After reading about ways to attract wildlife to the garden earlier in the week, I was ready to dive into a book about an actual conservation project – Nature’s Second Chance by Steven Apfelbaum. In this book, Apfelbaum chronicles his thirty years working to restore the pre-farming ecosystem at Stone Prairie Farm in Wisconsin. As the introduction points out, this isn’t a book about homesteading but does include a lot of the same elements. In particular, the author learns about the wood on his property used for the construction of his house and lives a very green, self-sufficient life style with his family constructing some of their own furniture, using solar power, and canning many of the fruits and vegetables they grow.
Despite my excitement to start the book, I had a hard time getting into it. As Julie and Lanna at Bloggers Heart Books recently discussed, sometimes what makes or breaks a book is how it fits into your life at the time you read it. In this case, I do think there’s a possibility my impression of the book suffered because I was so tired when I started it. However, even looking back at the book, I feel as though the beginning was too intellectual in a clinically detached sort of way. The forward suggested that the book was going to be full of the author’s passion for the environment and his restoration project, but the beginning was an almost philosophical analysis of human interactions with nature. There were also three or four typos in the first 25 pages, which bothered me more than I would have guessed.
Fortunately, by the second section of the book, the author began to tell more personal stories about his experience with the farm and his family. The typo problem disappeared and the much-anticipated enthusiasm began to shine through in the author’s tone. By the end, the author was passionately describing his vision for many linked conservation areas across the United States, with individuals banding together to live in a more sustainable manner. Although his vision was somewhat utopian, he presented compelling financial reasons for preserving land as prairie, most especially for its use in trapping water and preventing floods, as well as more emotional appeals.
In addition to engaging personal stories, the book included some very interesting details about the restoration process and the author’s interactions with his land. I thought it was really cool that he was able to determine the source of the wood used to build his house by taking core samples of the beams and nearby trees. I also thought the details the author glossed over, specifically the hardship he endured and the amount of time it took to complete the restoration, gave some insight into his character. The way he just dropped in details (“So nine years later, when I met my partner…” or “when my partner and her son decided they didn’t like freezing by a wood burning stove in a poorly insulated house…”) made his unthinking endurance very clear.
With this book, I have again reached the happy point where I feel as though I’m really becoming engaged in a topic. First, A Spring Without Bees talked about the many dangers of pesticides, not only to our bee dependent crops but to our health. Then reading Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden made me excited to plant a garden with lots of native plants in order to support local wildlife. And finally this book gave me some insight into the challenges native plants and animals face, both from human degradation of their habitat and from invasive species. It’s all made me that much more excited to start my balcony garden and eventually have a yard where I can do even more.
Current Fiction Readings
Although I didn’t get to read any non-fiction this week, I’m excited to have finally gotten Cinder from the library today. Apparently the hype at my local library was less than that in the blogosphere, as I was only third in line, but I still feel like I’ve been waiting for ages! I’ve also checked out the third and fourth books in the Vampire Academy series and am eagerly waiting for the first and second to come in as well. I can’t wait to watch the TV series, but I think I want to have read at least the original quartet first.
Nature’s Second Chance – 3 stars – Although I may be penalizing the book for my exhaustion, I really couldn’t get into it at the beginning. The book did improve as it went on, with the author’s passion for his work becoming more obvious and the story becoming more personal. However, the book continued to be wordy and the initial struggle to begin was unpleasant enough that I would say I only liked it.