Book Report: A Sand County Almanac, By Aldo Leopold
Although Leopold's love of great expanses of wilderness is readily apparent, his book does not cry out in defense of particular tracts of land about to go under the axe or plow, but rather deals with the minutiae, the details, of often unnoticed plants and animals, all the little things that, in our ignorance, we have left out of our managed acreages but which must be present to add up to balanced ecosystems and a sense of quality and wholeness in the landscape.
Part I of A Sand County Almanac is devoted to the details of a single piece of land: Leopold's 120-acre farmed-out farmstead in central Wisconsin, abandoned as a farm years before because of the poor soil from which the "sand counties" took their nickname. It was at this weekend retreat, Leopold says, "that we try to rebuild, with shovel and axe, what we are losing elsewhere". Month by month, Leopold leads the reader through the progression of the seasons with descriptions of such things as skunk tracks, mouse economics, the songs, habits, and attitudes of dozens of bird species, cycles of high water in the river, the timely appearance and blooming of several plants, and the joys of cutting one's own firewood.
In Part II of A Sand County Almanac, titled "The Quality of Landscape," Leopold takes his reader away from the farm; first into the surrounding Wisconsin countryside and then even farther, on an Illinois bus ride, a visit to the Iowa of his boyhood, on to Arizona and New Mexico where he first worked with the U.S. Forest Service, across the southern border into Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico, north to Oregon and Utah, and finally across the northern border into Manitoba, Canada.
These dilemmas brought up in Part II make the Round River essays, inserted as the modern edition's Part III, titled "A Taste for Country," particularly apt, because this is the section of the book that deals