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Book Review: The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield

Mother Tree
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The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield

I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns

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.
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