Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reviewing My New Manifesto

   Well, it happened again. I finished a book and am awash in mixed feelings. It reminds me of the last day of a school year when you loved your teacher so much, so deeply, that you can barely stand to say goodbye, yet the teaching is done and summer awaits. Tonight I am equal parts numb from the vigorous grooming and tingling with motivation to put this new knowledge into action.

   Studying Barbara Kingsolver's memoir of her family's twelve-month foray into strict locavorism has been a spiritual experience for me. No kidding. She offers us in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a literary gumbo of earth science, animal husbandry, human cultural history, religion & morality (yep, I think those are different), politics, economics, and philosophy. With a hefty dash of humor. I read it on multiple high recommendations from trusted people, and now I suppose I'm offering my own:

   Buy this book. It is an inexpensive purchase (I spent less that seven bucks on my hardback copy, albeit second hand). Don't check it out, because I predict you'll be marking and dog-earing and highlighting yours a lot. I sure did. One way or another, if you love food, read this wonderful book. 
   If you have the gardening sickness or a penchant for raising your own edible animals, study these pages. I found them to be endlessly inspirational this week between monotonous chores. When I thought that the wheel-barrowing of dried manure would never end and the glorious day to plant my broccoli starts would never come, much less the clipping of fragrant basil, I just sat down with a glass of water and soaked up half a chapter of the book. And my bones found the energy they needed for a few more circuits of shoveling and  bed filling. Her words helped me to visualize my summer garden.
   Even if the mission of eating locally is not that appealing to you, it's an incredible family story and raises a plethora of tantalizing debate topics for your smarmy dinner parties. 

   And yes, I know what a plethora is.

   There are so many things I could tell you about this book. Let me just try to tempt you a little rather than  rewrite her masterpiece:

Some of the Juicy Topics That Beg Further Discussion:
  • Environmental overdraft
  • Demand side management
  • Illusion of top soil
  • Realignment with the food chain
  • Food Culture, or lack thereof
  • Knowing the provenance of your food
  • Self sufficiency as an act of patriotism, pointing back to Thomas Jefferson
  • Amish values and the beauty of boundaries
  • Agricultural agnostic
  • Xantolo
  • Culture being the property of a species, not just of the wealthy
  • Growing pizza
  • Life as a zero-sum equation (time management comment)
  • The draw to garden again and again and again, despite hardship
  • Economics of growing it yourself and the intrinsic rewards that overshadow this
  • The differences between harvesting and killing
  • The religion of time saving
  • Food Security
...And so much more. I need to find a few other people who have read this book in order to bounce some things around. Julia assures me that contacting the author would not be stalker-ish, but I have my doubts. 

How about a few quotes that glowed most brightly to my eyes?

"A lifetime is what I'm after." Me too. Enough with the instant gratification business. We're missing so much by rushing.

"From the ground up, everything about nourishment steadies my soul." She spoke at length here about everything from soil preparation to harvesting and cooking from scratch for your family and friends.

"I decided my poultry patient could use a mental health day." Amen, sister! This was from a particularly excellent chapter about heirloom turkey reproduction.

"Perfect is not the currency of farming." Perfect is much less beautiful anyway.

"Cooking is 80% confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice." This made me cry. My girls started cooking when they could barely stand steady on a chair at the kitchen counter, and a half aprons looked like ball gowns on their beautiful, skinny little bodies.

"One of the best things gardens can teach students is respect: for themselves, for others, and the environment." How exciting, by the way, that school systems around the country are adopting curricula that get their students dirty and happy! 

"Some things you learn by having to work around the word no." Brilliant.

"For one thing, hogs are intelligent enough to become unharvestable." Perhaps you have noticed a conspicuous absence of hogs at the Lazy W.

and finally...

"Nothing is more therapeutic than to walk up there 
and disappear into the yellow-green smell of the tomato rows 
for an hour to address the concerns of quieter, 
more manageable colleagues. Holding the soft, viny limbs 
as tender as babies' wrists, I train them to their trellises, 
tidy the mulch at their feet, inhale the oxygen of their thanks."

   Are you sighing along with me? And I promise you that Kingsolver retains her sense of wonder and poetry in every single chapter. I have never read so many cold, hard facts written this lyrically.

   Speaking of chapters, there are twenty. The story begins with some background about the family's motivation for this journey and ends just after their year of locavorism concludes. Every chapter is an adventure, and the author shares the papery stage with her husband and teenage daughter. 

   I have to admit a smidge of relief to understand that they viewed the year long experience as a singular one, but still one that would precipitate change in their lives. I personally am just not energetic or reliable enough to be a fanatical about anything, so it grooves me to approach the ideas herein gently, with slowness and a bit of caution. In other words, the Lazy W will be supplementing our groceries more heavily this year than ever before, but I do not predict we will place a buying freeze on all things non local or inorganic.
   Have you read this book? Do you want to chat it up with me? Do you want to borrow my copy? Do you need some manure for your compost heap? We have plenty, so bring your shovels.

