Sunday, July 26, 2009

Farm City (Novella Carpenter)

Last month I spent a good hour pulling weeds that had grown up to my knees in the garden. After I was finished you could actually see the pepper and tomato plants that had been camouflaged in a green jungle of overgrowth for the past few weeks. Gardening is not my strong point. Or rather, taking time to learn how to garden and actually maintain it aren't my strong points. My approach is to buy transplants at the farmer's market in May, put them in the ground, and then I let nature take over. Luckily nature is a lot better at growing things than I am.

Novella Carpenter is really good at gardening. So good that she moved way beyond vegetables and kept bees, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and even pigs in her garden. But she's in Oakland. As in downtown Oakland. Which is not really amenable to large-scale gardens, or as she calls it, her urban farm. Farm City is her account of her time raising livestock, vegetables, and fruits in her backyard.

I wanted to not like Novella. I was afraid she was going to be one of those hipper-than-thou types that goes on and on about how great city life is and how much cooler and better she is than everyone else because of the choices she's made for her lifestyle. And sometimes she did veer toward that area in her writing, but mostly she just comes off as a gutsy urban homesteader taking the term locavore to the most extreme level, exploring her relationship with these animals-turned-dinner in a humane and honest way, feeding her pigs on a diet of Chinatown dumpster dives. Her sense of humor that comes across in her writing separates this book from other locavore accounts; it's not the idyllic rural account of Barbara Kingsolver. It's more no nonsense and sparse at times, but in a good way.

1 comment:

Paperback Writer said...

My friend, Sarah, keeps talking about a greenhouse, and bringing home books about gardening. I keep telling her that elk and raccoons will trample and devour anything that might actually grow at 8000 ft (well I guess we actually are quite a bit below the tree line) where we have a growing season mostly suited to radishes, and, and, . . . She persists. I may have to check out Farm City and see how it's done when it seems like it hadn't ought to be done.