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VOICES FROM THE EARTH by William Longgood

VOICES FROM THE EARTH

: A Year in the Life of a Garden

By William Longgood

Pub Date: April 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02950-6
Publisher: Norton

 As Cape Cod naturalist Longgood (The Queen Must Dies, 1984, etc.) says, this informed and charming record of a year's observation of and reflection upon his garden is ``not a book on gardening. It is about gardening.'' Longgood may downplay his know-how, but it is evident on every page: from the need for a garden chair to the advantages of raised beds (as used by the Pilgrims); from thoughts on the quality of manure to the growth rate of pole beans; from the uses of seaweed to discussing seed companies that avoid extreme commercialization, Longgood almost inadvertently offers gardening guidance throughout. He is less concerned, however, with the technical cultivation of pease ``than with their exquisite beauty when the ripe pod is split open.'' He juxtaposes the pesticidal ``agribiz'' growers, who do untold damage with chemicals, with his friend Dorothy, who builds a palatial chicken coop for the scarce manure and winds up caring for her chickens well past their egg-bearing years. While he observes and works his 60-foot- by-90-foot garden, Longgood tunes in to nature's ``voices,'' attempting to discover man's place in the natural order. Occasionally, he'll lie on his back between the rows of plants, looking up at the garden, a perspective that leads to an alternative view of bugs and slugs and other garden visitors. In particular, his consideration of the Colorado potato beetle brings forth a history of the potato that illustrates the interdependence of ``pests'' and gardens and, in his world, shows that spiders, bees, moths, and slugs are as integral to the garden as-the gardener. ``A garden,'' he writes, ``is a...combined chapel, workplace and supermarket.'' Longgood's winsome musings are delivered with an excellent eye-and ear-for detail.