Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna, amongst others, decided to move her family from Tuscon, AZ to her husband's family farm in Appalachian Virginia in 2007. After spending a few months remodeling the house and preparing the land, she, her husband, and their two daughters, decided to try to live off their farm and supplement with local products as much as possible for the next year. As someone who harbors secret dreams of homesteading myself, I was so excited to read this book- especially since it was recently re-released with a 10 year anniversary addition of a look back by the author and all of her family, examining what they have held onto and what long-lasting lessons they learned from their experience.
I loved so much about this book. The stories of planting and harvesting were charming. Getting to know Kingsolver and her girls was delightful- they are a fun bunch. I loved hearing Camille, her oldest daughter who was 18, give her perspective and share their family's recipes. Probably my favorite thing, though, was seeing Kingsolver's sense of humor come through- she's really funny. I laughed out loud often. Having read quite a few of her fiction novels, and having loved each of them, as never doubting her skill as a masterful storyteller, I have never before thought of her as funny, but she is truly very funny, and I loved it!
As with many of Kingsolver's books, perhaps even more so in this one, her personal moral and political views come through pretty clearly, and I can see that people with differing views could dislike this book a bit because of that, but I didn't find it to be a hindrance. She is a strong supporter of eating what your land and your climate can provide- no bananas for a year! She is a strong proponent of supporting small, local farmers and businesses that provide what you can't provide for yourself, and develops a strong network of friends through her associations as she provides her her family. I particularly enjoyed the chapter toward the end where she reviews the numbers and statistics of their venture- they raised over $6000 worth of produce had they purchased it at the store, and all on 1/4 acre. They earned the equivalent of about $4.50/hr after factoring in all the work they did. They eliminated 7/8 of the carbon footprint they had been generating living in Tucson shopping at the grocery store- all of the numbers were fascinating. And 10 years on, they were all still living the lifestyle- growing a large garden and putting up most of their produce to last them through the winter, seeking locally sourced items that they couldn't grow themselves, and supporting local businesses. Her daughters had grown into women who were living this way as well, loyal to a lifestyle they had all come to love.
I would love to live like she does, providing for myself and my family with farm-fresh foods from our own backyard. However, living in a suburban high desert community, I know that is probably impossible where we are in our life right now. However, I do love to cook, and feel inspired by this book to make more things from scratch- homemade and home canned spaghetti sauce is going to be on my list to master this summer as the tomatoes become available at our farmer's market. I also am going to pay more attention to where what I buy comes from and do my best to support more small, local merchants who provide food that I need to buy. And I am looking forward to starting a small garden in my own backyard this summer. This was a great, fun, inspiring read, and I encourage everyone to pick it up!