A Year at Otter Farm: Book Review

| Cooking, Farming, Food & Fermentation, Publications | comments | Author :

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When a place calls itself a ‘climate change farm’ you would suspect that it’s first book is likely to contain more than recipes for home-made pasta and tips for starting seedlings.

And you would be right! With a subtle twist of the telling, A Year at Otter Farm somehow folds resilience into seasonality into food into small-holding futures.

And all with a Charlie Harper-esque illustrative approach, and gorgeous pictures + info on food varieties that you might not have seen before (Japanese wineberries, anyone?).

Otter Farm was established by Mark Diacono + family in Devon, UK as a smallholding with big ideas. Mark’s a sometime River Cottage orchardist + gardener, which may have helped.

But this book stands alone as a really beautiful tribute to an emerging smallholding that encompasses forest gardens, veggie gardens, perennial gardens, edible hedgerows and integrated animal systems.

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It’s an interesting layout, too. Ruled by the seasons, each month (flip them by 6 months for the temperate Southern Hemisphere, obviously, and sprinkle with drought as needed) examines what’s to be planted, what’s to be harvested, and what to do with it all once it’s in your kitchen.

Then there’s the climate change aspect – Otter Farm is actively planting for a changing climate, based apon the long-term weather predictions for that area.

In this spirit, at Otter Farm they’re planting certain food crops for a wetter, warmer future, while ensuring abundance in the now, this season.

I love this aspect of the book – it reminds me of Joanna Macy’s work – the idea of attempting to embrace the unknown future through transition, and finding a way to make a kind of peace with it, while you do what you can in the now to make a difference that resonates ecologically.

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And the recipes! Ok amongst the very many other things there actually IS a home-made pasta recipe in there BUT it’s for wild garlic ravioli, so that’s ok.

The thing I like about the recipes most of all is that though many of them feature non-standard ingredients, the approachable attitude that is throughout this book persists.

Moreover, many of the ingredients are deeply un-fancy, as is the reality of a small holding that strives to cook seasonally and not source its ingredients from far away.

It’s great to see both very ordinary (but they’re so not, when you grew them yourself) plus weird and wonderful ingredients being used in a very down-to-earth way. And the results look pretty darn tasty.

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Sitting down with this book was a little bit like spending a day on a permaculture smallholding, with good food and honest work to be done.

And that is always a good day, no matter what the weather.  A happy addition to our shelf.

A Year at Otter Farm – Inspiring recipes through the seasons – Mark Diacono

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 More reviews of good books here…


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7 responses to “A Year at Otter Farm: Book Review

  1. Yes the book is lovely.
    Was surprised & happy to see szechuan pepper featured.
    I’ve been trying to track down this plant in aust for some time now, it’s a favorite spice.
    Any ideas anyone?

  2. Can’t wait to get my hands on it! Especially after devouring, with great relish, Mark’s earlier “The Food Lover’s Garden”… it greatly expanded my spring plant order! 🙂 (Plus otters are my totem 😉

  3. Does the seasonal harvest information the book provides apply solely to UK or is their Australian information to? The book look fantastic.

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