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by Carl Wayne Hardeman

"I was determined to know beans." ~Voltaire

My wife Mimi's pom-a-poo, Belle, and I just finished a fascinating book: The Barefoot Farmer by Jeff Poppen. You can see him weekly on the Volunteer Gardener TV show. His website has lots of pix: barefootfarmer.com.

I was in my rocker on the patio with Belle in my lap. Belle was not reading. She was protecting my garden from marauding birds, squirrels and toads, and avoiding the game of kickball my granddarlings were engaged in.

Durwood, my oak tree, was first base. My prize heirloom 'mater vine, a Cherokee Purple, was second, and third base was one of my delicate minibogs of Midsouth Fair award winning carnivorous plants. Belle and I were both nervous.

The book is full of practical, hard won wisdom. My favorite topics were soil structure, beneficial microbes, earthworms, and composting to improve the soil. We already are using sustainable practices to improve the soil in our garden, but might try some of his recommendations.

Other practical and informative topics include the care and feeding of crops such as cabbage, beans, potatoes, sweet corn, and many more. I don't agree with everything he writes, such as tomatoes loving to be planted in the same place year after year, but I learned valuable information otherwise.

The connecting theme for the book is the cycle of life and the interconnection of earth, the elements, plants, animals, earth forces and spirit. While I'm not ready to don a robe and conical cap and dance around Durwood, I read with an open mind.

It helps to understand how and why composting and planting by the signs works, and how and why some practices have negative impacts, such as deep tilling, using commercial fertilizers, and getting rid of all weeds.

Jeff admits to having been skeptical about diodynamic farming practices, but has since become convinced. The only way to know whether this stuff works is try it.

This includes using homeopathic liquid fertilizers stirred in alternate directions to create vertices and chaos. You might try this in your garage with the door closed to avoid being turned in to Homeland Security by neighbors.

I highly recommend this book for newbie and veteran alike. There is something there for everyone. I had previously read Secrets of the Soil, a compendium on biodynamic farming. The Barefoot Gardener, like St Augustine's enchiridion for St Laurence, is shorter (232 pages), easier to read, and fascinating.


Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."

Write Hardeman at this e-mail address: E-MAIL CARL WAYNE

Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Southern Snakes
Me and Mimi in the Garden
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Slide down my cellar door!
Green Landscaping ~ Eco-friendly gardening

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