Friday, April 28, 2006

Green, Blue, Brown: Interactive

Did you ever read a book that changed the direction of your life? Or that changed the way you see the world? Did you ever run across some piece of writing that made a lightbulb go on in your head? That set some wheels in motion that led you someplace wholly unexpected?

There's a writer named Gene Logsdon who's had a huge influence on me over the past couple of years. He writes about small-scale farming. He actually lives in my neck of the woods, near Upper Sandusky, Ohio. This is a nice bonus, because I can apply some of his ideas directly, without having to make adjustments for climate.

I think I've said this before, but if you had told me a few years ago that I would be living out in the country with almost nine acres and an old farm tractor to my name, I'd have said you were crazy. It wouldn't have seemed possible. Then I read "The Contrary Farmer" and "All Flesh is Grass."

Now, here I am. My wife and I are going to meet a goat farmer tomorrow, so we can take notes about the specifics of raising goats. This isn't just a casual visit. We know that we're interested in a herd of nubian does and a boer buck in the not-too-distant future. (Why? I'll save that for another time...) We have six acres of pasture already fenced. We don't have any shelter yet, but that's not far off.

Now, if that's not an influential writer, I don't know what is. The scary thing is, Gene Logsdon doesn't write about goats. With the exception of one chapter in one of his books, he barely touches on them. I'm pretty sure he's never raised goats.

Now I'll admit that before ever reading a single word he'd written, Lori and I had already casually visited working horse and alpaca farms, and I had tried my hand at organic gardening and lawn care (yes, organic lawn care. Another time...), and we'd gotten our back yard certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Habitat. So I wasn't coming into this from left field. But there's quite a big gap between there and here.

I actually got hooked on Logsdon by reading his book about ponds. Now, he spent a fair amount of time talking about fishing, and eating fish, which are two things I have pretty much zero interest in. But I liked his writing style so much, I picked up another book. Then another. And another. He writes about grazing animals, organic (or nearly organic) farming and gardening, open pollenated corn, local ecosystems, the Amish, birdwatching, wildlife, small towns, baseball... He writes about some of the inherent flaws of modern farming, and modern life. He challenges conventions, from the advice of his county extension agents to the national organic standards. He led me, directly and indirectly, to a host of other fascinating books and subjects. He is funny, insightful, and a joy to read. I wasn't overly interested in a lot of his subject matter until I read his books. Now I've read just about all of them, and I'm on a second pass.

But I digress. (You expected otherwise?)

I want to hear about any writers that had a similar effect on you. You can write something long, or just mention a name or a book title. You can leave a comment, or write something in your own blog and just leave me a link.

I'm just intrigued by the idea that words on a page, written by somebody removed in time and place, can have a significant impact on the course of the lives of complete strangers. Plus, I'm always looking for fresh reading material.


At 4/29/2006 3:10 AM, Blogger roybe said...

The transition you've had to country life, we call in australia a "seachange" and more and more people seem to be finding it. Goat breeding sounds very challenging, I'm sure it will take you to a new and interesting level of country life. Other than the gospel, a book that has affected me more than anything for a while is " King Leopold's Ghost" It's about the exploitation and injustice native africans suffered at the hands of europeans in the Congo and of the men who stood against it.

At 4/29/2006 1:47 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

I love Logsdon! We're not on the land yet, but he's the reason we're working towards it. Influential is hardly the word!

At 4/30/2006 7:52 PM, Blogger Beo said...

It will sound cliche... but Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, and Masanobu Fukuoka.

Thoreau for his simpleness and stubborness.
Jefferson for his genteel wisdom and contradicitons.
Fukuoka for combining the two in the modern world and opening the door to permaculture.
Neitszche also works in there somewhere, but it would be too long to get into...
I was already looking for a copy of The Contrary Farmer after reading your profile-this post will push me to purchase.

At 8/13/2010 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never heard of him, but am familiar with what happened. It happened to us, too. First books about 'voluntary simplicity', then books about homesteading, then books about living healthier/better... then books about one acre farming. Which is SO us - we have an acre of hardwood forest and an acre for, well, everything else.



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