Spring is right around the corner, or in some cases, already here! I don’t know about you but spring always gives me so much energy and joy after the long, dark winter. This week was supposed to be about cleaning up your TBR but I feel like that’s a rather dull take on the season (and I already do that with Taming my TBR). So instead I’m making a list that focuses on nature and/or improving your personal and mental space, with a little vintage writing thrown in there for spice. Did you know Vita Sackville-West wrote a gardening advice column as well as all those beautiful letters?
Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by That Artsy Reader Girl.
Traditional ploughland is disappearing. Seven cornfield flowers have become extinct in the last twenty years. Once abundant, the corn bunting and the lapwing are on the Red List. The corncrake is all but extinct in England. And the hare is running for its life.
Written in exquisite prose, The Running Hare tells the story of the wild animals and plants that live in and under our ploughland, from the labouring microbes to the patrolling kestrel above the corn, from the linnet pecking at seeds to the seven-spot ladybird that eats the aphids that eat the crop. It recalls an era before open-roofed factories and silent, empty fields, recording the ongoing destruction of the unique, fragile, glorious ploughland that exists just down the village lane.
But it is also the story of ploughland through the eyes of man who took on a field and husbanded it in a natural, traditional way, restoring its fertility and wildlife, bringing back the old farmland flowers and animals. John Lewis Stempel demonstrates that it is still possible to create a place where the hare can rest safe.
Nature has many gifts for us, but perhaps the greatest of them all is joy; the intense delight we can take in the natural world, in its beauty, in the wonder it can offer us, in the peace it can provide – feelings stemming ultimately from our own unbreakable links to nature, which mean that we cannot be fully human if we are separate from it.
In The Moth Snowstorm Michael McCarthy, one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment, proposes this joy as a defence of a natural world which is ever more threatened, and which, he argues, is inadequately served by the two defences put forward hitherto: sustainable development and the recognition of ecosystem services.
Drawing on a wealth of memorable experiences from a lifetime of watching and thinking about wildlife and natural landscapes, The Moth Snowstorm not only presents a new way of looking at the world around us, but effortlessly blends with it a remarkable and moving memoir of childhood trauma from which love of the natural world emerged. It is a powerful, timely, and wholly original book which comes at a time when nature has never needed it more.
The Garden Jungle is about the wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet. Wherever you are right now, the chances are that there are worms, woodlice, centipedes, flies, silverfish, wasps, beetles, mice, shrews and much, much more, quietly living within just a few paces of you.
Dave Goulson gives us an insight into the fascinating and sometimes weird lives of these creatures, taking us burrowing into the compost heap, digging under the lawn and diving into the garden pond. He explains how our lives and ultimately the fate of humankind are inextricably intertwined with that of earwigs, bees, lacewings and hoverflies, unappreciated heroes of the natural world.
The Garden Jungle is at times an immensely serious book, exploring the environmental harm inadvertently done by gardeners who buy intensively reared plants in disposable plastic pots, sprayed with pesticides and grown in peat cut from the ground. Goulson argues that gardens could become places where we can reconnect with nature and rediscover where food comes from. With just a few small changes, our gardens could become a vast network of tiny nature reserves, where humans and wildlife can thrive together in harmony rather than conflict.
For anyone who has a garden, and cares about our planet, this book is essential reading.
For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
In this informative and entertaining account, Williams investigates cutting-edge research as she travels to fragrant cypress forests in Korea to meet the rangers who administer “forest healing programs,” to the green hills of Scotland and its “ecotherapeutic” approach to caring for the mentally ill, to a river trip in Idaho with Iraqi vets suffering from PTSD, to the West Virginia mountains where she discovers how being outside helps children with ADHD. The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.
Edith Blackwell Holden (September 26, 1871 – March 16, 1920) was born at Kings Norton, Worcester, in 1871, one of seven children of a Midlands paint manufacturer. The family lived in the small village of Olton in Warwickshire and it was there that she wrote and illustrated her book, The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady. After attending art school, she worked as an illustrator, with her drawings (often of animals) being published in several books.
This entirely new diary is a predecessor to the “Country Diary” and is composed in a similar style with Edith Holden’s thoughts, watercolors paintings of flowers, plants, birds and butterflies. There are over 150 new paintings showing delightful countryside scenes, including hares, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and other animals which do not appear in the Country Diary. “The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady” is not only a companion to the Country Diary but a book that will appeal to all lovers of nature and the countryside.
From 1946, the poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West wrote a gardening column in the Observer. The columns were later collected into a set of books published between 1951 and 1958. Vita’s extensive gardening knowledge, her intense passion for her subject and her lively literary flair make these classics of garden writing essential for any serious gardener’s bookshelf. Volume 1 in a series of four anthologies reproducing the lively gardening columns by Vita Sackville-West. This volume covers 1946–1950.
A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.
The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. But when we get our hands in the earth we connect with the cycle of life in nature through which destruction and decay are followed by regrowth and renewal. Gardening is one of the quintessential nurturing activities and yet we understand so little about it. The Well-Gardened Mind provides a new perspective on the power of gardening to change people’s lives. Here, Sue Stuart-Smith investigates the many ways in which mind and garden can interact and explores how the process of tending a plot can be a way of sustaining an innermost self
In Lawns Into Meadows, landscape designer Owen Wormser makes a case for the power and generosity of meadows. In a world where lawns have wreaked havoc on our natural ecosystems, meadows offer a compelling solution: They establish wildlife and pollinator habitats. They’re low-maintenance and low-cost. They have a built-in resilience that helps them weather climate extremes, and they can draw down and store far more carbon dioxide than any manicured lawn. They’re also beautiful, all year round.
To illuminate the many joys of meadow-building, Owen draws on his own stories, including how growing up off the grid in northern Maine, with no electricity or plumbing, prepared him for his work.
From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction–a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.
As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted–no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape–she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
Climate activist and farmer Acadia Tucker fell in love with container gardening after glimpsing its potential to produce food—lots of food. By applying select growing practices, and managing for square inches rather than square feet, she has come up with instructions for growing a small-scale farm in your patio, on your stoop, or in your dining room. If all you want is a garden just big enough to line a windowsill, she’s got you covered there, too.
Her goal is to make it easier for anyone with access to a patch of sun to grow and harvest food—year round, if you’d like. No backyard required. Tiny Victory Gardens includes step-by-step guidance on finding the right containers (there are wrong ones), prepping your soil, growing plants indoors and outdoors, and raising crops all year long. It profiles 21 crops that are easy to grow in containers, including tomatoes, lemon trees, and avocados, and includes recipes for cultivating mini farms in pots, with names like Tiny Herb Garden, Griller’s Choice, and Beans, Bees, and Butterflies.