Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book Review - Holy Shit by Gene Logsdon

Today I finished Gene Logsdon's Holy Shit (2010) as part of an ongoing effort to education myself on sustainable farming, which I intend on incorporating into my designs as a landscape architect. The book was entertaining, and provided both philosophical and practical advice on the handling of manure from various sources (cow, pig, man, etc.) I appreciated the author's tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the book, which helped make it an easy read. I also appreciated the short but concise chapters, which suggested to me that Holy Shit was formatted to be read in short sessions in which the reader had some, ahem, quality time on his hands.

The book was especially interesting to me in that Gene seems to be someone who has 'been there' in a way that I have not, though I wish I had. He provides real-life examples of how manure was used and managed during his childhood years as a farmboy, and the imagery is both pleasantly and inspiringly nostalgic. I would love to implement some of the suggestions from the book on my father's few acres in Montgomery, such as using chickens and goats to rejuvenate the soil and building a part-time use outhouse to produce additional compost.

For me, one of the book's most important contributions is the author's support of my ever-growing belief that Landscape Architecture (which often involves creative solutions to ecological problems) is a profession truly and deeply important to the stability of first world countries like mine. I immediately recall Jared Diamond's Collapse as I read Gene Logdon's comparison between the agricultural management practices of ancient fallen civilizations and those of today's first world countries:

"But why did these civilizations fall? Although much more evidence awaits discovery, from this new knowledge of prehistory emerges an unmistakable pattern. Invariably, at the root of every collapse was an agricultural mistake."
And also:

"Societies, becoming successful - that is, being able to dominate their environments to suit their own comforts - lose sight of the vital connection between their daily lives and farming."
Holy Shit provided me knowledge, ideas, and entertainment regarding organic waste recycling practices, and I recommend it to anyone interested in small-scale organic farming. I see it as an important addition to my small but growing personal agricultural canon, and it inspires me to continue my education on the subjects of permaculture and organic recycling.

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