Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 4.16.2009


Earth Day 2009

Carpets of Wildflowers, Canopy of Oaks Restoring native plants across the city

At Home with Native Plants Garden tour on Mother’s Day

Just Say No to the Butterfly Bush

The Camas Among Us A common spring flower invokes Kalapuya heritage

Students, Volunteers and the Land Seven years of restoration efforts with Walama


Livin’ Green, Even in Winter
Nature, raw and processed
by Suzi Steffen

SIESTA LANE: One Cabin, No Running Water, and a Year Living Green, memoir by Amy Minato.. Skyhorse Publishing, 2009. Hardcover, $22.95.

THE WINTER HARVEST HANDBOOK: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses, nonfiction by Eliot Coleman. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009. Paper, $29.95.

Eugene’s a weird, possibly self-satisfied but still greenly striving place. 

At least that’s how it seems in Amy Minato’s memoir, Siesta Lane. If I didn’t live here, I’d think Eugene had a thriving community, both in and out of town, of people trying to go green by carpooling and biking, growing their own vegetables and joining CSAs, living in different forms of cooperative housing and making a bare sort of living at a variety of different nonprofit or social justice jobs while striving to make the Earth happier. (And being somewhat self-congratulatory at it, too.) 

The Oregon of Minato’s memoir, which covers a time period when she lived about 20 minutes out of town in a semi-intentional community with separate cabins and a main house, seems like an almost dreamy place, perhaps because Minato’s time was spent in deep self-reflection and what she calls a slowing down of the pace of life. Aside from dreamy, it also sounds very, very chilly, since the small cabin she shared openly with many insects and arachnids was heated only by the wood she chopped herself. A poet with an MFA from the UO, Minato found many moments of beauty along with the challenges, and the book provides a multitude of quiet revelations as the year progresses. Though densely populated cities like Chicago (from which Minato moved to Eugene) have efficiencies rural living can’t match, her short, journal-like entries (“Niche” and “Wind” are two titles) provide abundant examples of the ways that living in close proximity to a wilder world can open city-dazed eyes to pain and beauty.

Speaking of cold, Eliot Coleman and his crew grow vegetables year-round in Maine, without heat or with minimal heat, in greenhouses. In The Winter Harvest Handbook, there’s a one super photo of Coleman holding a bowl of beautiful young salad greens in the midst of an amount of snow that would knock Eugene out for weeks. (All of the photos, by Barbara Damrosch, made people in this office drool.) 

Maine, Coleman points out, is to the north of 85 percent of the rest of the U.S. (I’m assuming Alaska makes up most of the remaining 15), and therefore, if his farm can make commercial organic vegetable farmingwork year-round, the rest of us could definitely consider upping our winter lettuce production. From directions on crop rotation to very clear instructions on building movable greenhouses, this book will inspire planning right now, as the days lengthen and generally grow warmer, for this winter. He also gives tips for fall planting and winter storage for crops like carrots, turnips and radishes, all tastes that make the winter seem a bit brighter, even if there are no secrets about fresh winter tomatoes (canned or frozen whole tomatoes, however, can go a long way). After reading Coleman’s book, you’ll no doubt be creating garden maps and writing lists for materials at BRING Recycling. Where Minato’s book is calm and contemplative, Coleman’s book brims with practical plans and ideas for making the winter a happy, healthy, productive time of the year.