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Braiding Sweetgrass book discussion

 
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Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer was one of the first books I “read” when I moved to the USA two years ago. I first listened to it on Audible after searching for books relating to North East US and the landscape that was now my home. I bought it immediately after listening to a small sample. Her voice was made for story telling. I’ve had a few too many bad experiences where an author reads their own work but this wasn’t the case with Robin. I listened through twice and now I’m listening again.  I’ve also bought the book which I’ve read twice and bought copies as Christmas presents. I can hear her voice when I read. If you like audiobooks, I’m sure you’ll love her narration.

So, yes, I’m a big fan! I’ve also read and listened to her book on mosses. She turned a very esoteric subject into something fascinating. I’m sure every permaculturalist would relate to her words. She made me want to head out into the woods with a magnifying glass.

When I first moved here, I was dismayed at how little I knew about the trees, plants and fungi I saw when I went out walking in the woods. So much looked like what I knew, but was unknown. I grew up with English oak and there was a tree with oak leaves and acorns but clearly was something different. I bought some books and then discovered the seek app and iNaturalist. A year later and my knowledge had grown to a point that when I reread the paragraph describing the landscape where sweet grass grew, it all sounded familiar.

I’m still finding my feet here, so when I’m a little more settled in, I’ll return and write a proper book review.

 
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Robin is one of my role models! Have you read her online piece, "Corn Tastes Better On the Honor System?" It's set up as an interactive web 'experience,' but I believe you can also listen to it. It's no cost: Corn Tastes Better On the Honor System
 
Edward Norton
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I haven’t Jen - thank you. I’ll check it out.
 
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After someone quoted a small part of the text here on permies, I checked my library website and put a reserve on it. I'm currently 183 of 208 reserves. That suggests to me that it's a *really good book*. The library system has lots of copies, so I expect I'll have it soon enough, but I'm looking forward to it even more after reading this thread.
 
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Edward Norton wrote:I’m still finding my feet here, so when I’m a little more settled in, I’ll return and write a proper book review.


Edward, how about if I set it up as a wiki page for the Permies Book Review Grid? That's where folks go to learn about books or research books they want more information about. This book sounds like an excellent one to add to the grid. On its wiki page, I can include a link to this thread, and that's where we can direct all official book reviews there.

In fact, here's a thread on how Permies' reviews work.
 
Edward Norton
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Jay - I hope you don’t have to wait too long. I’m not surprised its so popular. I have a small local bookshop and it’s always on the prime shelf. I think it’s one of those books that spreads by word of mouth.
 
Edward Norton
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Thanks Leigh - I’d love to write a review. I did have a look over there before posting here, hence my newbie comment. It might take me a week or so to complete as I’m rereading it now and I’ll need to take some notes and then condense.
 
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Wonderful book!  I didn't know that Robin was my neighbor until she visited my farm with a group of SUNY ESF students who were participating in a braintan buckskin workshop.  Wonderfully Wise Woman.
 
Leigh Tate
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Braiding Sweetgrass is now added to the Permies Book Review Grid. It's official wiki page is here. It's ready for reviews! When writing book reviews, please remember to use the magic words "I give this book X out of 10 acorns." That way the system knows to count it. The more reviews the book gets, the higher it is moved up the grid.

Edward, I hope it's okay that I changed the subject line of this thread, to give it a distinct title. I used the "title by" wording because that's standard for the book wiki pages.

I have to say that after reading this thread and doing the grid research for the book, I definitely want to read it! Edward, thank you for starting this conversation.
 
pollinator
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I first heard her speak on podcasts prior to the release of the book. She really does have an amazing voice and manner, so calming. I started reading the book in a bookclub of my land steward extension office group. What I read was really amazing. I didn't finish the book because it was shortly after the death of my grandson and I just couldn't stop crying with all the mothering references, not that there was anything wrong with them, it just reminded me of all that we lost. Now one of my kids and both of my parents have read the book and absolutely adore it. I highly recommend it and I know that I will finish it when I feel emotionally able to.
 
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I just found this book a few weeks ago and have slowly been reading it! It is great...
 
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I have first heard about this book over a year ago here on Permies. Then some weeks ago somebody mentioned it in a German Facebook group. I didn't even know there was a German edition.
And on Sunday there was a screening of Dances with Wolves on the Arte television. I don't think I have seen it since it came out 30 years ago. And there was Kicking Bird's wife kindling a braid of sweetgrass and I had to think of the book.
BTW, the movie is still great but it is definitely a child of its time. The love story is just too out of place, the hairdos - cringeworthy as my daughters would say. But Wind in His Hair is as good as 30 years ago, as is Graham Green.

Now that things are almost back to normal I might renew my membership card for the Central Public Library of Munich and get the book.
Thanks for the reminder.
 
Edward Norton
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Thanks Leigh - just goes to show how green I am here . . . I thought I would have to create the wiki page. Thank you for doing that. Happy with the thread title change.

Really happy to read so many positive replies on such a great book.
 
Leigh Tate
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Edward Norton wrote:Thanks Leigh - just goes to show how green I am here . . . I thought I would have to create the wiki page.


Hey, we all start at the same place --- the beginning! Once you learn your way around, you can absolutely create book summary pages for the grid, although I think it takes a staff member to turn it into a wiki and add it to the grid.

You'll find instructions here -> How Permies Works - links to useful threads, along with a lot of other really useful information.
 
Edward Norton
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You'll find instructions here -> How Permies Works - links to useful threads, along with a lot of other really useful information.



