Book Giveaway & Review: One Magic Square, by Lolo Houbein

For months I’ve been meaning to write a review of One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein, and then today I heard a great interview with her on the radio. She has a new book! Outside the Magic Square: A Handbook for Food Security. Who can resist a title like that?

But that’s not the book I’m giving away. I have One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square. This, you may notice, is not quite the same title as the one I linked to. Its subtitle is “Grow Your Own Food on One Square Meter”. That’s because I have the US version, which I bought when I was visiting friends and family in the US last year. It’s a great book, packed with useful information and ideas, but I am decluttering my house, and the truth is I already have more gardening books than I really need. So I’m passing this one on for someone else to make use of. See the bottom of this post for details on how to enter the giveaway.

One Magic Square, Grow Your Own Food on One Square Metre by Lolo Houbein. Food plot designs for all seasons in temperate climates.Lolo Houbein is 78 years old. She moved to Australia as an adult, having grown up in the Netherlands and lived through real and devastating famine at the end of the second world war. Understandably then, food security has been an ongoing preoccupation for her.

“Now”, she says “I witness the the world’s food producing regions declining again through wars, landmines, and farmers’ deaths.” In a paragraph that reminds me inevitably of Angela Christensen’s recent article on local food security,Β  Houbein introduces her book saying

“By growing some of your own food and starting a pantry collection of staples, you take control of your food needs if times of chaos should arrive. Meanwhile, you eat healthier, fresher, tastier food, enjoy gentle exercise, and make new friends. Nothing unites people more congenially than eating, swapping and comparing locally grown good food. Food gardening is the most intelligent adult endeavor on earth and ought to be understood by anyone who eats.”

One Magic Square is something of an entry level food gardening book, accessible to the absolute beginner, but at the same time containing masses of useful information and ideas for experienced gardeners. It starts out with someΒ  inspiration and motivation (with sections like ‘The Terrifying Importance of Growing Food’ and ‘How to Find Time to Grow Food’), then follows that up with some practical advice on subjects like composting and companion planting, problem solving and predators, plus an A to Z to of Problems & Pests, interspersed with great tips like the toilet paper roll starting pots I keep seeing everywhere just lately.

The second half of the book is made up of the sections on plants and plots. The book “presents plot designs graded from the easiest and most robust to the complex and tender.” The plots are also divided into the best season for planting. So what do you plant in a square metre plot? Is there really room for more than one or two vegetables? But yes, as a matter of fact, there is. Houbein is an advocate of mixing up lots of plants in small space, confusing predators and maximising production, a la permaculture garden designs (she has a section on permaculture too).

I’ll give you an example. The Autumn & Winter Soup Plot contains carrots, onions, garlic, Siberian kale, beetroot, sorrel, drumhead cabbages and leeks. But what on earth do you do with kale and sorrel, I hear you ask. The thing I really like about this book? She doesn’t just give you a list of foods to plant and then leave you to it. She tells you how to use them.

So her Soup Plot is followed by a section on winter soups. Borsht, Cabbage Soup, French Onion Soup, Garlic Soup, Leek and Potato Soup with Sorrel, Siberian Kale Soup, Cucumber and Yogurt Soup and Gazpacho. Okay, I admit, not all the ingredients are covered in that little plot, but you will learn how to use everything you planted.

Not all the plots have corresponding recipes (do you really need one for the Pizza/Pasta plot? Thought not), in fact most of them don’t. But there is a lot of information sprinkled through the book about eating the food you produce.

For the seasoned gardener, there is a lot in this book if you can take the time to browse through it. Read it at night after the kids are in bed for some inspiration and motivation. Try some of her plots and eat some new foods. For the beginner, the advice Holbein gives in her chapter ‘How to Get Started’ is spot on:
Shows a plan for the first Spring/Summer Salad plot, including a list of plants: 6 varieties of lettuce, bush beans, onions, cheery tomatoes on the corners, radishes on the sidelines, 1 arugula and 1-2 cucumbers in a tub.

