Book Recommendation: Closer to the Ground

In honor of Earth Day, today I’m sharing a recommendation for an Earth-related book I just finished reading.  Closer to the Ground, by Dylan Tomine, is a memoir about his family’s life “on the water, in the woods, and at the table.”  Gratitude to my friend and fellow urban farmer, Jay, who gave me the book knowing it was right up my alley.  It’s a tribute to the simplicity, beauty, and richness of life and food in nature — indeed, I was hooked before I even cracked it open.





Tomine and his family live on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where they fish, forage, and grow their own food.  In the process, he and his wife are teaching their children about the value and fragility of nature, and how our societal development impacts it.


“Closer to the Ground is the deeply personal story of a father learning to share his love of nature with his children, not through the indoor lens of words or pictures, but directly, palpably, by exploring the natural world together as they forage, cook and eat from the woods and sea. This tale follows Dylan Tomine and his family through four seasons as they hunt chanterelles, fish for salmon, dig clams and gather at the kitchen table, mouths watering, to enjoy the fruits of their labor.” — from the book synopsis


While it sounds like a lofty — and perhaps unattainable — lifestyle for those of us who live in urban areas (there’s not much salmon fishing to be done here in the Potomac River), the book is neither preachy nor prescriptive.  Tomine’s writing is humble and accessible, and his story is surprisingly relatable.   For example, while his family’s commitment to and dependence on the Earth is genuine, they also shop for food like “normal” folks.  In Tomine’s words, “We’re just a regular suburban family that spends time outside looking for food.  It’s not like my kids don’t know what Cheetos taste like.  We still shop at Costco.  We’re not very extreme in any way… It’s just how we’ve evolved to live.”


The book weaves effortlessly among fishing adventures, clam digging, blackberry hunting, seed-planting parties, vegetable harvesting, fruit canning, and of course, lots of cooking and eating.  For us East Coasters, it’s an interesting glimpse into the local flora and fauna of a region quite unlike our own.


And for parents, Tomine’s insights about children — while not revolutionary — are universally relatable and laudable.  As he said in an interview with Outside Magazine, “It’s easy to assume that this is a book about what a father teaches his kids about the outdoors, but we’re just learning it all together.  This is really about what they teach me.”  His learning includes these staples, with which we whole-heartedly concur:



“If you want to do more with kids outside, basing it around food is a good strategy. There’s a level of intensity to it for kids if the goal is food, whether it’s fishing or crabbing. But it doesn’t have to be foraging, per se. Kids love to grow carrot seeds in a pot. If they participate in the food process, they’re so much more apt to enjoy eating whatever it is.”



“We protect our kids from strange flavors. You hear about picky eaters—it’s common. I sympathize. But if kids grow up thinking these flavors are normal, they’ll get used to them. My daughter eats the oiliest, fishiest part of the salmon, the collar.”



“We’re pretty controlling about the wild edible stuff. We have a rule that they have to show us everything before they eat it. We don’t want them just picking it and stuffing it in their mouth.”



“I worry so much about safety. Before we go, I’ve thought it out from every angle. But there are always worst-case scenarios you can’t predict. On the last day of chanterelle season last year, Weston got stung 37 times by hornets. Then on the first day this fall, he got stung by another. You can’t protect them from all outcomes. I’m a worrywart by nature. I try to figure out the safest best way to go about it. If it’s windy and rough on the water, we don’t go. If the kids are miserable, we go home early. I could easily be overbearing, so I need to manage that and let the kids have the experience. I know myself: I’m never going to not worry enough.”



“Our kids love to participate in every part of the food process: from catching the fish, to cleaning it, to eating it. We put them to work in the kitchen, squeezing lemons, mixing a marinade. It’s the same as being outdoors: you weigh what’s safe and appropriate for them. But you don’t need to convince them to participate. The pride they have in the finished product is so uplifting.”


Books like this remind me just how much our Earth provides for us.  And how much we can give back through our small, local efforts.  This year’s Earth Day focus is Green Cities, which aims to “help cities around the world become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.”  Naturally, we at Sprout are all for green cities, since urban farming is our thing.  Whether we’re going out into nature — like Tomine and his family — or bringing nature back into our urban areas, we love the idea of more folks getting closer to the ground.




Published in 2012 by Patagonia Books, Closer to the Ground was well-received by critics and readers.  Some highlights:


 “…an eloquent chronicle of a likable family’s attempt to live a more nature-centric life…Tomine writes with respect and humor…refreshingly unsanctimonious…a lovely homage to the oldest seductress around: Mother Nature.” –The Washington Post


“So this is leading by example, and the quiet message is to learn to live with the things that really matter; the eternal things about the earth, and about each other.” — from the foreword by Thomas McGuane


“…lush and visceral…Tomine finds a middle way, a way for regular people to live a little more consciously in a world that underpins the contrails and Twitter feeds of our twenty-first-century civilization.” — Orion


Closer to the Ground can be found on Patagonia, Amazon and other booksellers.

