The Fields Pond Book Group meets monthly on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. At press time, all meetings were still being conducted via Zoom, facilitated by professional librarian Joyce Rumery. Please contact Joyce directly at email@example.com to be added to the mailing list for the Zoom meeting links and any in-person meeting updates. Here is the title and synopsis for February. The group will not meet in December or January.
March 9, 2023
Hodgkins, John. Boiling Off: Maple Sugaring in Maine. 2020. 215 pages.
In 1964 three cousins tapped three thousand sugar maples deep in the Maine woods. They called themselves Jackson Mountain Maple Farm. Boiling Off is the story of making Maine maple syrup commercially in Temple, Maine, for fifty-some years, and how a thirty-year technology revolution beginning in the 1980s changed the face of Maine sugaring forever. Woven into the story of Jackson Mountain Maple Farm is the history of Maine sugaring beginning in Farmington in 1781, when Stephen Titcomb boiled off the first official pure Maine maple syrup in a cast iron kettle. Boiling Off tracks the evolution of sugaring technology from Titcomb’s kettle to reverse osmosis and heat exchangers; follows sap gathering techniques from buckets and oxen-drawn drays to plastic tubing and vacuum pumps; and records production in Maine from 8,000 gallons of maple syrup in 1985 to 709,000 gallons in 2017. The story describes the subtleties of syrup flavor, how it is properly graded, and the art of making award-winning maple syrup.
April 13, 2023
Tree, Isabella. Wilding: Returning a Farm to Nature. 2018. 362 pages.
Let land lie fallow, and things begin to happen. Let 3,500 acres lie fallow, and the world is remade. The lands around Knepp Castle, in the English district of West Sussex, have been farmed intensively for centuries, and the estate was exhausted and was losing money. Three decades ago, Tree came to the land with a pronounced fondness for mycorrhizae—the invisible, microbial life that teems in healthy soil, fed by decaying plant life, sheltered by tree snags, and the like—and a commitment to do something about the declining populations of species such as the turtledove, whose numbers are “an almost vertical dive” thanks to the wholesale industrial remaking of the British countryside. Tree describes the long, laborious process of turning back time, abandoning deep plowing and mass production in the effort to allow the land to regain some of its former health. As she writes, just one sign is the “sixty-two species of bee and thirty species of wasp” that now buzz around locally as well as 76 species of moths and battalions of birds, including herons that “deserted their tree-top roosts in the heronry and were nesting a few feet above the water.” Tree describes a success that she began to chart nearly two decades ago but that has been flourishing since: “The land, released from its cycle of drudgery, seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief.
May 11, 2023
Rawlence, Ben. The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth. 2022. 289 pages (294 with bibliography)
For the last fifty years, the trees of the boreal forest have been moving north. Rawlence takes us along this critical frontier of our warming planet from Norway to Siberia, Alaska to Greenland, Canada to Sweden to meet the scientists, residents and trees confronting huge geological changes. Only the hardest species survive at these latitudes including the ice-loving Dahurian larch of Siberia, the antiseptic Spruce that purifies our atmosphere, the Downy birch conquering Scandinavia, the healing Balsam poplar that Native Americans use as a cure-all and the noble Scots Pine that lives longer when surrounded by its family. Blending reportage with the latest science, The Treeline is a story of what might soon be the last forest left and what that means for the future of all life on earth.
June 8, 2023
Slaght, Jonathan. The Owls of the Eastern Ice: a Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl 2021. 315 pages. (331 with bibliography)
When he was a fledgling birdwatcher, Slaght had an encounter with one of the most mysterious birds. Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers. Soon he was on a five-year journey, searching for this creature in the remote forests of eastern Russia. Despite a wingspan of six feet and a height of over two feet, the Blakiston’s fish owl is highly elusive. They are easiest to find in winter, when their tracks mark the snowy banks of the rivers where they feed. They are also endangered. Slaght and his team set out to locate the owls, they aim to craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. At the heart of the story are the fish owls: cunning hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat.