It was a Pattie Baker kind of morning.
The rising sun was peeking through the trees, sending streaks of early morning light into gaps between trunks and branches and shimmering across the dew that was still on the grass as we arrived at the Community Garden in Brook Run Park.
Dunwoody’s goodwill food ambassador was in one her favorite places, the garden, at her favorite time of the day. She didn’t lose a minute in tending to her plot, yanking up sweet potato vines and harvesting orange tubers of all sizes as we talked about her new self-published book, Food for My Daughters: what one mom decided to do when the towers fell (and what you can do, too).
The book is an easy-reading account of Pattie’s journey to becoming a disciple for sustainable organic gardening and sustainable lifestyles. That journey began 10 years ago with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
Her response to those attacks was to take up vegetable gardening in case terrorists struck the U.S. food supply. That response changed Pattie’s life and led her to write the book, which is a compilation of inspirational teaching-moment vignettes from blogs and other works she has written along the way.
The book, as the title says, is for her daughters and is meant to teach them about organic and sustainable life skills they simply weren't learning anywhere else. Pattie says she hopes that others will find the actionable advice and recipes in the book useful in growing food, community and knowledge that will help themselves and their own children prepare for a changing world.
As if on cue, Muriel Knope arrived at the Community Garden and asked Pattie how to determine if the sweet potatoes in her plot, which adjoined Pattie’s, were ready for harvesting.
“Well, “Pattie said, “pretend you are a veterinarian.”
“A what?” Muriel asked.
“A veterinarian,” Pattie replied. “Put your hand in there and feel around like you are looking for a lamb.”
“A lamb. When you find four legs, you know you’ve found a lamb!
“Here, I’ll show you.”
Then, giddy as school girls, they both started digging in Muriel’s plot.
Voila! As if by magic they began uncovering sweet potatoes and were as excited as if they had found buried treasure – which, in a way, they had.
The book is like that.
It’s an inspirational, page-turning treasure hunt for teaching moments that are presented as stories and tips (recipes, too!) as the 12 months of the year rather than as “chapters.” “I very much wanted my girls to remember the essence of each month in this connected cycle and to feel as if they were actually in the garden again,” Pattie said. “The best way to present that was how the garden actually grows, as a seasonal continuum.”
“I wanted to put down this kind of information for my kids so that they will have it when they need it later in life,” Pattie said. It contains basic knowledge that has skipped not one, but two generations, and is intended to help bridge this gap, she wrote in a promotion for the book.
Pattie proudly points out that one of her daughters is treating the book like a time capsule, saving it to share with her children when she’s a mom.
Pattie makes the point about the garden being a continuum in “July.” Her thoughts are not so much that her older daughter would be away during a whole month in the middle of the summer for several years in a row. Rather they were about “how she would leave right after blackberries and be home in time for figs but would miss lemon cucumbers completely.”
Pattie wants the book to make a difference not only in the lives of her children but in the lives of those who read the book.
One of the ways Pattie makes a difference is speaking up about things that bother her. She believes that by speaking up she can make a difference to her children, even if she doesn’t make a difference in the lives of those around her.
She is effective at making a difference to both.
One of her children’s doctors found that out in “March” when Pattie was shocked to see that an examining room where she and one of her daughters were taken had wallpaper featuring a well-known soft-drink company. Pattie requested they be moved to a new room (hoping it was a commercial-free environment!). When the doctor came in, Pattie pointed out that she had requested a new room because of the wallpaper in the previous room. She was concerned, she writes, that it had the potential to encourage choices that could lead to childhood obesity. The doctor agreed with Pattie and promised to speak to the office manager!
There are stories such as this throughout each month of the book, which Pattie characterizes as being much like the 16 vegetable plots in her garden. All, she says, have different soil composition. The book, she says, is “kind of random, not linear ... like my journey.“
It also reflects 21st century journalism and publishing. It is based on her blogs and various writings through the years and, to prevent excess production, is available online from amazon.com.
You’ll notice a few errors of grammar among the 97,000 words. More importantly, though, you’ll quickly pick up on the unmistakable message: Food is a conduit to actions Pattie believes all of us can take to obtain a sustainable lifestyle as individuals and as a city.
She is living her life by example to do her part, serving as the inspirational heart and soul of the Community Garden in Brook Run Park, inspiring other community and school gardens, helping to launch Dunwoody’s Sustainability Commission and influencing the city's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
She says may update the book to make editing changes and corrections. And, well, then again, she says she may not.
Don’t be surprised, or disappointed if she doesn’t. Pattie says she’s an entrepreneur who likes to start things, get them running and hand them over to someone else to continue to nurture.
What makes her happy, she emphasizes, is a blank page, fresh beginnings, new challenges, the January garden … which is, after all, where Food for My Daughters begins.
Food for My Daughters
Dunwoody mom Pattie Baker’s new book, Food for My Daughters: what one mom decided to do when the towers fell (and what you can do, too) is available online from amazon. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=food+for+my+daughters
A limited number of books will be available at the Emerging Authors booth at the annual Labor Day weekend Decatur Book Festival on the square in Decatur. Pattie will speak at the Emerging Author's Stage at 3:40 Sunday afternoon and will sign books at 3:50 p.m. The book is $15.
Festival hours are 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information about the festival, visit http://www.decaturbookfestival.com/2011/index.php.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of every copy of the book will be donated to help grow food for those in need.