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Book Reviews

My Year Without Matches: Escaping The City In Search Of The Wild

by Claire Dunn (Nero 2014). Review by Greg Foyster

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Claire Dunn, a burnt-out forest campaigner with an ever-growing to-do list, is in danger of becoming a ‘pale-faced greenocrat’ – all media savvy and no soul. To reconnect with nature, she signs up for a year-long wilderness survival program, where she learns to build a shelter, gather bush tucker, trap animals, tan hides and – hence the book’s title – make fire without matches.

However, it’s the psychological aspects of her time in the wild that make this book such a fascinating read. Over the year, Dunn burrows into deep solitude, where she’s shaken by tremors of conflicting emotions: grief then ecstasy, self-flagellation then idle contentedness. The prose style keeps step with her journey, becoming more figurative and descriptive as she explores her blossoming eco-spirituality.

Her introspection bears insights into the inescapability of violence, the tyranny of the ego, our cultural indoctrination to be continually busy, and our need to let go of pointless striving so that we can exist in the moment. Male readers might feel alienated by passages on returning to the feminine, but will still appreciate the author’s extraordinary quest, told with honesty and the courage to be herself. To quote the epilogue: ‘What a beautiful, crazy thing to do’.

The Vegan Book Of Permaculture: Recipes For Healthy Eating And Earthright Living

by Graham Burnett (Permanent Publications 2015). Review by Paul Goodsell

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Graham Burnett is well known in permaculture. He wrote the very accessible, Permaculture: a beginner’s guide (Spiralseed, third edition 2012), and has been doing great things for permaculture and vegans for years. But his latest offering is his most interesting book. Veganism excludes the use of animals and their by-products – for example no chicken tractors or manure – so how is one meant to establish a permaculture paradise without such things, which others say are important elements of a permaculture system? Burnett demonstrates cleverly how it can be done, exploring alternatives for fixing fertility in the soil, and dealing with plants in the wrong place. What I enjoyed most about this book is the thorough analysis of the self, ‘Zone 00’ as he describes it: how can we help the earth and other people if we don’t look after ourselves?

Under the heading ‘Permaculture without animals?’, Burnett assures the reader that he doesn’t want to ‘fence out the earthworms’ or ‘the bees that pollinate our fruit trees and vegetables’. But it’s the other animals that often appear in permaculture systems – pigs, goats and chickens – that his vegan sensitivities urge him to exclude in his design. This book is popular among vegans and ‘veganic’ gardeners, but it’s a must read for anybody wanting to learn about permaculture who doesn’t want to, or doesn’t have the space to, incorporate animals into their system.

GARLIC: An Organic Guide To Knowing, Growing And Using Garlic, From Australian Whites And Tasmanian Purples To Korean Reds And Shandongs

by Penny Woodward (Hyland House Publishing 2012). Review by Alex Woodger

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Some may think that garlic smells divine, but legend has it that when the devil was thrown from heaven and landed on earth, garlic grew from under his left foot.

Garlic has come to pervade our modern multicultural cuisine, and more is being discovered about its medicinal and nutritional qualities all the time. Unfortunately, commercially produced garlic is rarely fresh, and is treated with numerous unpleasant chemicals.

In this attractive and comprehensive guide, Penny Woodward takes the reader through all aspects of producing quality, chemical-free garlic in his or her own backyard. She covers growing, harvesting, curing, storing and preserving. The book is packed with colourful photos, has numerous recipes and a pictorial glossary of varieties. Medicinal uses are also covered in some depth, summarising current scientific research as well as folk remedies.

This book is a companion for anyone who wishes to refine their knowledge of growing garlic organically.

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