Just occasionally, I pick up a book and then kick myself for not having bought it sooner.
I'm going to be carrying the scar on my shin for a few years to come having realised what I've been missing out on with this little gem. But of course, it's not so little. Whilst not *quite* as big as Bill Mollison's 'Big Black Book', aka Permaculture: a Designer's Manual, it is still a pretty weighty tome and packed full of permaculture information of all kinds, from gardening and microclimates to energy, water, buildings, woodlands, biodiversity and the design process. Patrick Whitefield wrote this book primarily as a resource to support his work of teaching the 72 hour Permaculture Design Course, providing a solid back-up of information and explanations to continue to guide his students long after the course is over.
Whilst it covers much of the same information as the Designer's Manual, and in a similar depth, there are important differences.
Firstly, the Earth Care Manual is written for temperate climates, not tropical ones. Whilst permaculture can be applied to any climate, most people find it far easier to learn to apply the principles using a book written with their own climate type in mind. This book was written in the UK, and many of the examples are UK based, and anyone in a temperate climate is likely to find this book pretty well indispensable. Having this book by my side feels like having a favourite mentor standing right behind me ready to whisper words of wisdom in my ear the moment I need them.
Secondly, the style of writing is totally different. Whilst I'm deeply fond of Bill Mollison, he is a rather provocative writer, a bit of a gadfly who is constantly challenging his readers in an attempt to stimulate them to greater things and deeper thought processes. And I'm not always in the mood to deal with it. Patrick Whitefield writes much more gently, providing you with everything you need to know in a most reassuring, encouraging manner. For days when I need a bit of stimulation, I'll reach for Mollison, but when I need a reminder of the differences between Fukuoka and Bon Fils, or need to tell my sub-soilers from my mole ploughs, or just want to spend a quiet hour or three curled up with a veritable gold mine of the background information that all of us who aspire to care for the earth desperately need to assimilate, then I'll be reaching for the 'Big Blue Book' which now has pride of place on my bookshelf.
Having said that, no book is perfect. I loved the description of masonry stoves, but there was no mention of rocket mass heaters. I winced at the comment about energy saver bulbs and wanted to send a link to Paul's video. And I wasn't too sure about having the third ethic listed as 'fair share', either. So I think I'm going to keep The Earth Care Manual as my guide and my back-up while I keep reaching and exploring to see what else can be discovered.
Patrick Whitefield's Earth Care Manual has been an invaluable resource for me as an environmental consultant, permaculture enthusiast and general garden and woodland potterer… Although I've not read it from cover to cover by any means, whenever there is information that I need, I look it up and there it is - without fail.
The very basics of permaculture - from a temperate climate perspective;
How long does it take to season different types of timber for firewood?
What to do with lots of humanure if we shift society towards this eminently sensible way of dealing with our own…?
Woodland planning - this is particularly useful for me in Ireland as Whitefield, quite obviously, takes a British Isles perspective.
And loads more besides.
If I was to just have one permaculture book on my shelf, this is certainly the one I'd hang on to. The information is clear and concise and the writing style very accessible. Costings are included where relevant. Snippets of history and tangential interest are given in separate boxes for the curious to follow up if they want to (and I always want to).
I'm not sure that there is anything that I'd change in it at all. Certainly if the photographs were bigger and in colour, that would make it more beautiful to read, but would also put up the cost quite considerably. Occasionally I'd love more information on a particular subject, but to be very fair about it, at that point what I need is a specialist book on that subject since all of the background is well covered.
All in all an excellent resource for the permaculture student, teacher and practitioner.
I'm not sure how the Permie.com acorn ratings work, but I'd give 5/5!
8 acorns! Well, you already know that this is a good book, so what else?
Each chapter is a book in itself. It is a big book and I would dream of very focussed little books, so that I can get just what I want and need...
