I liked Novella Carpenter’s style of writing. She has a sardonic working class voice that shines through every page of this book.
I liked that she is willing to experiment in the search for a self-sufficient life in terms of growing her own food, especially that she isn’t some kind of hippie vegan or vegetarian. When she talks locally grown food, she’s including rabbits, turkeys, and pigs.
One complaint I had is the extent of Carpenter’s buy-in that self-sufficiency is the goal. I would like to think that there could have been more interaction with her community. I’d like to have seen Carpenter discover that community interdependence is much more sustainable than trying to raise every mouthful on your own.
There are many moments when Carpenter almost grudgingly waxes poetic about the beauty she is creating and how much she loves interacting with Nature even in a crazed place like Oakland. (Although other reviewers have pointed out that she depicts Oakland as a little bit more of a war zone than it actually is.) I also live in a post-industrial working class town that is trying to re-invent itself. I think Carpenter is a little embarrassed about how deeply she is affected by gardening, interacting with animals, the sacred act of taking a life and consuming it.
Carpenter does learn from her mistakes and I give her points for trying to raise a pig on an urban lot. I think she’s young & headstrong — I get the feeling from her tone that she thinks (like many young people) that she’s the FIRST PERSON EVER to have tried urban agriculture and that she’s not someone who learns through research about what has worked for others. She’s a learn-by-doing kind of person. I respect that. And to be fair, this is mostly a memoir and not really a gardening manual.
Be warned, though. There are a lot of graphic descriptions of animal death in the book. Carpenter is unflinching and not one for assigning cuddly human traits to her food animals. I’m looking forward to her book on urban agriculture, The Essential Urban Farmer.