Some Interesting Books on Natural Systems:

This list is mainly for my own use -but it may be useful to others.



Guardians of the Soil


Joseph A. Cocannouer

Author of Trampling Out the Vintage

The Devin-Adair Company
Old Greenwich • Connecticut

Copyright, 1950, by The Devin-Adair Company.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Reprinted, 1980


1. Weeds and Youth
2. Weeds and Weeds
3. Weeds and the Soil World
4. The Fertility Chain and Soil Balance
5. Plant Roots
6. Weeds as Mother Crops
7. Weeds in the Rotation
8. Weeds and Pasture Improvement
9. Weeds in the Compost
10. Weeds as Food
11. Weeds and Wildlife
12. Sponge Structure versus Dams
13. Here and Yon
14. Nature's Togetherness Law

Publisher's Preface

SO FAR as we are able to determine this is the first book to be written in praise of weeds. Many are the books which treat weeds as pests, and each season sees an advance in anti-weed campaigns and techniques; a host of chemicals, mechanical eradicators and even flame throwers are making life increasingly hard for nature's greatest and most widely dispersed group of plants -- the plants which stand condemned because they are deemed "out-of-place."

That the ordinary garden and roadside weed might have a vital function in the scheme of things and be of inestimable value to mankind seems not to have occurred to most agriculturists, whether in the classroom, the departments of agriculture or on the farm.

The author of this book has been teaching conservation and biology for close to fifty years. But he has been a student as well and a keen field man who has specialized in the ways of weeds, not only in his home state of Oklahoma where he has spent much time learning from the Indians, but in other parts of the world -- in Europe, India and the Philippines, particularly.

According to Joseph Cocannouer, weeds -- the common ragweeds, pigweeds, pusleys and nettles, to mention four -- perform the following valuable services among others:

1. They bring minerals, especially those which have been depleted, up from the subsoil to the topsoil and make them available to crops. This is particularly important with regard to trace elements.

2.When used in crop rotation they break up hardpans and allow subsequent crop roots to feed deeply.

3. They fiberize and condition the soil and provide a good environment for the minute but important animal and plant .life that make any soil productive.

4. They are good indicators of soil condition, both as to variety of weed present and to condition of the individual plant. Certain weeds appear when certain deficiencies occur.

5. Weeds are deep divers and feeders and through soil capillarity they enable the less hardy, surface feeding crops to withstand drought better than the crop alone could.

6. As companion crops they enable our domesticated plants to get their roots to otherwise unavailable food.

7. Weeds store up minerals and nutrients that would be washed, blown or leached away from bare ground and keep them readily available.

8. Weeds make good eating -- for man as well as for livestock. The publisher can vouch for the superiority of lamb's quarter -- a favorite of the author -- over any other domestic form of spinach or cooked greens.

No, Professor Cocannouer does not believe that weeds should be allowed to go rampant and take over our farms and gardens. The function of this book, a pioneering work, is to demonstrate how the controlled use of weeds can be sound ccology, good conservation and a boon to the average farmer or gardener.

D. A. G.



The Restoration
of the

With especial reference
to that of India


G.T. Wrench, M.D. (Lond.)

Author of
The Wheel of Health, The Mastery of Life, The Causes of Peace and War

London. The C. W. Daniel Company Ltd.
Forty Great Russell Street, W.C.1

Published in 1939

Contents Table of Contents
1. British and Native Systems of Government in India
2. Conflicting Dominant Ideas
3. The First Agricultural Path
4. The Second Agricultural Path
5. The Degradation of the Peasants
6. The Ascendancy of the Town
7. The Degradation of the Soil
8. The Village System
9. The Restoration of the Peasants


The Sunflower Seed Huller and Oil Press -- by Jeff Cox (from Organic Gardening, April 1979, Rodale Press): Vegetable oils used to be one of those items you just HAD to buy. Now here's how to make your own. In 2,500 square feet, a family of four can grow each year enough sunflower seed to produce three gallons of homemade vegetable oil suitable for salads or cooking and 20 pounds of nutritious, dehulled seed -- with enough broken seeds left over to feed a winter's worth of birds. 


Miller, C.C. Fifty Years Among the Bees. Medina, Ohio: A. I. ROOT COMPANY, 1911.

One hundred eleven photographic figures; fifty years of experience; 4.3 mb; downloads as single .pdf document. This book has long been a classic among beekeepers. Thanks to Lee Larson of Portland, Oregon for the lend of this book. PUBLIC DOMAIN


Raising catfish in a barrel -- A biological food chain in the back yard produces fresh fish for the table and compost for the garden, by Philip and Joyce Mahan, from Organic Gardening and Farming, November, 1973.


Logsdon, Gene. Getting Food From Water: A guide to Backyard Aquaculture. Emmaus, P.A.: Rodale Press, 1978.