We Have a Paradise at our Disposal.

Mama's Losin' It



  1. Wow - this sounds like a book every gardener/farmer should read. I must get me a copy.

    BTW - if you send me your email address (use my google profile to contact me directly), there might be a little handmade gift from my garden on it's way.

    1. OMIGOSH!! (*squealing*) Heather, thank you!! I have a guess what it is, but I don't want to jinx it. I might have something from the sewing room for you! As for the book, yes, really do try to find it. It is beautiful and informative, just overall an excellent modern classic. XO

  2. you can use my gmail address:

  3. I enjoy that book... funny we must be channeling... as I see alot of similiarities with us.. lol(gotta be the goose ;) I was just glancing over my copy the other day... and with the price of fuel going up... it just means groceries will go up... costing the consumer more and more money than they already have... I look forward to getting the ground prepped here at the Farmhouse and hope that the efforts will yield good food...

    1. Hi Jeannie!! Yes, I think the humans Mia chooses must have some deep down commonality. LOL Last week he got super cozy with a very good friend of mine and this week he randomly loved on a little girl about nine years old. I wondered if her was remembering or daughter. XO
      I totally groove you the gas/grocery thing... A little unnerving, but it is at least a great motivator to get muddy. LOL
      I'll be watching your blog to see what your garden this year! Growing in new places is always exciting and terrifying. Enjoy the adventure!!

  4. "We Have a Paradise at our Disposal."
    Every paradise needs an angel and the lazyw has found the best one in you.

  5. Thank you for the review. i am always looking for good books, that give me food for thought!
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.
    i am reading Uncle toms Cabin now....making me think about sooo many things!

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by, I hope you do find time to read this, it's just great. Followed you back, looking forward to seeing what you write! : )

  6. Hi, Marie! I wanted to say again, how wonderful it was to meet you. Today was such a blessing. Thank you!
    I'm so far behind you on this topic I wouldn't even know what to comment! I'm still trying to get my husband to build me a small raised bed for growing a few tomatoes and herbs! LOL! Baby steps, I suppose.

    1. Sonya, you are every bit as sweet and gracious as I knew you would be. I am so glad you could make it and hope to see you more and more!xoxo As for gardening, I think if a person can grow some tomatoes and herbs that is the beginning of heaven.

  7. Sweet Marie,

    I DID say "Ahhhhh" out loud when I read the highlighted quote! I would love to read this book and might just find it at the library for now since gardening is NOT in my future this season. I'm looking forward to more blog posts, you're a great writer!

    Rose :)

    1. Hi Rose! (btw, I finally realized why you liked the rose painting most...HA!) This book is great even if you're not gardening at the moment. She is a wonderful storyteller and raises so many valid conversations. I sure hope to see you again!! Thanks a bunch for reading, I plan to write about our shin dig tomorrow. XO

  8. Happy to find another Oklahoma blogger!
    Following you on GFC.

  9. I must admit, I was not crazy about that book. I thought I would be, thought it would be just up my alley, but it really wasn't. it did motivate me, though, to try more local produce. i, for instance, gave up bananas. then i started buying them again. the farm i was shopping at sold bananas. they didnt grow bananas but they did sell them. then i realized how impossible it was to live in a big city and try to shop exclusively at farms and such. and i suck at gardening. it is a great concept, though!

    1. Hi Raine! How funny, the bananas thing really stuck with me too. LOL They are so cheap and nutritious, it felt ridiculous (though I understand her logic) to eliminate them from our diet. Anyway, thanks a "bunch" for reading. haha
      For me it's theory and baby steps towards locavorism. Nothing radical. I'll leave that to more stalwart souls.

  10. I've been debating getting this book. I have this bad habit of always reading Amazon reviews and being swayed by the one negative review. Maybe it's a good habit, too, because it keeps me from purchasing EVERY gardening book on the planet. I may just break down and get this one, though! Thanks for the review.

    1. It made such an impression on me, possibly because I happened to read it right at the tail end of the dormant season this year... just when the green adrenaline was REALLY coming to a head... LOL But seriously, it is a well written and deeply inspirational book. I liked it so much I can't imagine what the bad review would have said! Now I'm curious. LOL

    2. I just went back to Amazon to check it out. There are actually 29 bad reviews, but that is out of almost 500 reviews. They say the author is "smug, self-satisfied and arrogant".

    3. OK, no kidding... she addresses exactly that feedback a little in the book. (must have collected plenty of criticism during the year of locavorism) I remember her mentioning that and sort of casually rebuffing nay-sayers with the fact that she was experimenting, not making a life long commitment. She and her family were pretty honest about what changes were easy, what was difficult, etc.
      Thanks for looking that up! I don't mean to be defensive of her exactly... LOL Well, maybe a little. She has articulated some things that were bouncing around in my heart. I hope you have time to try it out for yourself!! xo
      Her messages really mesh with your story about Cuba.


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