Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Booklist: Real-Life Green Acres Memoirs

This booklist contains memoirs of urbanites who, for whatever their reasons, transplant themselves to the country to live off the land.

 Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living
 Farewell, My Subaru: an epic adventure in local living by Doug Fine

This is the most recent in this list of books that I've read, and I LOVED it. I finished it in an evening. I laughed out loud and even learned a bit along the way.

Like many Americans, Doug Fine enjoys his creature comforts, but he also knows full well they keep him addicted to oil. So he wonders: Is it possible to keep his Netflix and his car, his Wi-Fi and his subwoofers, and still reduce his carbon footprint?
In an attempt to find out, Fine up and moves to a remote ranch in New Mexico, where he brazenly vows to grow his own food, use sunlight to power his world, and drive on restaurant grease. Never mind that he’s never raised so much as a chicken or a bean. Or that he has no mechanical or electrical skills.
Whether installing Japanese solar panels, defending the goats he found on Craigslist against coyotes, or co-opting waste oil from the local Chinese restaurant to try and fill the new “veggie oil” tank in his ROAT (short for Ridiculously Oversized American Truck), Fine’s extraordinary undertaking makes one thing clear: It ain’t easy being green. In fact, his journey uncovers a slew of surprising facts about alternative energy, organic and locally grown food, and climate change.
Both a hilarious romp and an inspiring call to action, Farewell, My Subaru makes a profound statement about trading today’s instant gratifications for a deeper, more enduring kind of satisfaction.

 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver; Camille Kingsolver; Steven L. Hopp

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of seven works of fiction including The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees. She has also written books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction.
Hang on for the ride: with characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table.
Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.  

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden
The $64 Tomato: how one man nearly lost his sanity, spent a fortune, and endured an existential crisis in the quest for the perfect garden by William Alexander

Problems ensue when Bill Alexander, his wife, and kids buy a place in the Hudson Valley of New York and grow a large vegetable garden and a small orchard. The sources of these problems, humourously told, include landscaping contractors, herds of deer, a groundhog, beetles, worms, maggots, and grubs. 
From the back cover: Who knew that Bill Alexander's simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard would lead him into life-and-death battles with webworms, weeds, and a groundhog named Superchuck? Over the course of his hilarious adventures, Alexander puzzles over why a six-thousand-volt wire doesn't deter deer but nearly kills his tree surgeon; encounters a gardener who bears an eerie resemblance to Christopher Walken; and stumbles across the aphrodisiac effects of pollen when he plays bumble bee to his apple blossoms.
When he decides (just for fun) to calculate how much it cost to grow one of his beloved Brandywine tomatoes, he comes up with a staggering $64. But as any gardener knows, you can't put a price tag on the rewards of homegrown produce, or on the lessons learned along the way.
 Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn
Hit By a Farm: how I learned to stop worrying and love the barn by Catherine Friend 

Farms have fences. People have boundaries. Mine began crumbling the day I knelt behind a male sheep, reached between his legs, and squeezed his testicles. This took place one blustery November day when I joined other shepherd-wannabees for a class on the basics of raising sheep. I was there with my partner Melissa, the woman I'd lived with for twelve years, because we were going to start a farm . When self-confessed "urban bookworm" Catherine Friend's partner of twelve years decides she wants to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a farm, Catherine (a children's book author) agrees. What ensues is a crash course in both living off and with the land that ultimately allows Catherine to help fulfill Melissa's dreams while not losing sight of her own. Hit by a Farm is a hilarious recounting of Catherine and Melissa's trials of "getting back to the land."
 Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea
Goldhammer -- middle-aged, newly separated, with downsized finances -- is forced to make some extreme changes, including moving herself and her 12-year-old daughter from an affluent suburb to a seaside house in a more rustic New England setting, where she purchases six baby chickens. A memoir about starting over. 

 The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir
The Bucolic Plague: how two Manhattanites became gentlemen farmers: a unconventional memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Find out in this riotous and moving true tale of goats, mud, and a centuries-old mansion in rustic upstate New York—the new memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of the New York Times bestseller I Am Not Myself These Days. A happy series of accidents and a doughnut-laden escape upstate take Josh and his partner, Brent, to the doorstep of the magnificent (and fabulously for sale) Beekman Mansion. One hour and one tour later, they have begun their transformation from uptight urbanites into the two-hundred-year-old-mansion-owning Beekman Boys.
Suddenly, Josh—a full-time New Yorker with a successful advertising career—and Brent are weekend farmers, surrounded by nature's bounty and an eclectic cast: roosters who double as a wedding cover band; Bubby, the bionic cat; and a herd of eighty-eight goats, courtesy of their new caretaker, Farmer John. And soon, a fledgling business, born of a gift of handmade goat-milk soap, blossoms into a brand, Beekman 1802.
The Bucolic Plague is tart and sweet, touching and laugh out loud funny, a story about approaching middle age, being in a long-term relationship, realizing the city no longer feeds you in the same way it used to, and finding new depths of love and commitment wherever you live. 
 The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

When journalist Kimball falls in love with the man she's gone to interview -- 'a determined Pennsylvania farmer who runs a community farm supplying subscribers with beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, and grains -- they soon launch a dream farm in the Adirondacks. She proves an eager, but inept, partner who must quickly shed her urban inhibitions and learn to slop pigs and slaughter chickens'
It Takes a Village Idiot : A Memoir of Life After the City

An urban humor columnist and his wife buy an upstate New York getaway (in the Catskills), which leads to their reluctant transformation from city slickers to country bumpkins, and their eventual permanent move to the country. Chronicled with stinging wit, hilarious anecdotes, and an amusing fondness for their farming neighbors. 
 Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg (P.S.)
Coop: a family, a farm, and the pursuit of one good egg by Michael Perry

In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, the acclaimed author of Truck: a love story gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.
Last seen sleeping off his wedding night in the back of a 1951 International Harvester pickup, Michael Perry is now living in a rickety Wisconsin farmhouse. Faced with thirty-seven acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their baby at home, Perry plumbs his unorthodox childhood—his city-bred parents took in more than a hundred foster children while running a ramshackle dairy farm—for clues to how to proceed as a farmer, a husband, and a father.
And when his daughter Amy starts asking about God, Perry is called upon to answer questions for which he's not quite prepared. He muses on his upbringing in an obscure fundamentalist Christian sect and weighs the long-lost faith of his childhood against the skeptical alternative ("You cannot toss your seven-year-old a copy of Being and Nothingness").
Whether Perry is recalling his childhood ("I first perceived my father as a farmer the night he drove home with a giant lactating Holstein tethered to the bumper of his Ford Falcon") or what it's like to be bitten in the butt while wrestling a pig ("two firsts in one day"), Coop is filled with the humor his readers have come to expect. But Perry also writes from the quieter corners of his heart, chronicling experiences as joyful as the birth of his child and as devastating as the death of a dear friend.
Alternately hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, Coop is suffused with a contemporary desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning . . . and with chickens. 

As always, I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Happy reading,

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