A Sand County Almanac Book Review by Kendall GIlmore

Published on
Aldo Leopold from the Library of America
Aldo Leopold from Library of America image at loa.org


[This BYGL-alert represents another assignment for OSU’s Horticulture and Crop Science 3410 class, “Sustainable landscape Maintenance”, a class taught by members of the OSU Extension Nursery Landscape and Turf Team. This book report of A Sand County Almanac is by Kendall Gilmore.]


A Sand County Almanac Review: Kendall Gilmore



A Sand County Almanac provides a look into the flora and fauna of several states throughout the year while also giving testimony to the various landscape changes that have occurred.  The first section of the book, twelve chapters, details the month by month appearances and happenings of the marshy woodlands of Wisconsin.  Each chapter represents a different month of plant emergence, wildlife movement and landscape creations.  I really enjoyed this section of the book because I thought it was a very unique approach to capture the image of Wisconsin throughout the year.  I thought the sketches included in this first part of this book were very beneficial and provided some visual additions to the descriptions. 


dwarf white pine fall color
Fall color on dwarf white pine


The second section of A Sand County Almanac creates vivid pictures of various marquee environments in several areas.  Changes to the landscape over time is a main focus of this part as it details the impact of colonization and industrialization.  The descriptions of these landscapes, like a marsh or a mountain, were very insightful and detailed more than just the physical aspects.  I found the imagery paired with sketches extremely captivating and a different way of looking at changes in the landscape.  Some of the stories detail a sad history, like the loss of a certain environment, and others are stories of hope, with dreams that the landscape will return to its’ former glory.


white fir
white fir (Abies concolor) picture taken in - Wisconsin


white fir foliage
White fir foliage


The final section of the book focuses on the relationship between the land and people.  Paired with a few sketches for emphasis, this part talks about conservation, interactions and the remaining wild space. I found this section interesting as it is told from almost a third-party view that is slightly biased toward the landscape.  While this section was written on the least number of pages, I think it has the biggest impact.  Our relationship with the landscape is somewhat irreversible and therefore bringing attention to it is important.  Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. From Leopold:  That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.”


[As bygl-reader and horticulturist Brad Bonham e-mailed within minutes of an earlier student report today: “I think having students try their hands at writing BYGL posts is an excellent idea!  We're in the early-mid stages of incorporating ag/hort literacy throughout the pK-12 curriculum at Cincinnati Public down here.  At the secondary level, this involves rollout of career technical paths into ag/ hort.  As part of that, we solicited feedback from local industry members on a variety of issues, including the skills they are looking for in new hires.  Communications skills, including complete, cogent writing came up more than once.”]


[One final note:  From A Sand County Almanac, an evocation of his writing that we always hare in class:


white pine seasonal needle yellowing
Seasonal needle yellowing on white pine


Pines have earned the reputation of being ‘evergreen’ by the same device that governments use to achieve the appearance of perpetuity:  overlapping terms of office.  By taking on new needles on the new growth of each year, and discarding old needles at longer intervals, they have led the casual onlooker to believe that needles remain forever green.


“Each species of pine [and spruce, and fir, etc.] has its own constitution, which prescribes a term of office for needles appropriate for its way of life.  Thus the white pine retains its needles for a year and a half; the red and the jackpines for two years and a half.  Incoming needles take office each June and outgoing needles write their farewell addresses in October. 


white pine in fall
White pine to the right in fall


All write the same thing, in the same tawny yellow ink, which by November turns brown.  Then the needles fall, and are filed in the duff to enrich the wisdom of the stand.  It is this accumulated wisdom that hushes the footsteps of whoever walks under pines.”]


white pine
A healthy white pine in the fall, with seasonal needle coloration