A thorough look at the potentials and practices of raising food in ponds, rivers, streams, lakes and seaside homesteads. The book shines when discussing areas that Logsdon knows intimately; in other areas it is a bit more of a report and summary of information assembled by Rodale's editors. Lavishly, perhaps "extravagantly" illustrated with photos and drawings. The ones that Rodale included more for decoration than to communicate information have not been reproduced in this copy. Also not included are the extensive appendices, listing sources from which to purchase supplies. Still, even with all these reductions, this book remains a large download, a PDF of 4.1 mb. Total time to scan, ocr and format: 10:30. OUT OF PRINT.


The Pioneering Pig by Norman Blake, Faber & Faber, London, 1956
"Mr Blake claims that where man can make a garden, pigs can make a farm," says the fly-leaf. It's why pigs have snouts – "Pigs are ideal ploughs, rooting up weeds and turning over the ground, while they manure it at the same time. They need to have a house and temporary fence to confine them to the area. As soon as it has been cleared, move the house and fence ready for the next section," says Country Smallholding Magazine. "In the building up of fertility, especially on the poor light-land farm, there is no animal more effective than the pig," says F. Newman Turner in Fertility Farming. Here's how, by a master of the subject. Full-text online, or download the PDF version (3.3Mb).

Profitable Poultry Production by M. G. Kains, Orange Judd Company, 1910
"Poultry production is commonly practiced on every farm, but profitable poultry production so far as the farm is concerned, is rare indeed. No one, as a rule, has better natural conditions for poultry raising than has the farmer. It is only a matter of embracing opportunities that is wanting." Kains tells you how -- how-to's, plans, studies, and sound common-sense from long before confinement systems. The plans and drawings of coops and housing systems are a treasure in themselves. Kains was Poultry Editor of the American Agriculturist Weeklies, and author of the classic "Five acres and independence: a practical guide to the selection and management of the small farm", published in 1935 and still in print. Many thanks to Kirk McLoren for scanning this book. Full text online.


Friend Earthworm: Practical Application of a Lifetime Study of Habits of the Most Important Animal in the World by George Sheffield Oliver, 1941. Dr Oliver was one of the first to harness the earthworm to the needs of the farmer and gardener -- to make highly fertile topsoil for optimum crop growth, and to produce a constant supply of cheap, high-grade, live protein to feed poultry. He devised simple yet elegant and effective systems to bring costs and labour down and productivity up to help struggling farmers to make ends meet. Oliver had an observant and critical eye and understood Nature's round. His ideas on the nature of modern food and health (or the lack of it) are only now being confirmed, half a century later. Full text online.


Darwin, Charles. The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the action of worms with observations of their habits.
London, 1881.

A classic in naturalist observation. A grasp of the common earthworm's importance is essential to a full understanding of soil fertility and plant health. Thanks to David Price for doing such an accurate scan of this book. Contains an interesting introduction by Sir Albert Howard, taken from a Faber & Faber edition, published about 1945. PUBLIC DOMAIN


Campbell, Dr. Charles. A.R. Bats, Mosquitoes and Dollars. Boston: The Stratford Company, 1925.

The mosquito is one of the greatest hinderances to the enjoyment of country living. They can bring disease. Dr. Campbell discovered ecological handlings that virtually eliminated night-flying mosquitoes by the cultivation of bat colonies. PUBLIC DOMAIN.


The Soil and the Microbe: An Introduction to the Study of the Microscopic Population of the Soil and Its Role in Soil Processes and Plant Growth by Selman A. Waksman and Robert L. Starkey, John Wiley & Sons, New York, Chapman & Hall, London, 1931, 269 pages. Thorough overview. Acrobat pdf (21.7 Mb).

Solomon, Steve. Gardening Without Irrigation--or not much, anyway. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993. Originally published as Waterwise Gardening. Four color pictures.

This is a guide to growing food without dependence on irrigation. It was written entirely from personal observations and original research between 1979 and 1993, all in western Oregon, a climate that has virtually no rainfall from June through September, a guaranteed four months of drought every year. It has broad applications to anyplace where the rains can't be depended upon and to anyone who is using a well, off the grid, or etc. There's another facet to this book too. The current gardening trend is intensive, postage-stamp, high-yield, raised bed. This book explains the dynamics behind the absolute opposite of what everyone else is doing. It is extensive, low-yield, low-maintenance. OUT OF PRINT.


Seaweed and Plant Growth -- from "Seaweed in Agriculture and Horticulture", by W.A. Stephenson, Faber & Faber, 1968. "The whole chapter is packed with eye-opening information. It looks for instance as though the small quantity of seaweed meal I regularly add to my potting composts may play a part not only in nutrition and even in disease resistance but also in their crumb structure and water-holding capacity. Not only can these plants provide trace elements, growth substances and protection from diseases for their crops, but the seaweeds are ultimately also a potent source of soil nitrogen. Truly a useful 'workhorse'." -- Moira Ryan, Organic Gardening Discussion List

Farmers of Forty Centuries – or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan
 by F. H. King, 1911, Jonathan Cape, London, 1926, 1933, 452 pages, 248 photographs, pdf (71 Mb)

