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This year I decided to get into canning so I wanted to grow some of my own vegetables. To get into the spirit of having my own garden I took the book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter out of the library. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book but I ended up really enjoying her adventure.
Novella lives in the city of Oakland, California. The book opens with her and her boyfriend Bill moving into the top floor of a two story house in GhostTown, one of the worst parts of the city. The bottom floor of the house is another apartment. Behind the house is an abandoned lot whih Novella decides to turn into her urban farm.
At first she starts with a couple of raised vegetable beds, trucking in loads of free horse manure from a friend who has a horse farm. Then she buys a couple of fruit trees. A year later Bill decides she is ready for bee keeping and buys her a beginning bee keepers kit which she puts of the porch of her house. As her garden begins flourishing, her neighbors begin helping themselves to the fruits of her labor.
After a time the fruits and vegetables aren’t enough so Novella orders a box of birds for her farm. She receives ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys in the box. She goes through the sorrows and joys of raising them as some of her birds perish at the jaws of ferral dogs, other birds get loose, and one particular turkey ends up on the Thanksgiving day table.
Novella then moves onto breeding and raising rabbits, and finally to pigs. This book is a heartfelt story of how Novella and Bill care for their animals but also their pride when they kill and cook the animals that they have nurtured since birth. In between raising the rabbits, chasing the pigs, and harvesting the vegetables are tales of neighbors living in cars, an underground fish fry, and murder in the city.
Novella becomes a true urban farmer and to this day has a farm in Oakland. She has continued to grow fruits and vegetables and I’ve heard that she has added goats to her menagerie. This is an inspirational book to everyone who lives in a city and has every wanted to grow their own foods or raise their own livestock.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.