Just what I needed! I was starting to think I need to post - “I’m a dumb newbie with too many questions” post. Thanks.
 
Edward Norton
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Robin is one of my role models! Have you read her online piece, "Corn Tastes Better On the Honor System?" It's set up as an interactive web 'experience,' but I believe you can also listen to it. It's no cost: Corn Tastes Better On the Honor System



Thank you Jen! What a wonderful and thought provoking essay. I finally had an hour to sit and just listen.

Corn tastes better on the honor system
 
Jay Angler
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Edward the book did come - 3 weeks ago, just as all the business of the holidays and more crazy weather arrived. I haven't managed to read the whole book - I'll l have to put my name back in the queue when we return it tomorrow - but it has already convinced me, "I'm not crazy - the Earth is a living creature, and one I will continue to thank regularly (even when she gets a little pissy with me and starts throwing snow balls at me!)  Maybe if I'm lucky the weather will shift to the right conditions for me to taste her maple syrup - we're on the edge of the temperature zone for harvesting that beautiful gift.
 
Jay Angler
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This is the discussion thread - so let's get discussing!
I want to discuss the chapter called: The Honorable Harvest (in the copy I'm reading, it starts on pg 175)

On the subject of food waste: with the onset of child obesity, the concept that a child should "clean their plate" was tossed out in favor of tossing perfectly good food in the trash. But rare to me, was the concept that parents could be teaching their children to take "not quite enough"? The "eat until you're not quite full" concept is big in Japan from way back. Modern foods discourage that with both their packaging and their lack of nutritional density. If the children had friends over, they learned the concept quickly, if only because food left on their plates did not go in the trash, but they were required to hike up the hill to where the chickens were, and gift it to them - even if it was cold, dark and rainy. I was in fact, amazed how quickly they learned and how the lesson stuck at least within my walls!

I genuinely believe that in my house, food is seen as a gift and *very* little is wasted. Occasionally in times of plenty, we screw up. Does it qualify as honoring the harvest when I think, or say out loud, "Oh, well, this is a gift to the compost gods"? That compost does get fed back to veggie gardens, to grow more food. In my mind, I feel I am honoring what was taken. I think about and encourage the worms and the microbes. I feel like I'm honoring the earth even if I'm not always saying it out loud (because my friends and neighbors already think I'm a little crazy).

In this chapter, Dr. Kimmerer gives the example of people not respecting corn because it's in surplus. One example in the story was burning corn but doing so was attributed to laziness. But if people are cutting down live trees for firewood, if done from that perspective, is burning corn that was raised sustainably and is at least a short-cycle carbon source, an acceptable thing to do? Is there only one right way, and humans need to find it, or are there many paths and what matters in the end is not just the concept of the "honorable harvest", but to me the more important concept of "reciprocity" which is also talked about in this chapter. "Hydrocarbon Man", as some have coined us, is all about taking. I believe permaculture is at least trying to shift that to awareness of the need to give. I'm not sure we've got far enough yet, but at least we're much more aware of how we need to feed the soil if we want it to feed us.

What do you all think?
 
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I recently read Braiding Sweetgrass. What it means to me is that while I came across the concept via Derrick Jensen of the disrespect of viewing nonhuman animals as "it"--he consistently refers to them as "who" or "he or she"--it was very useful to read a whole book that underlines that reality. What it clarified to me was why we need indigenous people in leadership positions, at least in North America: enough of their much wiser culture has come through the centuries of oppression to make them worth deferring to.  I aver that we whites also have  ancestral cultures with wise views--but ours were overrun by the dominator culture millennia ago and nothing can survive that long. We now embody the dominator culture. Another thing Kimmerer does is accept those of us trying to move toward wisdom. She also respects western science, which I consider crucial--in fact she takes it as a personal geas to bring native wisdom and western science together, no doubt a crucial task and one too few people are qualified to do.
 
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I have so many books that I start and never finish. Braiding Sweetgrass was the first book I read cover to cover in quite some time. I even got my favorite local book seller to carry it. I often describe Braiding Sweetgrass as a love letter to Gaia.
Kimmerer is both a scientist and a tree hugger, proving that we can be both and the earth is the better for it.

Jay, to your discussion, I was raised during the clean your plate era, and have had struggles with my weight as an adult, as well as eating way too much to avoid waste. In relearning habits, I am thankful for the options now of gifting the chickens and the compost heap and worms. The pendulum swings and we are moving from wanting too much to knowing that we need just enough.
 
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This is a great book.  I love how she is both a Native American elder and a Western scientist.  She can draw from both sources.  It really helped me think about living in harmony with all of the beings on Earth.  I am a teacher, and we showed a clip, with her explaining some of the concepts in class.  I love her work.
John S
PDX OR
 
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I received Braiding Sweetgrass as a Christmas present and I too love it. So full of wisdom. Enjoy!
 
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I was told "sweet grass" is invasive, is that true & should it be treated like Bamboo?
 
gardener
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true sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) is native to north america and isn’t particularly invasive. i don’t know for sure if that’s what you’re talking about though..
 
Joe Grand
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I nursery had "a" sweet grass for sale & noted it was inverse.
But I have not grew it, so it could be another, I have read that are more than one.
So maybe they over stated the spread factor of said plant.
What is important is that I am asking, I really do NOT know for sure.
 
greg mosser
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where are you located, joe? if you’re within the native range, i don’t know if they can really make the claim of invasiveness. either way, i haven’t been able to get it established at my place, let alone spreading.
 
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