This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  798 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Joan Dye Gussow is an extraordinarily ordinary woman. She lives in a home not unlike the average home in a neighborhood that is, more or less, typically suburban. What sets her apart from the rest of us is that she thinks more deeply--and in more eloquent detail--about food. In sharing her ponderings, she sets a delightful example for those of us who seek the healthiest, m...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published 2001)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about This Organic Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about This Organic Life

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,959)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Susan Connell Biggs
While I really do love books where you get to witness other peoples' lives, this one didn't quite do it for me. There seemed to be a greater focus on the frustrations of trying to build a garden and a house where probably neither belonged than real learning about sustainable gardening. Why, if you are as committed to sustainability, build on a plot of land along a river but below the flood line? Why if you've been living in a house for 30 years that never felt like a good fit, would you not be m...more
Molly
Nov 27, 2007 Molly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Organic Gardeners, Foodies, Environmentalists
I read this third in a mini-series (of my own determination) of books on eating locally, responsibly and sustainably. What started with Plenty, lead to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and finally here. This, published in 2001, was the first chronologically, and given that Barbara Kingsolver is quoted on the cover was obviously influential for at least one of the others. That being said, this is definitely the weightier of the three. Speaking of the information, it must be rated as outstanding. Obviou...more
Heather
This book was given to me after two of my friends devoured it and sang its praises from the rooftops. I was psyched to read it. Locavorism! Sustainability! Gardening! Recipes! That sounds like something I would adore!

I suppose I probably would have adored it if not for two things, only one of which is the fault of this book: 1) I read it right after tearing through the Hunger Games series. I'd wager that no book could fare well with that trilogy immediately preceding it. Where I found those irre...more
Katy
Although I did enjoy Plenty, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which are books with a similar themes, this is the book that really spoke to me about gardening and its importance to the health of our bodies and our planet. I want to be Joan Dye Gussow when I grow up! Given the 2001 publication date, I think this book may have been an inspiration to the previous authors in their endeavors. I like that, for Gussow, this is a way of life for her. Some years she eats all of her produce out of the garden...more
R.T. Payne
Before there was "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," before there was "The Omnivore's Dilemma," I was lucky enough to stumble across "This Organic Life." (Or maybe my sister gave it to me? It's all an early-20's blur.)

It was a great read, but more importantly, it was an eye-opener. Joan Dye Gussow taught me how to make parsnip pancakes, and that you can actually grow sweet potatoes in Zone 8, and that there are times when being a total pain in the butt in the grocery store is justified for the sake o...more
Ellen Bell
This book is a memoir chronicling ten or so years of of a nutritionist/local food advocate's life during which she and her husband move, start a new garden, build a new home, and begin a community garden in their new city. The book rambles a lot, getting off topic and then back on again. Nearly the first half of the book is devoted to the tale of Gussow's and her husband's purchase of an old home they attempt to restore, only to find out it must be torn down due to structural deficiencies. This...more
Stacy
Reminiscent of "Animal Vegetable Miracle", this is a memoir of a retired professor and her efforts over the years to be self-reliant and raise her own vegetables and fruit. An average writer, I feel like Gussow spends too much time talking about how hard it was working on her old Victorian home, and later on the decrepit home she buys on the bank of the Hudson river. There are some recipes scattered through out, somewhat randomly rather than being strongly incorporated into the text. More than a...more
Happyreader
A charming and radical book of an old-school nutritionist trying to live out her food ethics. For those who love gardening, home planning, and cooking, you’ll enjoy the charming tale of her building her dream produce garden and dream home (in that order) and the useful gardening and cooking tips. For those of a more progressive bent, you’ll enjoy her cutting edge thinking on local food, food supply issues, and environmental management. What’s really noteworthy is that she manages, for the most p...more
Ami
The beginning chapters of "This Organic Life" are a combination of a memoir, a gardening how-to reference, and a cookbook. All of these elements were well written in a random, delightful, meandering manner that made the book exciting and interesting to read. I thought to myself, "What fun it is to read how this woman learned to garden organically and how she moved a million plants and trees to a new house that she and her husband were remodeling. And that recipe looks delicious. I must try it. O...more
Stephanie
This book is part memoir, part essay collection with the central topic of growing food and local-based agriculture. It was published in 2001, so written likely in the late 1990’s so it was written as the local food movement was beginning to pick up steam (at least I think so). The initial chapters of the book follow Joan and her husband Alan as they build the house in Piermont, NY where they plan to live the last part of their life. The latter part of the book is a little less cohesive but loose...more
jess
I've been making an effort to reach back farther than Michael Pollan and the new "locavore" movement when I'm thinking about our food sources, nutrition, food production, and that brings me to people like Joan Gussow. Speaking of, Michael Pollan writes: the national conversation unfolding around the subject of food and farming really began in the 1970s, with the work of writers like Wendell Berry, Frances Moore Lappé, Barry Commoner and Joan Gussow. All four of these writers are supreme dot-conn...more
Jessica
I hadn't heard of This Organic Life before receiving it as a Christmas gift from my sister, but it proved to be a delightful work of garden-inspired thoughts on diet, life, and responsibility. I've already read a number of books in this genre (notably Deep in the Green and Home Ground) but this one took a much more overtly environmental stance than the others, which tend to focus more on the joy of gardening while only brushing against the cultural and societal significance of producing one's ow...more
Joseph Rice
unlike the listing, this book is 261 pages.