“To start growing your own food without delay, put down this book, go out into the garden, and select a spot in the sun. Dig over one square yard with a garden fork and remove all the weeds by hand. <snip>

“Come inside again and thoroughly wash your hands and clean your nails, as you must always do after working with soil. Pick up this book and in Part 1 (page 1) find all the information you need to make your Magic Square flourish. The turn to [page 161] to select what you want to grow in your first salad plot.” (p.12)

The Giveaway

Would you like a copy of this book? It’s in almost as-new condition, very slightly dog-eared on the corners, but really, packed full of good information. I have one copy, which I will post to one lucky reader (anywhere in the world).

To enter, just mention this giveaway on your blog (with a link back to this post) and leave a comment here telling me you’ve done it, and that you’d love the book. Don’t have a blog? No worries, follow me on twitter and either retweet my tweet about the giveaway (and leave a comment here), or send your own tweet, but be sure to include @SustainSuburb in the tweet so I see it (and, leave a comment here). No twitter account either? Facebook is your last hope. Like our facebook page and ‘share’ the post linking to this giveaway (and, you guessed it, leave a comment here).

Double entries for anyone who has the sustainable suburbia linky lists button on their front page πŸ™‚ (mention it in your comment).

I will draw a name out of a hat on May 31st, and post the book in June.

(By the way, I am counting this review towards my commitment to the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge, as per my commitment here).

  23 comments for “Book Giveaway & Review: One Magic Square, by Lolo Houbein

  1. May 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I followed and retweeted! πŸ™‚ I’d love to win the book, it sounds awesome, and I’ve been wanting to get more into “food gardening”.


  2. Sally
    May 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve followed and reposted. I would love that book, as we are doing lots of food gardening, but are looking for ways to expand on our very small house block.

  3. Leonie
    May 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I guess I’m not eligible but I couldn’t resist having a go at retweeting – did I actually do it I wonder?!

    • May 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Yes, you did! Thanks πŸ™‚

  4. Leonie
    May 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I meant to say that it sounds like a very inspiring and useful book which I might have to look out for, even while desperately trying to declutter too.

  5. May 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I have mentioned your give away on my blog and linked you up
    Regards, Tanya

  6. Sally Cole
    May 3, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Have liked and shared your facebook page. What a fabulous page, and a fabulous book. I look forward to seeing and reading more πŸ™‚

  7. Annie McGranahan
    May 4, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Thanks Kirsten liked LOVE and sharing! <3. Annie

  8. Shell
    May 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I shared you link on my FB page. It looks awesome, just what we need at our place at the moment. πŸ™‚ I hope I win!! πŸ˜‰ thanks by the way for sharing.

  9. May 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    First – have gladly shared on fb and would LOVE the book. If I’m not pulled out of the hat I’ll find myself a copy anyway πŸ™‚
    Secondly, glad to have stumbled onto your site, look forward to reading more! Keep up the good work.

  10. May 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks have added the link to my blog and would love the book.

  11. May 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Kirsten – Thanks for the info you e-mailed me – that is appalling news and behaviour! The only benefit I can see from this whole mess is that I found your site πŸ™‚

    I would love to win this book – thanks for hosting the give-away competition.

    Btw, I have also have the sustainable suburbia linky list button on my blog πŸ™‚ And I am correcting my blog posting re: the original entry.

  12. Roy
    May 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    I “liked” your FB page and shared it on my wall. Your blog is great and I would just love to receive that book!

  13. Beth_N
    May 9, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Have tweeted, great giveaway, would love to win

  14. May 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I just read your comment and corrected my post – so sorry! I would love to enter the giveaway – this time at the correct site. I have your linky on my blog.

  15. May 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I have now managed to get blogger to cooperate long enough to have the link back to your pages.

    • May 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks Tracy. I’m still thinking about those chocolate pumpkin brownies you made… πŸ™‚

  16. May 10, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Liked and shared on facebook. This is one of the books on my wish list but the local library doesn’t have it yet and my budget won’t allow for it atm :(.

  17. Sandra Parsons
    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I have shared on Facebook, and Like your page. πŸ™‚
    Wonderful giveaway. I only just heard about this author.

  18. May 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I would love the book and have mentioned it in my blog here Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  19. May 31, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    This book sounds awesome πŸ™‚ I would love a copy!! Hope I have done the sharing part right πŸ™‚

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