Comments 19

  1. purchase tadalafil

    I am commenting to let you know of the fantastic encounter my cousin’s daughter experienced reading your site. She even learned many issues, not to mention what it’s like to have a wonderful giving mindset to have many people quite simply grasp chosen grueling subject areas. You really exceeded our expectations. Many thanks for giving the informative, healthy, educational and as well as easy thoughts on the topic to Jane.

  2. viagra online

    Needed to send you the very little word to finally thank you so much the moment again regarding the splendid things you have shared on this site. This has been simply tremendously open-handed with you to present unreservedly what most people would’ve sold for an electronic book to help with making some money on their own, primarily seeing that you might well have tried it in the event you wanted. Those techniques in addition worked to become a great way to realize that someone else have the same interest really like my personal own to learn more and more when considering this matter. I believe there are several more pleasant sessions in the future for many who read through your site.

  3. buy cialis

    I’m just commenting to let you be aware of of the exceptional discovery my cousin’s child enjoyed going through your blog. She discovered a wide variety of details, most notably how it is like to have a very effective coaching heart to get many more effortlessly fully understand certain extremely tough matters. You actually did more than my desires. I appreciate you for displaying such helpful, healthy, educational and also cool guidance on that topic to Evelyn.

  4. ABILIFY prices

    I am also commenting to let you know of the great encounter my friend’s daughter found reading through your web page. She figured out numerous issues, not to mention what it’s like to have an amazing giving mood to have men and women really easily have an understanding of selected hard to do subject areas. You really exceeded our own expectations. Many thanks for imparting the interesting, safe, explanatory and even easy thoughts on the topic to Janet.

  5. abilify no rx

    I precisely desired to say thanks again. I’m not certain the things I could possibly have accomplished in the absence of the aspects contributed by you about my area. Completely was a challenging case for me, but being able to view a expert approach you dealt with it forced me to cry for contentment. Extremely grateful for the advice and even hope you find out what a great job you are doing instructing others through the use of your site. I know that you have never encountered all of us.

  6. cheap ziprasidone

    My spouse and i have been really lucky that Jordan managed to finish off his research through your precious recommendations he had through the web pages. It is now and again perplexing to just find yourself handing out solutions which people today may have been selling. Therefore we know we need the writer to give thanks to for that. The most important illustrations you have made, the simple web site navigation, the relationships you will help to instill – it’s got most powerful, and it’s really leading our son in addition to the family reason why the situation is fun, which is really pressing. Thank you for the whole lot!

  7. fluvoxamine without a prescription

    I’m commenting to let you be aware of of the awesome discovery my child developed browsing the blog. She came to find a good number of details, including how it is like to have a great coaching character to get a number of people clearly completely grasp a number of advanced issues. You actually did more than her desires. I appreciate you for churning out such effective, dependable, edifying and cool guidance on that topic to Emily.

  8. venlor generic

    I enjoy you because of all of your effort on this blog. Debby enjoys conducting internet research and it’s easy to see why. A number of us hear all about the compelling manner you create efficient ideas by means of the blog and boost contribution from other ones about this article and my child is being taught a great deal. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You’re carrying out a fantastic job.

  9. tofranil price

    My spouse and i got now fulfilled that Ervin could deal with his investigations out of the ideas he got out of the web page. It’s not at all simplistic to just choose to be giving freely instructions that many other people have been selling. And we also fully grasp we have got the website owner to be grateful to for that. The entire explanations you have made, the simple site menu, the friendships you can give support to foster – it’s got many fantastic, and it’s really facilitating our son and the family imagine that the issue is entertaining, and that is particularly indispensable. Thank you for everything!

  10. imipramine cheap

    My wife and i have been really lucky when Louis managed to finish off his research using the precious recommendations he made through your web site. It is now and again perplexing to simply find yourself making a gift of steps which often some other people may have been trying to sell. Therefore we realize we need the writer to give thanks to for this. The specific illustrations you made, the straightforward web site navigation, the relationships you will help to instill – it is most remarkable, and it is leading our son in addition to us reason why this subject is fun, which is seriously pressing. Thanks for the whole lot!

  11. venlor generic

    I enjoy you because of all of your effort on this blog. Debby enjoys conducting internet research and it’s really obvious why. Most of us learn all of the lively method you offer practical strategies through this web site and even increase participation from some other people on the issue so our favorite girl is in fact learning a lot of things. Take advantage of the rest of the year. You are always doing a really good job.

  12. zyprexa buy

    Thanks for the tips about credit repair on this blog. Things i would advice people would be to give up the actual mentality that they’ll buy right now and pay out later. Like a society all of us tend to do that for many things. This includes holidays, furniture, as well as items we would like. However, you have to separate your own wants from all the needs. When you are working to improve your credit rating score make some sacrifices. For example you are able to shop online to save money or you can turn to second hand shops instead of costly department stores with regard to clothing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *