling combination memoir, polemic, and gardening manual, Gussow discusses the joys and challenges of growing organic produce in her own New York garden. This work offers encouragement to urban and suburban gardeners who want to grow at least some of their own produce. 30 recipes. Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
highly engaging, reads easily and you get a glimpse into the world of a truly concerned and thoughtful individual with committed ideas and a full, rich life. since I was living in a flat at the time, I could only envy the author's magical plot of land and the pleasure and bounty she extracts from her surroundings.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 38 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Moving to a sustainable, responsible food production system 16 Mar 2003
By Deb Nam-Krane - Published on
Format: Paperback
I had this book on my wishlist for quite some time, then finally broke down and checked it out of my local library. I had been warned about the "chatty" style and the lack of focus, but I was intrigued enough about the subject itself to overlook those potential flaws. I used to belong to a CSA Farm, so the subject of sustainable and responsible agriculture is close to my heart.
The style of writing did not bother me. Although she does seem at times to meander in the early chapters, she has quite a few complicated and inter-related subjects to cover: the purchase of her first home, the purchase of her new home, the development of her commitment to self-sufficient agriculture (or something close to it), and the death of her husband. Once those subjects are covered, I found the book became clearer and more linear (for better or worse).
Most of what she says I can't argue with. I agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with a food production system that makes it more affordable for we Northeasterners to buy food shipped in from California than to buy food from our own home states. When she describes the system as essentially a lot of fuel going to ship cold water, one has to want to reevaluate their food choices.
I found myself nodding in agreement when she talked about the taste of the foods we have the "luxury" of being able to buy year round. Having tasted food right off the farm, I can verify that there is a world of difference between it and the items you find in your store- even if they are "in season". Fresh produce does get addictive. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of having enough land to grow a substantial garden on, as Gussow points out. She suggests a CSA as an alternative, but that can be an unrealistic commitment for many people as well.
...I took puzzled offense to her chapter on vegetarianism. While I feel that serious gardeners and farmers have a right to protec their crops from "varmints" and that therefore there is a little death in even the most stringent vegan diet, I felt that she completely dropped the ball in her argument against a vegetarian diet. Throughout the book she drives home that the gasoline used to ship food all over the country contributes to the greenhouse effect that caused her (and most of the country) some of the most erratic summers and winters on record. In her dismissal of the vegetarian diet, she does not once make mention of the fact that the waste from the livestock is also a major contributor to the greenhouse effect. She talks about an organization that touted the belief that the planet would return to an Eden-like state if we all stopped eating meat. Perhaps (although she gives an incomplete argument against that assertion), but the argument I have heard for the last decade is that if everyone in the US cut their consumption of meat by 10%, we would significantly reduce energy consumption and livestock waste- enough to make a difference in the global warming trend she (and I) is so concerned about.
That aside, this is a book worth reading if you are interested in sustainable agriculture. Again, it's not something we'll all be able to do, but it's something we can all participate in.
42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
A Peek At Some Organic Issues 13 Sep 2001
By disco75 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"This Organic Life" offers a crucial message about the importance of soil, a living part of the Earth and of our lives, and about how our food choices affect the health of the soil. Gussow makes this and some related points forcefully and repeatedly, and bravely offers up the example of her own decisions to enact a local-foods philosophy.
The writing suffers from underinvolvement of an editor. The work lacks focus, especially in the first half, when her marriage, her community, a search for a new home, remodeling, and other events compete with the "Organic" promised in the book's title. An editor would have been able to bring continuity and theme to these essays, which actually are a narrative of the middle age and early elderly eras of her life. Strong editing would also have eliminated the confusing (and really needless) details about the nature of her newly purchased house and the foot by foot descriptions of the lot. Verbal descriptions, at least of this kind, cannot provide a sense of the surely daunting prospects she and her husband faced in claiming their new plot of land.
The really interesting stuff is contained in the latter part of the book, where Gussow combines polemic with her adventures in gardening and storing food in her own yard and in the community garden she helped commence. Each of us who tries to live a commitment to sustainable and healthy participation in the natural coil struggle with a myriad of choices and compromises. We are hopeful that our journey towards responsible activity is a progressive one. I think an essential part of the journey is a frank acknowledgement of our limitations and contradictory behavior. Gussow makes some concession to hypocritical choices in food selection. She does not, however, recognize some of the other difficulties inherent in her recommendations.
For example, it is not clear to me that shifting the freezing of foods from the producers and supermarkets to a citizenry that has one or more individual home freezers will result in less consumption of electricity and other resources. Gussow seems to be a consumer of a great deal of plastic and the role of this and other manufactured products (such as the huge amount of demolition waste from her home) in the health of the soil in land fills and dumps is not addressed. She is very vocal about the evils of transporting foods over long distances, at a high natural resources cost, for out-of-season consumption. Yet if we all we mailed crates of citrus in the winter and other food products from out of state, are we shifting the high resource consumption from the food service sector to the mail sector? Which is less wasteful?
Other topics I would have liked to have seen addressed involve the use of heritage seeds versus newer crop hybrids, how eating local foods improves health through localizing the mineral and environmental cycle of feeders, the ways that new homes can be built with more sustainable housing products, and energy-efficient, alternative ways of regulating home temperatures and providing storage. It seems that "This Organic Life" might better have been titled "This Organic Eater" or "This Organic Gardener." The author does provide an interesting look at efforts we can make to improve our situation, and raises issues and questions that will extend the discussion without providing an ultimate solution.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
What the Washington Post thought 20 Jun 2001
By G. Creedon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From the Washington Post: Books Show Organic Gardens Can Be of Beauty and Service By Joel M. Lerner Saturday, June 16, 2001; Page H07
...(G)et a copy of "This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader" by Joan Dye Gussow (Chelsea Green...). You will forget that education is the purpose of this book, because it moves so much like a novel. However, you will find yourself stopping and jotting down little bits of information and recipes along the way.
This informative text is about the author's trials and tribulations, a story of self-sufficiency and living off the land. It is so well written, poignant and packed with facts that every page is enjoyable and educational reading. You will go through floods and feasts, good times and bad, and come out the other end an extremely well-informed organic gardener, but you get there almost subliminally as you enjoy this 273-page hardcover account.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A garden of eden on the Hudson River 17 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a former student of Joan Gussow, I have had the pleasure of visiting the garden that she so eloquently describes. After reading her book, it has further "energized" me to get my act together & get things ready for a garden next spring (which means I must get the beds & soil ready now). Joan is an inspirational person & it is so nice that more people will have the ability to learn from her through her book. It will make you think twice before you buy imported produce. Support your local farmers!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Title Misnomer 3 Mar 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The title "This Organic Life" is a misnomer. I was looking for a book about organic gardening, methods, real-life experience, practical tips. I saw the title of this book, read reviews and thought it sounded like the book for which I was looking.
However, the author states a few times througout the book that she gardens organically, but really doesn't go into detail about organic gardening at all.
The title misses the most important aspect of this book - growing food locally. It took several chapters for that idea to develop and I actually began to lose interest. The benefits of growing food locally and the real cost of eating from a global market should have been introduced earlier in the book. Ms. Gussow has done extensive study on this subject and the book is littered with little facts about the benefits of growing food locally. Much of the information on the real cost of eating from a global market is disturbing and this book makes me more committed than ever to garden, organically and to produce local food.
In the end, I enjoyed the book, but it was not what I had expected.
I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but they were a nice addition to the book.
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