Category Archives: Nature

Bernd Heinrich’s Winter World – Questions and More!


The Golden Crowned Kinglet



Here are some questions to consider as you read:

1. How has this book affected the way you view winter now? Has your view changed?

2. What did you find surprising in how animals adapt to winter?

3. What adaptations have you made personally to handle winter?

4. What observations have you made of animals and insects in winter, outside and inside?

5. What is your favorite form of H20? How do you interact with it?

6. Have your spotted any nests now that it is winter and they are more readily visible?


Article about the book:
Interview with Steve Paulson: 
Heinrich’s winter home in Maine


Alder Stream, Maine, where Heinrich looks for Kinglets (p. 119)



Here is a site for nest identification:


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Al’s Discussion Points for Linda Greenlaw’s: The Hungry Ocean

  1. Why do you think there is so much dread and second-guessing associating with the departure? Have you ever embarked on a trip that you had mixed feelings about? How long did it take to put the feeling behind you?  (Chapter 3)
  2. There is barely one brief mention of the personal hardship that fishing puts on Linda Greenlaw. On page 50, ever so briefly, she lets her guard down and blurts out, “Who knew that I desperately wanted a husband, a house full of children, a boring job?” Do you think she really meant that statement, or was it intended to be just contrast and put perspective on the life that she had so willingly chosen?
  3. Why does Linda Greenlaw even want to be a fisherman? Does it have to do with proving something in a male-dominated industry? Is she different from any other woman you have ever met?
  4. Try and envision yourself in Linda’s shoes. How would you handle crew problems? How would you go about leading a group of hardened men? (Chapter 5)
  5. Learning about the complexity and the uncertainties of the fishing business in general, and sword fishing in particular (including the long- and short-term preparations, and the physical aspects of the job), does that give you any respect for people that choose this career? (pages 173-175)
  6. Have you ever been challenged to apply the persistence that Linda Greenlaw had in her quest for catching halibut (pages 203-206)? Would you have been able to stand up to the crew in a situation like that?
  7. On page 248, she quotes Alden Leema, her mentor, as having quoted his own father as having said, “Anyone who chooses to make fishing his occupation solely for the money is in the wrong business.” After reading this book do you feel that advice was right or wrong? Are there other careers that are similar in that they consume your life and return so little?
  8. Did the payouts depicted at the end of the book surprise you? The captain’s pay is good at $14K for a good trip, but the crew is working for $5,500/month, with a couple days per month actually spent off the boat.
  9. Has this book changed how you will look at seafood the next time you are at Heller’s Seafood staring into the glass case at the swordfish steaks?

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Discussion Questions for The Dirty Life and MORE!

On June 21st, we will discuss The Dirty Life. See below for questions, author’s blog information and URL for the NPR interview with Kristin Kimball.

Introduction and Discussion Questions from Simon and Schuster for The Dirty Life:


Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of Kristin’s discovery of the pleasures of physical work, that good food is at the center of a good life, and ultimately of love.


1. Kristin was a freelance writer in New York City, which gave her the opportunity to travel around the world. When she first met Mark on his farm, she felt like a for­eigner. In what ways do you think this feeling comforted her? Were you surprised when the situation flipped and Kristin felt foreign to the life she used to lead in the city?

2. In what ways did Kimball’s yearning for a home sway her decision to leave the city and start a new life with Mark? If you were put in a similar situation, do you think you would have made the same decision? Why or why not? What is your own personal definition of “home”?

3. Mark and Kristin start a farm that aims to provide a whole diet for their year-round members. If a farm in your area did the same thing, would you become a member? How would it change the way you cook and eat?

4. The first year on Essex Farm was full of trial and error. Kristin had never farmed before and much of her knowl­edge came from her neighbors and from books. In what ways did all of the mishaps shape Kristin and change her perspective?

5. One of the biggest adjustments Kristin has to make when moving to Essex Farm is learning to live with the absence of instant gratification. She finds that a farmer must continuously put forth effort in order to reap bene­fits. How does Kristin respond to this new kind of work? How does her definition of “satisfaction” change? Would you be able to accommodate a similar change?

6. The Dirty Life is segmented into seasons. What are the underlying issues that take place within each season and how do they relate to the year in full?

7. Have your views on sustainable farming changed after reading about the trials and triumphs of Essex Farm? Have your views on farm-fresh food versus supermarket food changed?

8. Kristin repeatedly finds that her prior assumptions about farming and farmers are false. Do you think her stereo­types were the same as those of most Americans or just people who live in urban areas?

9. As a new farmer, Kristin struggles with where she fits in the socioeconomic spectrum. It bothers her when a neighbor brings over some kitchen things because she thinks Kristin is needy. Later, Kristin writes that farming makes her feel rich even though she’s not. What makes people feel poor or rich? How much is the feeling related to money?

10. Why do you think Kristin goes from being a vegetarian to an omnivore after helping Mark slaughter a pig?

11. Kristin writes that there are two types of marriages: the comfortable kind and the fiery kind. Do you agree?

The author’s website and blog are full of interesting information and photos and worth a peak

Check out the NPR interview conducted with the author regarding the book in November 2010 at:

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