Book Review: Gardening the Amana Way

Posted by @dave on
Hot off the presses is a new book by author and ATP member Larry Rettig, about gardening in the Amana Colonies. Let me share my review of this interesting and useful book.

Thumb of 2013-12-17/dave/cfa222The Amana Colonies consist of seven villages in east-central Iowa, United States, which were built and settled by German Pietists, who were persecuted in their homeland by the German state government and the Lutheran Church. They settled in Iowa in 1856 and for eighty years they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing very little from the industrializing American economy.

The Amanians were able to achieve this independence and lifestyle by adhering to the specialized crafting and farming occupations that they had brought with them from Europe. Craftsmen passed their skills and techniques on from one generation to the next. They used hand, horse, wind, and water power, and made their own furniture, clothes, and other goods.

Today, Amana is a tourist attraction known for its restaurants and craft shops. The colonies were listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

As a child of parents who were part of the communal life of the Amana Society, Larry Rettig (@LarryR) pays homage to the Amana gardening tradition and extends it into the twenty-first century in this half history/half gardening book.

The first part of the book talks about the history of the Amana Colonies, covering its formation and what daily life was like for the inhabitants. I've read about this group before, but the book made it come alive for me in a surprising way. By page 13 you will read about the Rawatt, which is a raised bed with a heavy plank frame, about 4 or 5 feet wide, running all the way around the house right up against the foundation. In this bed various plants are grown. The whole book is filled with interesting tidbits like this and that makes it the kind of book you want to just sit back and read, enjoying the stories and filling your mind with the concepts and ideas.

Halfway through the book Larry switches gears and gets into the meat of gardening, talking at length about his favorite vegetables and flowers, telling us his tips about growing them and how to avoid common pitfalls. Toward the end his wife shares recipes using produce from their gardens.

With just over 100 pages, this book is an easy fireside read. Larry did a great job on this book, and I highly recommend it to all. I note that the book is currently on sale for $15 (regular price is $27.50). You can read more about the book, and order it, from the University of Iowa Press website.

I have more than one copy of this book, so let's do a contest. To enter, post a reply to any thread below. Tomorrow I will randomly choose one reply as the winner and will send them a copy of this book. (The contest has finished and the winner was @Danita.)

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Way to go Larry! by woofie Jan 8, 2014 12:21 AM 49
Contest drawing and winner by dave Dec 21, 2013 8:53 AM 12
Fascinating indeed... by DavidofDeLand Dec 19, 2013 9:40 AM 8

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