Thursday, February 26, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle... Wow!

I just finished the first non-fiction book I'd read in a while, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.). I can honestly say that this was a life-changing book for me. Not only did I enjoy it to the point of laughter and even tears at the end, but I found it incredibly interesting, informative, and motivating.

In it, renowned author (and Kentucky native) Barbara Kingsolver documents her family's move from the desert of Arizona to her husband's old family homestead in Virginia where they had spent many summers. Drawing from their heritage, experience, and knowledge of biology, nutrition, and farming, they endeavor to live for one year off of food only of a local origin and what they grow or raise themselves. Although the book is mainly from Barbara's point of view, there are excerpts from her biologist/professor husband and college-age daughter. Some of the funniest and most poignant stories are of the experiences she shares raising the garden and poultry with her youngest daughter, Lily, who starts her own egg business at age 9.

The book is filled with intriguing tidbits about our nation's sick food supply chain, horrible eating habits, need for more diversity in the plants we're raising, and dozens of convincing reasons to eat more local food and raise your own if you can. There are also tons of great recipes, which can be accessed at the book's website. In fact, there are oodles of great resources which I just discovered at the website!

So, this book has me completely energized to have our biggest and best garden ever this year. We have had nice gardens in the past (especially pre-children, when we first moved to the farm and I even sold at the Farmer's Market). But, motivation often seems to dwindle when the weeds hit and the last two summers of drought have presented more challenges than usual. Coming to my aid are the two new women at our farm, Jenny (our energetic alpaca farm manager) and Danna (a smart, young biologist living in our cabin who helps part-time). Ironically, they have both read the book and we've decided that we'll all pitch in and have the garden together.
Determined to raise many heirloom varieties of vegetables, we turned to Local Harvest, a site that offers all kinds of resources for purchasing just about anything that can be raised or made locally. I originally found the site when I was searching out beeswax for sealing the surface of my paintings. The seeds I purchased were primarily from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Happy Cat Organics- Southern Exposure shipped really quickly, but I'm still awaiting the seeds from Happy Cat Organics. I heard on NPR that seed sales are up by 30% this year, so don't wait if you want a garden. Even container gardening for apartment dwellers can be a major benefit!
I honestly can't recommend this book enough, and besides learning so much from it I truly enjoyed Kingsolver's beautiful writing and plan to read some of her fiction books soon. Times are so uncertain right now, and I am finding myself grasping for some control of our family's destiny in ways that are fulfilling, healthy, and sustainable.
Although I am not ready to become a locavore, we are going to make a concerted effort to do more local eating and buying, just as I am trying to recycle more, use cloth bags for grocery shopping, and other small things that make a difference. We are so very blessed with good health and the soil and resources that are literally right at our feet, and we look forward to hard, honest work and a wonderful harvest this year.

So, have you read the book? Has it motivated you to have a garden or make other changes? What is your favorite thing to raise? (I know, that's like asking who is your favorite child?). I'd love to hear from you!
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Marti McGinnis said...

Loved this post. Isn't it wonderful, the power of books. I have been on this topic for awhile and tend to voraciously consume everything I can having to do with the apparent politics of food production. From King Corn, Fast Food America, The Omnivore's Dilemma and others I have had an awakening as to the additives that are passed on as food - things like corn syrup for example. Sound ok, right? It's corn. Corn is a vegetable. Except its a processed mega-compressed component from a uni-crop, that in fact our livers can't deal with! It's really so much poison. I could go on - but this is Lindy's blog not my soapbox. Can't wait to see your garden, lulu!

AlpacaLindy said...

Thanks so much for your generous comments. I have also read several of those books (especially liked The Omnivore's Dilemma), and although I am not usually an alarmist I find them all quite scary! It's funny how the "Big Corn" lobby has recently had commercials on TV countering some of the claims, and making it seem as if High Fructose Corn Syrup is as wholesome as can be! Well, don't get me started.... thanks for reading and you'll be hearing more from me about these topics!

Dianne said...

Great post, Lindy! As you already know, I have read the book and found it to be a real attitude changing experience. I've raised a garden for years, but after reading this, decided to get more serious about preserving what I grew and more focused on being as self-sufficient as possible. The book certainly raised my awareness of how food arrives at my local grocery.

Shelley in SC said...

Oh, I just LOVE this book. Very inspiring. Unbelievably, the subdivision we live in will not ALLOW any kind of a vegetable garden. So, I plan to grow some tomatoes on the back deck this summer and frequent the downtown farmer's market. So fun to find your blog and read your posts.

AlpacaLindy said...

Hi Shelley,
Thanks for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment! I am amazed that the rules don't allow vegetable gardening in your neighborhood... livestock I can understand, but tomatoes are normally pretty quiet, and don't bite or leave turds around! Best of luck with some container gardening.