I’ve read these two books back to back. Interesting, because they’re very similar in ideas, yet are two very different reads.
Both chronical a family’s decision to grow as much of their own food in a certain space of time as they can, while also talking about how commercially grown food is produced, along with many other things. I enjoyed both of them, though the Kingsolver book rocked my world!
First up I read Linda Cockburn’s ‘Living the Good Life’. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and a spur of the moment trip to the public library allowed me to do just that. She, her partner Trev and their young son embarked on a quest to live off their 1/2 acre suburban block up in Gympie for 6 months. When I first heard about this book a few years ago I remember thinking that it wouldn’t have been that challenging… after all, it’s a HUGE block and EVERYTHING grows in the tropics, right?
Um… I’m a fool. Just the fruit fly alone would be enough to drive you demented. I never give fruit fly a thought unless I’m driving interstate and have to dump any and all fruit into bins, but now I have a healthy gratitude for the temperate climate I live in. It’d be horrible to have all of your fruit crops decimated by fruit fly and I’m thinking that the saving grace of being able to feed them to the chooks wouldn’t make up for the loss. (I don’t care how fond you are of your chooks!) They also decide to do this challenge in its purest form… bikes/walking instead of cars, anyone? Want a nice glass of wine with dinner… make it yourself!
Linda has set this book out in a diary format, which is effective as the reader tags along on the journey. Along the way, she’s included recipes, stats about all sorts of things and some other bits and pieces to really get the readers thinking about issues that we may not have really thought about before. At the end of every month her partner also has something to say, so we get the two perspectives, which is always interesting.
I’ve been reading her blog about their new adventure (building a straw bale house and establishing a food forest/farm in Tasmania) for years, so I’m pleased that I finally caught up with the whole story. It’s an easy, entertaining read, though it makes me wish I had more land to play with!
Actually, reading ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ makes me wish the same thing, though I like the fact that I don’t have snow to contend with in winter. Barbara Kingsolver and her family (husband and two daughters) relocated to a 40 acre farm in Virginia USA where they have a crack at supporting themselves for an entire year on what they can grow and raise themselves, plus sourcing as much as they can from local growers. She waxes lyrical about the farmers’ markets, which made me feel horrible guilty that I haven’t yet gone to one.
I’ve always loved Kingsolver’s writing, ever since I tackled ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ years ago. I appreciate the attention to detail in her prose and the economical way she sets a scene and makes a point. Like Cockburn, Kingsolver also tackles the food industry issues, the problems of soil degradation and the like, but also gets down and dirty with turkey sex and cheesemaking. (Now I want to make cheese…)
Again like Cockburn, her husband as well as her oldest daughter chip in with things they want to say, along with recipes that sound delicious and can be found on their site. I’ve never classed myself as a ‘foodie’, but both her and Camille’s accounts of how their family life revolve around the kitchen, as well as the descriptions of the dishes they make and the parties they have are forcing me to reevaluate my life. What’s the point of going to the effort of growing the best food you can if you don’t then go to the effort to prepare it with love?
I enjoyed both books very much, though the Australian one was a little more informal and laid-back. Both writers are extremely well-informed and passionate about food and the issues facing us all today with regard to sustainable practices and the problems facing us all. The fascinating thing was seeing the differences in climate that the two families were contending with and how that dictated the practices they made on their journies. (Ahhhh…. you have to get the word ‘journey’ in whenever you talk about books such as these…)
I took the trip to the librarymainly to borrow an economics book by another Australian author called Paul Gilding. The Great Disruption looks at what will happen when the zombie apocolypse hits, (otherwise known as Peak Oil etc.) I ended up walking out with around 8 books. Read “The Good Life” first, then starting reading ‘The Great Disruption’. After a while I needed an antidote… so my plan was to read a bit of the Gilding, then a bit of the Kingsolver to buck myself up.
Didn’t work. I’m bolting through the Kingsolver. Ah well, the zombies are going to come whether I’m reading about them or not so I might as well enjoy what I’m reading! I’ll get back to the Gilding book when I’ve cosed the covers for the last time on the farming book.