It's rare that you find a book that combines a great story with serious information on a specific topic. Most of the time you get one or the other, which leaves the story-lovers or the knowledge-hungry wanting more of what they didn't get. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City is that rare book, and it more than delivers on that promise.
When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates teamed up to test their permaculture theories and gardening techniques, they couldn't have picked a more difficult place with more challenges. Their duplex in a dicey section of Elmwood (a section of Holyoke, Massachusetts) had a small yard of concrete, toxic lead in the soil, and little available sunlight; yet they still dreamed of creating a better life for themselves, improving their neighborhood, and maybe even finding some women that would understand them.
What transpired as a result of pursuing their permaculture passions was nothing short of miraculous, and is what makes this book a mandatory read for anyone who lives in the city, or likes to garden, or cares about community and the role it plays in our lives.
Toensmeier's and Bates's bachelor-pad project transformed not only their cramped city yard, it created a network in their community that exists today, and is still growing. As they broke up concrete, they broke up barriers between their neighbors. As they planted seeds, they planted relationships. As they experimented with the boundaries of what could be grown in the non-tropical climate of Massachusetts, they grew the frayed edges of their multi-ethnic community together. In the process, they amassed an enormous database of experience, practical gardening knowledge, and heart-warming anecdotes.
Paradise Lot is much more than a feel-good story. It's a gardening guide, a permaculture primer, and a fairy tale all rolled together...and it's an excellent example of what is possible if you follow your heart, and your dream.
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