a very earnest book. the author is an advocate of local eating, and she uses this book to explore what it means to eat and live locally. well, mostly. she makes a lot of good points about the connectedness of farming to eating and the health of the planet to both, but at times can come across as preachy, which she freely admits in on section of the book.

nevertheless, i had a hard time putting this book down. i think it would have been valuable to have a...more
Mo Tipton
I really enjoyed this book. While there wasn't nearly as much practical advice as I was hoping for, I nonetheless got swept up in Gussow's experience of ripping up her yard to produce as many fruits and vegetables as possible, despite frequent floods, voracious rats and other hungry critters, difficult soil, and numerous other challenges. Gussow is also very realistic about the sacrifices necessary if one is serious about living a truly sustainable life, at least in terms of the food they eat, b...more
Amy
At first I was mainly astounded by the series of incredibly poor decisions this grown couple made, which led them to buy a very expensive house that regularly flooded, was structurally extremely unsound--this was actually visible to the naked eye--yadda yadda yadda. But the garden they planted (before closing) kept them going. Eh, that was a little worrisome/annoying to me as a reader.

Joan grew on me, though. Like a friend who keeps dating train wrecks and you eventually sigh and tell yourself,...more
Melissa
Take my five stars with a grain of salt as I am an aspiring organic gardener/foodie/locavore/econerd. Reading this brings me back to the realization I have such a looooong way to go. I love Gussow's earthiness, common sense, frugality and her complete lack of concern over what others think of her. Gussow is refreshing in that she does not claim (as many other environmentalists do) that giving up meat entirely will save our planet. She suggests instead that eating MUCH less meat and making sure o...more
Brian
I read this book because I'm interested in what the author claims to be doing: homesteading in a non-rural setting. She presents some very good information on growing your own produce, and the trials that are faced in doing so. She seems to do an admirable job in producing fruit and vegetables on her suburban flood-prone plot, but it's a little hard to pick out the good information from the surrounding confessions! These confessions give a memoir-like tone to the book. There's a bitter undercurr...more
Lisa
I started her other book first....which follows this story, and I was intrigued enough by that one to read this one before I finished that one. They are written in the same flavor, both of them enjoyable to me because eating local and gardening are becoming more and more important to me as time goes on. This one has recipes for the produce she reaps from her garden and I was sure to bookmark those. She also spurned me on to freeze fresh veggies from the garden because I can't tell you how many t...more
Kristen
If you are interested in eating locally and/or growing and/or producing your own food and you haven't already read it, I would recommend Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" because it is better written than this book.

That being said, this book contains more information about local food, sustainability, the environment, our food system, etc. Although much of the information is interesting and I agree with most of her views, it was a chore to read through much of the book (her writin...more
Elaine
I didn't find this very engaging at all, but there were some tidbits of practical, experience-based advice on growing your own food, based on lessons-learned by the author. It's basically memoir of the author's life as they buy a riverside plot of land next to the Hudson River and deal with the frustrations and challenges of turning it into a productive homestead to supply all their vegetable/fruit needs, and while some of it was interesting, it didn't hold my attention. I did find it inspiring...more
Sarah
I picked up this book because I am interested in organic gardening to support my family with home-grown food and because I'm taking a creative non-fiction writing class that encompasses the memoir.
This book was really interesting, though Joan does get a little preachy about the environment now and then. This book is not only enjoyable (especially if you like to read about someone else's garden) but it helps you think about issues on eating locally, the vital role of local farmers, and the import...more
Kat
Yes, it is possible to grow just about all the fruits and vegetables you'll need to eat year-round. In a flood-tastic area of the Hudson Valley, on half an acre (or whatever). It was a great pleasure to read about the Gussow family's exploits with gardening, failed home renovation and eventual homebuilding, and reflections on the simple life in suburbia.

