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and life along the winding road

Friday, September 6, 2013

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

Our library has a section where you may give a donation and take some of the discarded books and I've found some interesting ones lately. Farm City - The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter was one I particularly enjoyed.
Born from parents who delved in a self sufficient lifestyle, she decided to become an urban farmer and found, on an Oakland street she described as urban decay, a suitable apartment. The apartment was the top floor of a disintegrated Queen Anne house with neighbors of homeless people living in cars and a monastery, she purchased bees, set up a garden in a vacant lot and dabbled with raising chickens, turkeys and ducks (these were delivered through the U.S. Mail!). The area was called Ghost Town as it had long been abandoned by businesses, houses were abandoned and there were overgrown lots.

From the cover:
When Novella Carpenter - captivated by the idea of backyard self-sufficiency as the daughter of two back to the earth hippies - moves to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovers a week choked, garbage strewn abandoned lot next door, she closes her eyes and pictures heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coup.
What starts out as a few egg-laying chickens leads to turkeys, geese, and ducks. And not long after, along came two 300-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals aren't pets, Novella is raising these animals for dinner.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed this book. While living in England in the 70s I admired people who lived off the land, (which was a craze then) and television shows like Good Neighbors (called The Good Life in the English version) were popular. But my efforts ended at growing vegetables, canning, and making wine. Livestock was a whole other kettle of fish. Novella Carpenter takes us with her on each of her new experiments and along the way I learned a lot about growing vegetables. Another lesson was that Novella shared her reaction to the people around her. Young boys standing on corners in an area known for late night gunfire, became less scary when she confronted them, she wandered the streets at night dumpster diving in refuse containers outside Chinese restaurants to feed her chickens and rabbits, and embraced each of her neighbors along with their eccentric lifestyles.
Novella Carpenter doesn't hold anything back in her memoir and shares with us her dreams, her thoughts and her desire to be completely self sufficient, if only for a month, all with humor.

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