So, if you have no pond, you will get the information anyway! If your garden is not big enough for trees, or for animals, will get it. If you don't mind about balcony, it is covered as well. And some energy stuff like solar or wood heating. You might want to have more or nothing about some topics. Rural and urban locations are both considered, like for example when he talks about shade.
But yes, when you want to understand globaly, this is a great book: it explains what you might already know, and it will tell you "the reason why".
Another good way to understand is when you are not told that it is "bad to till the soil", but the reasons to do it or to not do it.
I like global understanding like cycles, causes and consequences, combined effects... authors that think you are smart enough to ask for more than recipes. So you will learn more about how to think further than what is in the book. Instead of a list of what plant need what quantity of sun, you will learn what type of plants need what. Large leaves are made for making the best of light under shade, logical. It will teach you to develop more logic and ask you the right questions.
Some details to explain what I like: it makes it clear that a good windbrake is denser in its lower part, and that trees higher than a wall better the effect of the wall. The explanation is progressive, with drawings, and when you read the conclusion in 2 lines, you are sure to remember it, and the knowledge behind it will stay in your mind. About polination, you will learn that wind is important to polinate, this you know, but also for plants that depend on insects, because bees do not like wind. This book is full of precious details to become more pationate about scientific knowledge. This book is great to make you learn how to use this knowledge and apply it, or at least to look for ways to apply it, yourself.
I also love the omnivorous or vegan? pages. I absolutely share his point of view, and, with respect of the ethic part of the choice, he explains well why he is not on the vegan side. It was also the 1st time I read that the option of "just dairies and eggs" is less logic than the vegan approach. He also points out the importance of the quality of life of the animals, and that this is more important that the fact the animal is going to die. And he gives solutions so that each one can try to solve the ethic problem in the best adequate way, according to different parameters.
Global understanding, techniques, matter for you to think more about details associated to the context, makes it readible from start to end, or pick what you need when you need. Well, Patrick is a great "dad": he knows he will not always be behind you, and that he must teach you some independance.
Ho, and wanted to say that even in my sub-tropical climate, this book is great, and anyway, understanding how your climate influences your choices is a key to adaptation. No year will be the same, and our predecesors were more used than us to plant for different possibilities in their place. If one thing fails, some other will succede, and it might not be the same each year... And the book will tell you a lot about climate too. Might be 9 acorns instead of 8...
Xisca - pics! Dry subtropical Mediterranean - My project However loud I tell it, this is never a truth, only my experience...
Given that Paul's rating is from Zero Acorns: "throw this book on the top of the wood pile" to Ten Acorns: "You can have this book when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers" I'd have to give Patrick Whitefield's Earth Care Manual a good 9!
Patrick whitefield is one of the most important european permaculture teachers/authors. His extensive writing has taken us from Reading the landscape, too Permaculture in a nutshell, the first a very specific work on british landscapes, the second an introductory work on permaculture. His thirty year experience in teaching permaculture, using the PDC 72 hour program, made him conscious of the fact that one could not pass all the information the students needed, and most of all it was difficult for the students, and also teachers, to have to refer only to australian based books.
Patrick felt the importance of reinterpreting the 72 hour program basing it on a diverse climate, the temperate climate. He felt even the importance of leaving his students with a book that would have led them in a journey after the 72 hour pdc. Patrick's work is very personal, it follows, in reality, his program of teaching permaculture.
In the book one finds a lot of information, very in depth info. After having read other works from Patrick one notices that it is a sort of resume of all his extensive writing. What is straight away clear is how calm, and serene Patrick is as an author and as a teacher, for who has had the fortune to fly to Ragmans farm (Patricks farm) to follow in person one of his courses it's clear, but even in his written work, you get a very strong sensation of the great energy he shares. Lately on his Internet site I has the fortune to view one of his videos on the principles of permaculture and he strikes you, it's great to listen to his calm voice speaking.
I think The earth care manual is a 360 degree journey, very close for it's completeness to Mollisons permaculture design manual.