Gussow, of course, is a bit of an eccentric and unfortunately a bit of a scold, too. (God forbid you bring a well-intentioned basket of tropical...more
Jeannette
Although I liked this book from the beginning, it was slow going...especially through the slog that was about buying their home, tearing it down and then rebuilding it. It wasn't until halfway through the book that I felt that this is an awesome read. I learned a lot about gardening and how much work it is, but how worthwhile it can be. And while this book is a personal take on having a garden, the author is political – she has a doctorate in Nutrition and has been advocating eating locally year...more
Malia Walter
This book left me with a roller coaster feeling of interest level. I would be very interest for a period of time and then feel as if there was a disconnect between her introduced point and the story she told. Overall, I did enjoy the anecdotes and I am looking forward to trying recipes. She made points that I appreciated and agree with, but maybe that is why I felt distracted. In my case, she was preaching to the choir.
Michele
I never thought that I read and/or enjoy a book written about a woman's garden(s).

This book is about a woman who decides to try to grow her own food to reduce her carbon footprint and because she won't use pesticides. The book starts with her describing her house and garden, then her and her husband decide to move to a falling apart house on land that floods from the river behind the house. It floods all the time, but they love the land/house. That basically takes you through the entire book--t...more
Holly
about 3/4 through. This book is a sort of autobiography that centers around one woman's relationship with food- not in the way we normally think of but in a different way - growing the food herself. She discusses why and how she grows most of her own vegetables, offers recipes and talks about the environmental impact of our "worldwide" diet. She talks about the greater costs of our cheap food, both in terms of fuel consumption and the toll it takes upon the people who grow that food. It's intere...more
Hope
Read this a few years ago and laughed at the attempts to grow veggies in a shaded yard, the move to a new home which eventually needs total rebuild, establishing new gardens, being flooded, and starting a community garden next door with mixed results. So, having read the book, I then moved to a new house, coped with establishing vegetable growing spots with no soil and having to make raised beds, sneaking veggies into a front yard without being too obvious, etc. And just started a new plot in a...more
Alena
Similar in vein to "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, "This Organic Life" digs deeper into the detail of what it really means to begin down a path toward organic living. Despite any actual class advantage the Gussows had that allowed them to live comfortably without too much worry regarding meal planning or running out of food, their goal of living off what they grow is approachable. I was sympathetic to the challenges described in this book and happy when there were victories....more
Rhaverstick
This a very warm and interesting memoir of a woman who almost feels ageless at the beginning of the book. Not necessarily the most organized memoir out there, but Joan is so forth right and interesting that you don't care. She has certiainly done a lot gardening in her life (in not perfect condidtions) and has interesting insights to eating local. She has a doctorate in Nutrition and you could say that she is the earth mother of the locavore movement because she's been advocating it for somethin...more
Jigbean
One of my favourite memoirs. Heard about it probably seven or eight years ago and finally managed to get my hands on it (thanks to Better World Books, my new favourite place to get books) and read it. Hard to believe this book is already more than ten years old. Joan Dye Gussow is an amazing woman and I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into her life as well as all of the background information on food systems, gardening. And there are several recipes I hope to try out soon, too. This book has re-...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 65 66 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • It's a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life
  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
  • Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
  • Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
  • Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting
  • Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer
  • The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times
  • Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front
  • The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-Reliance Series)
  • Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture
  • Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community
  • Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
  • Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces
  • The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements
  • Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
  • Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles
  • Small Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers
  • The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I kept the patio, lost the lawn, and fed my family for a year
Joan Gussow is a highly acclaimed nutrition educator who has demonstrated that year-round eating from 1,000 square feet in a suburban riverfront village is possible, life-sustaining, and delicious. She is the author of This Organic Life, The Feeding Web, and Growing, Older and is Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita and former chair of the Columbia University Teachers College Nutrition Department. S...more
More about Joan Dye Gussow...
Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables Chicken Little, Tomato Sauce and Agriculture: Who Will Produce Tomorrow's Food? (Toes Book) An Organic Lifeeating For Your Health And The Planet's The Feeding Web: Issues in Nutritional Ecology The Nutrition Debate: Sorting Out Some Answers

Share This Book