Sir Albert Howard said F.H. King was "one of the most brilliant of the agricultural investigators of the last generation", and that King's book Farmers of Forty Centuries "should be prescribed as a textbook in every agricultural school and college in the world". King's remarkable account of his agricultural investigations in China, Korea and Japan in 1909 was an often-quoted source of inspiration for Howard in his 26 years as an agricultural investigator in India. King was Professor of Agricultural Physics at the University of Wisconsin until 1901, and then Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Division of Soil Management until he retired in 1904. He was a pioneer in the development of soil physics, which found the purely chemical approach wanting: simply providing chemical nutrients did not solve the problems of crop production. "The soil is a scene of life," King wrote, "where altered sunshine maintains an endless cycle of changes, rather than a mere chemical and mechanical mixture." King died in 1911, before he could finish Farmers of Forty Centuries, which is missing its last chapter, "Message of China and Japan to the World". However, three years later his widow, Mrs. C.B. King, published more of King's work in the book Soil Management, with the final chapter "Agriculture of Three Ancient Nations", which Mrs King had assembled from 10 of King's lectures and papers, along with much further information on the practices of the Orient in the rest of the book. Farmers of Forty Centuries, Soil Management, and The Soil, King's practical guide to soil physics, can be downloaded below as pdf files derived from page images online at Cornell's Core Historical Literature of Agriculture library:


Borsodi, Ralph. Flight From The City. New York: Harper & Row, 1933.

Chronicles the Borsodi family's journey from job-in-the-city dependency to self-sufficient country independence. Borsodi was far-sighted enough to accomplish this move during the prosperity of the 1920s; his books served as guideposts for many anguished wage-slaves who saw his book as a guiding light toward financial security, even survival, during the Great Depression. More, Ralph Borsodi was an amazingly intelligent social critic whose view cut through to the very heart of the contradictions and problems of industrial civilization. PUBLIC DOMAIN.


Eugène N. Marais. The Soul of the White Ant. Translated by Winifred de Kok. 1937 First published in Afrikaans under the title Die Siel van die Mier. With and introduction by Keith Addison, who with great love and admiration for Marais, did the scan. This book can also be found on Keith's website:

A lyrical and passionate exploration of the life and consciousness of the Termite. An amazing bit of naturalist literature. PUBLIC DOMAIN


Roberts, Rex. Your Engineered House. New York: M.C. Evans Company, 1964.

This book can't be praised enough! Roberts is both a master builder and a master house designer; he takes the reader step by step through designing and building a totally sensible wooden house that defies all conventional approaches. Roberts will help you reconsider which materials are most sensible, instruct you in design principles, and to stand outside many building styles that aren't really as sensible as the mass of people might believe. Sadly, after the so-called energy crisis of the 1970s, the so-called energy-conservation legislation in the United States mandated national building codes that prohibited much of what Roberts suggested in this book. Still, it is highly valuable, particularly in places where one may freely design and build their own house largely out of wood. The file size is large because of numerous hand-done drawings and plans. Downloads as a PDF of 5.14 mb. OUT OF PRINT.


Ellis, William. The Country Housewife's Family Companion, with a modern introduction by Malcolm Thick. First published in 1750 for James Hodges, London and B. Collins, Salisbury. Text and apparatus copyright Prospect Books. Copyright of Introduction, Malcolm Thick.

A complete how-to manual of country skills. Interesting on many levels, from how-to make everything from bacon to medicine, to helping create an appreciation for the nature of mid-18th century English country life, to helping create an appreciation of how the diet and habits of the era created the diseases that demanded the medicines listed. IN PRINT; HERE WITH DIRECT PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER, PROSPECT BOOKS.

(This is the Joker in the pack -like an early NGO, it is heavy on second hand propaganda -but light on serious first-hand practical experience. TB)


The Saccharine Disease: Conditions caused by the Taking of Refined Carbohydrates, such as Sugar and White Flour
 by T. L. Cleave, John Wright, 1974
Surgeon Captain T.L. Cleave (1906-83), Director of Medical Research at the Royal Naval Medical School, whittled down the root cause of dozens of the ills of industrial societies to one simple factor, also noted by nutrition pioneer Sir Robert McCarrison: their dependence on refined carbohydrates -- the "master-disease". Full text online.


Graham, Benjamin and Charles McGolrick. The Interpretation of Financial Statements. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1955. A revision of the book by Benjamin Graham and Spencer B. Meredith first published in 1937.

These days it is generally assumed that the share markets are a perfectly fit place to grow one's savings. This little book completely enables an intelligent investor to read and understand honestly-stated corporate financial reports. When a corporate financial statement seems incomprehensible or unanalyzable after applying the understandings gained from Graham's book, then it is reasonable to assume that what is being analyzed is an example of accounting dishonesty, in the same order of manipulation that has caused the recent collapses of Enron and other large corporations. Until the middle 1990s there were many corporate financial statements that could be comprehended in this manner. After that time there seemed very few, and those few did not meet Graham's standards of proper valuation for investment with a reasonable margin of safety. Downloads as a PDF of 406kb. OUT OF PRINT.


See also Inspirations

Project Land 
Garden Diary

Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013