Archive for April, 2012

J.K. Rowling is Back!

Listen up people… hot off the press…  J.K. Rowling has a new book coming out in September. It’s called A Casual Vacancy. This time, it’s for adults, not kids. The blurb that reached my desk says it’s “blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising”. Sounds good to me! But I sure hope they don’t expect me to line up at midnight to get a copy.

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Trauma Farm

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Trauma Farm by Brian Brett. I picked it up to take away and I wasn’t sure it would be suitable and keep my attention while I was visiting friends. But I was engrossed in it from the get-go til the last page. This is the story of Brett’s farm on Vancouver Island, his 18 years of hard work and experience written into a single day from morning to night.  He’s a wonderful writer and there’s more humour, insight, and meaningful though in this book than I’ve read in a long time. Who knew eggs and pea hens could be so fascinating! The description of his 24 year old pet parrot Tuco yelling “It’s partytime!” when he spots a car coming up the road sent me into fits of giggles. So did “I’d be the first to admit that humping through the forest on a recently installed artificial knee, using a bad flashlight to search for a blind, black, deaf dog is not intelligent behaviour.” I read whole paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen, and ended up with oodles of post-it notes stuck to pages for reference and reminders. Every farm is centered around life and death and his is no exception. Lambs are born and horses die and it’s all written with exceptional beauty. And his attitude towards weeding certainly made me happy. He said weeding is an activity, not a result, so a good gardener learns not to fret about finishing a job. He talks about the “community” of small farms, how hard it is for small farms to make a profit, the problems with government regulations, and the threat of disease and issues relating to the massive factory farms that now supply us with most of our food. It’s a wonderful book, even if you’re not prone to reading about animals or nature or food (he even ponders the origin of soup). And he ends the book with the most meaningful sentence… “I’m embarrassed by how much we’ve taken, and when I witness the sense of entitlement of people around me I can only feel ashamed of the angry members of my First World Culture.” It won the Writers’ Trust of Canada Non-Fiction Prize, the B.C. Booksellers’ Choice Award, and it was the bronze medal winner of the IPPY Awards in the Environment category. All well deserved for this fantastic book. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s one I would definitely reread, and I hardly ever reread anything.

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Eating Dirt

This book isn’t for everyone. But I’m a tree hugger, so it stands to reason that I’d be intrigued by it. (In my neighbourhood trees are such a hot button, I’d keep the trees and get rid of some of the neighbours if I could.) Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill is a memoire of Gill’s 20 years as a tree planter starting in northern Ontario when she was a student, then eventually going on to Vancouver Island. It’s back breaking, tedious, dirty, dangerous work, so why would anyone want to do it? She explains… “There are so many living creatures to touch and smell and look at in the field that it’s often a little intoxicating. A setting so full of all-enveloping sensations that it just sweeps you up and spirits you away”. How about that! She also gives a natural history lesson of area which I found fascinating. But I would, wouldn’t I. The biggest Douglas Fir in the world is 242′ tall. It’s on Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew. It’s a dwarf compared to the 400′ tall specimens that lived to be 1,000 years old in the first half of the 20th century. But they’re all gone. Six billion trees have been planted in British Columbia. At the height of the tree planting trade there were an estimated 18,500 tree planters in the country. The average career of a tree planter is 5 years. 5 back-breaking years. Gill did it for 20. Back in her student days in Toronto, her housemate Aimee, a tree planter herself, was her inspiration. She said… “I’d never seen her cry, never seen her anxious or upset, never heard her complain and I never heard her utter a jealous word. I could stand to have my back broken if this was the way a spine could grow back.” At the end of planting one day in B.C. Gill and her group of fellow tree planters came upon a travelling kitchenware salesman who had car troubles. They managed to help him put chains on his tires to try and get his wheels out of the snow. When they told him him they’re tree planters he said… “Thank you for healing the planet”. Will it work, all this planting to replace humongous forests that have been stripped bare of all the trees that have been growing for eons? 6,000,000,000 trees planted! No one knows. Only time will tell. Thank God some people think so and are willing to do the actual work.

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