The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States, by Mark Fiege (University of Washington Press)
Mark Fiege’s book presents a concept that is as revolutionary as it is obvious—writing history as if the natural world mattered. Much in the same way that Howard Zinn infamously recast the American story in A People’s History of the United States of America by telling it from the perspective of the underdog, Fiege takes a look at historical events so well-worn they’ve become platitudes and makes them fresh again. The professor of history at Colorado State University does so by revisiting milestones in our nation’s history—including the Salem witch trials, cotton production and slavery in the South, the Battle of Gettysburg, the building of transcontinental railroads, the invention of the atomic bomb, the oil crisis of 1973-74—and examining them through an environmental lens: How did the natural world shape these events? How did these events impact the natural world? What was the dialectical conversation between humankind, culture and nature that has produced the country we live in today? From sea to shining sea, America has been built upon a vast landscape bearing an abundance of natural resources and burnished with sublime beauty, but our shared chronicles often overlook these natural graces. Fiege aims to widen the scope of our storytelling, for, as William Cronon explains in the foreword, “There is nothing in the world—nothing in place or time or history—that is ever outside of nature or the environment.”
Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Crops at Home, by Colin McCrate & Brad Halm (Sasquatch)
The cofounders of Seattle Urban Farm Co.—a nationally recognized outfit that has helped hundreds of families, schools and restaurants design and implement urban gardens—share the wisdom they have accumulated over the years in this overstuffed, lively and personable tome. From vegetable profiles (when to plant, how much, container suitability, fertilizing, pests, when and how to harvest, storage and preservation) to instructions for building a wide variety of beds for all kinds of unusual urban/suburban spaces, the authors cover all the basics. There are also sections on making great compost, transplanting, mulching, dealing with disease and pests and “The Only 11 Tools You’ll Ever Need.” Illustrated with great photographs on nearly every page, it concludes with an index of useful charts, lists, calendars and other resources.
Washington’s Channeled Scablands Guide, by John Soennichsen (The Mountaineers Books)
Most people heading eastward across our state—toward a concert at the Gorge, family in Spokane or the Big Sky spaces of Montana—cruise at high speeds through what seems like the void of central Washington. Guidebook author and historian John Soennichsen invites us to slow down and take a closer look at these big empty spaces. The Channeled Scablands—shrub-steppe plateau terrain that has been carved out by cataclysmic floods during the Pleistocene epoch—contain coulees, potholes, slot canyons, deep lakes, erratic boulders, waterfalls, basalt buttes and other natural oddities. With the recent establishment of the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail and plans for visitor centers and roadside displays, John’s book is a great companion for anyone wanting to explore this overlooked but fascinating region.
The first rule of Ladies Night Out is: You do talk about Ladies Night Out. The second rule is that sometime during the course of the evening, you share an… more »
Don’t be alarmed if you see a large group of people whacking each other with NERF bats in Maritime Heritage Park this weekend. Plus, you’ll want to remain calm if… more »
Some people write books that are designed to transport readers out of their everyday existence and into fantastical worlds. Other scribes, however, draw upon their own experiences to share larger… more »
The winter was awfully hard on your peach trees. The apple trees aren’t looking very good, either, and your entire grape arbor could use some help.
Blame it on the… more »
Most important events—Christmas, your birthday, National Pancake Day, etc.—just get a single notation on the calendar, and the allotment of time you spend celebrating them doesn’t typically exceed 24 hours.… more »
Invisible wires control the public mind, journalist and activist John Stauber tells us. And while the propaganda-for-hire industry is nominally interested in public policy issues, its primary function is to… more »