Patrick is an author that has never wanted or looked for a position in the movement, he has just worked for more than thirty years, practicing permaculture, and sharing his teaching skills.
Probably, it's getting clear in my mind as I write this review, Patrick is important as an author because he passes on what he has experienced first hand in his life. You get the sensation you're not reading some well edited information, but the work of a lifetime, hands in the soil, watching the horizon, and reading the story tree's tell.
It has all a student, or expert designer needs to know for a temeprate climate based design. The importance of this work is that in reality it never gets back on the shelf, but stays on ones table as a quick reference book. If you have a doubt about something you grab the book and find the reference, or info.
One great final point of the book is the fact Patrick has included a very well organized list of books and other documents that can help for further reading.
Well I've loved the book and think many should read it.
Hi Burra, Lorenzo and Xipalma, Just out of idle curiosity and sociability - what books did you guys go for? I chose Mick Collins' The Unselfish Spirit. The whole area of social transformation is something that fascinates me and I wanted to have a look at a Permaculture approach. I've not got to starting it yet, but am looking forward to doing so.
You mean as the 'prize' for the first four reviews on the Earth Care Manual?
I chose Around the World in 80 Plants, partly because it sounded so awesome, partly because I thought it was one my other half would love, and partly because I'd sent some seeds of my perennial purple portuguese kale to Stephen for his breeding experiments, and he offered me anything off his seed list in return, and I didn't know what they all were.
Really?! You got mine as well? I'm rather pleased at that. Thank you.
I've got Around the World in 80 Plants on my bedside table since Christmas, so that was already ticked off my list. While there were books en route to my address I bought Looby McNamara's 7 Ways to Think Differently as well. I've been working local community planting projects for many years on and off, and wanted to get a glimpse into the People side of Permaculture. I've not got her first book People and Permaculture… but might get to that before too long.
Hi everyone, well it was very diffiuclt to choose, I mean there whole catalog should be brought, anyway I narrowed down my list to: Around the world in 80 plants and Trees for Gardens, Orchards & Permaculture, I chose the second, it's going to be out in april but I love Martin Crawfords books and wanted to focus on lists plants for designing.
I'll put a side some money for other books and for sure around the world will be in the next order....
Wow sorry you mean I'm writing with the mother tree, and the author of one of the awesome books of the catalogue? permies.com is incredible, I get to write with people that are inspiring, great!!!
THANK YOU permies.com!!!
(I shouted it out loud hoping permies.com heard me )
Feidhlim it's the simple truth, this comunity is something special, from all around the world we share our views in a very horizontal way there's no I'm the author of this, or I'm the teacher of that. I've never felt in anyway treated as the last of the group, I write what I think and like receiving my apples and thumbs up, it makes you feel someone has read what you've written and that your words have made someone think.
It's strange probably, who knows one can never say, we will never meet, but it seems as if in this comunity we sort of create relations that even if they are virtual are somewhat strong. this is what really gets to me being on permies.com
Well said Lorenzo. I know that in the brief time that I've been visiting these pages, I've really been made to feel welcome. I started this book discussion off to hear where you guys are at, and it's great to have your company along the path.
10 acorns for the earth care manual. Patrick was a hero of mine and he will be missed. I only got my own copy of this book last year as the library said they wanted their copy back. My wife bought me a copy for christmas and it is one book I will never get rid of or tire of reading.
I received the book I won, Martin Crawfords last work. It was actually a great day yesterday, I opened my mailbox and had the book with a freepermaculture magazine issue, and then an envelope with my PDC certificate!! I'll finish a book or two I'm reading and then pass on to Martin Carwfords book: Trees for Gardens, Orchards & Permaculture
Thanks Permies.com, the empire is awesome!
At the moment this book is available for £2.99 in ebook format from the publishers, Permanent Publications, as part of their special promotion to celebrate the International Permaculture Convergence in London in September.