Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA
The title history of Rodale’s Organic Life reflects the change over time in the word “organic,” as past incarnations of the magazine included Organic Farming and Gardening, The Organic Farmer, and Organic Gardening. The cover of the premier issue has the subtitle: Food Home Garden Wellbeing and the Editor’s Letter notes “Organic refers to more than just food. It’s about our whole approach to planet Earth.”
Features in the May/June 2015 issue demonstrate the scope of the word organic as well as that cover subtitle, with sections labelled Gather (a wide range of information), Garden, Food, Home, Wellbeing, Almanac: A Practical Handbook for Living Naturally in the Modern World and My Organic Life, a photo essay of a day in the life of a massage therapist and how he helps and heals others. Gather is a favorite as it presents a variety of interesting ideas, such as Rent-a-Ruminant, hiring goats to clear yards full of brush, invasive plants (who knew goats' multi-chambered stomachs could sterilize ingested seeds?) and poison ivy. Another plus for this service: free organic fertilizer! Other factoids in Gather include 15 Smart Uses for Eggs, such as using egg whites as a glue replacement, or reducing bitterness in coffee by adding crushed shells to coffee before brewing, or mixing the yolks with honey for a moisturizing facial mask.
Garden and Food sections follow one another seamlessly in explorations of planting mixed greens with a picture guide of over 40 types of greens to the Food section with the title caption “hurts so good” on a vibrantly colored page of red radish varieties with an “addictive bite.” Of course, the Food section also includes recipes for preparing these beauties, such as watermelon radishes in sherry vinegar, roasted black radishes, and a Moroccan-inspired radish, orange, and olive salad. Recipes also appear in a feature article about a Sydney chef’s traditional lunch to celebrate Australia’s organic heritage with herb salad, roasted pork loin, and goat-cheese tartlets.
Home examines a house in the woods of Northern California where the architect integrated the structure into the natural setting. Wellbeing blends yoga practice with a survival guide for air travel with information about using herbs to reduce the symptoms of pollen allergies. A related feature on feeling well is about the benefits of walking. “On average, the Swiss take about 9,700 steps per day; Western Australians take 9,695; Japanese, 7,168; and Americans, just 5,117.” The illustrated history of walking and list of walks around the world may make you want to take more steps.
Almanac is a wonderful mix of presents: four ways to cook salmon, the MIT study on the scent of rain, horoscope, planting tools, and a comparative chart on improving home improvement. This chart lists “not so good” options for items such as insulation, lumber, and paint, and explains why--and then includes “much better” choices, and explains why---and even names brands.
Rodale’s Organic Life contains delightful surprises and a thoughtful mix of ways to improve and to enjoy life. In fact, the web page has an exclusive offer: “get a free trial issue as well as Raising Backyard Chickens from Rodale’s Organic Life free when you subscribe today!”