I’ve been reading books to inspire my lifestyle lately and these really impressed me.
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
The idea of creating a productive urban farm in the less desirable parts of Oakland, California is mind boggling to me. But while the location freaks me out a little – I’ve been lost in the seedier parts of Oakland. It is a scary place. – the story is an honest look at the author’s efforts to raise her own food. It’s not always pretty, but her determination and resourcefulness move her toward her goal and will certainly give those interested in adopting this sort of lifestyle an intimate look at what it’s like to raise poultry in a small space, scrounge for materials, and create something from nothing.
When I mentioned this title on Facebook, The Metropolitan Homestead said:
I’ve read it, and honestly, it was one of the things that pushed me into seriously starting our homesteading activities. I always wanted to get back to this lifestyle, but didn’t’ think we could in the city. Her book changed that mindset for me.
Years ago someone told me about this book, describing a Martha’s Vineyard woman who had dealt with plumbing issues by tossing urine out into her yard, only to discover that the plants that had been alternatively watered thrived. It sounded interesting to me, but life intervened and I forgot about it.
Last month, my neighbor asked, “Have you read Solviva?” I told her that I wasn’t familiar with it, and she went on to describe a woman from Martha’s Vineyard who accidentally discovered that urine was a great fertilizer. Oh, yes! I had heard of that book! I borrowed her copy and discovered an entirely alternative method of living. And I’m not just talking about pee.
Martha’s Vineyard gets cold in the wintertime, complete with snow and blizzards. But the author’s greenhouse maintains a balmy temperature all winter long without the use of a traditional heating system. Solar gain and the warmth of animals in the greenhouse allow her to grow vegetables year round without any energy from the grid.
Her “solar dynamic, bio-benign design” offers a better way to live more inexpensively and without leaving a big carbon footprint. The author no longer tosses her urine out into her yard, but she’s designed an amazing system to filter waste and utilize the valuable water without harmfully impacting the water table the way cess pools do.
I highly recommend this book for a look at someone who’s figured out some innovative alternatives both for city and country living. The author’s website has detailed information about her wastewater systems as well as a fun and telling comparison of two hypothetical cities.
Joel Salatin is the visible face behind Polyface Farms. You might have seen him in Food, Inc. (If you’ve not yet seen Food, Inc, please do) or met him in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma or perhaps you caught his TED presentation (Mid Atlantic). I am a huge fan of Salatin, so it’s no surprise that I loved his book in spite of his occasional crotchety outbursts. He’s a wise man who is willing to say some of the things that other people just won’t. First and foremost in this book is the fact that our food system, one that trucks and ships and flies our food thousands of miles just ain’t normal.
Salatin covers the politics of food, but he also spends a lot of time discussing what works on his farm and why community based food sources make so much sense. The book will likely anger you when you read about some of the difficulties that farmers face in bringing good, wholesome food to the table, but more often, I think it will inspire you to make changes in the way you source your food, whether that’s growing your own or seeking out a CSA or local farmer. You can see Mr. Salatin in action, talking about his pigerators and other topics on the book’s website.
What have you read lately to inspire a more sustainable lifestyle?