Pennywise Platter Thursday will be open again this Thursday! Thanks to everyone who participated in the Nourishing New Year Goals! I am just now beginning to read through them all. I am also a bit behind in emails and questions. My apologies to those who have tried to contact me
I’ve done my fair share of flying lately and am glad to finally be home! Life is settling down a little bit and it’s time to adjust to my husband’s school schedule again (he starts today). But over the break and during my many flights I was able to get in some very interesting reading. My favorite was Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
by Novella Carpenter.
This story is incredible. It tells the unlikely tale of one women, with the aid of her boyfriend, moving to the ghetto and “farming” on an empty lot. As you can imagine, farming in the inner city brings along it’s own challenges. Starting with a garden, Novella moves on to laying chickens. When that goes well, she starts raising poultry for meat, including two turkey’s. But even in the city there are predators, and many have an untimely death. As she continues in her “education” as an urban farmer, she honestly talks through many hard situations, like having to slaughter her own poultry, with all of the emotions, drama, and thankfulness for good food that it entails. As you can imagine it was not easy at first.
After her adventures and mishaps with poultry raising (all the while growing a large garden), she adds one more skill. Pig raising. So if you can imagine it. You are walking down the street, nervously watching your back. This area has drive by shootings every week, prostitutes, druggies, the whole bit. The road is dirty, the houses tired looking, and many of the people look a little rough. And then you see them. Two huge, 200 pound pigs walking down the street…..in the middle of the ghetto. You notice a few people trying to herd them back to a yard and so you help. It takes all of your concentration to herd them, but when you have safely helped drive them back to their yard, you straighten up and stare around in amazement.
Here, in the heart of the ghetto, a beautiful flower and vegetables garden covers the lot next to the pigs. In the middle of the garden, a bee hive is thriving. The two pigs now are noisily enjoying some of their slop and a whole flock of chickens, ducks, turkeys, with rabbits running around their feet, are clucking in their pens. It would be quite the sight wouldn’t it? And a very welcome one too, I am sure.
I love how she doesn’t romanticize her life. You feel her pain when her ducks are killed by a wild animal. You go through the emotions of the slaughter of her animals with her, and winch when she steps on a bee from her hive. She tells of the clutter and disorder of her house, full of farm equipment and dirt tracked in from the yard. You smell the pig sty. You know that it was hardly easy doing what she did. But the story is so inspiring, it really truly makes you want to plant a garden and raise a pig!
Whether I want to raise a pig or not, this story inspires me to be more creative and work harder to accomplish what I want. Novella literally dumpster dived to feed her pigs. She and her boyfriend would make the rounds to all types of restaurants (cheap Chinese to expensive gourmet) several times a week to get enough food to feed her pigs. They were literally raised on thrown away food. Her rabbits also enjoyed free bread. Her gardens were fertilized by the loads upon loads of horse manure they transferred themselves. While I am sure many thought her crazy, it was her passion for good food and doing it yourself and a lot of hard work that led to a very full freezer of pork meet, poultry, and a table of fresh vegetables.
It also showed one way to eat well when you have limited means. “Nourishing” food is often thought to be food for the well to do. Novella shows how work and creativity can open doors to excellent, nourishing food.
So yes, I have been inspired!
What do you all think? Does she sound crazy or wonderful?
Do any of you know “urban farmers” or are you one yourself? I would love to hear stories of people raising their own food!
*Parents: This book does contain some language.
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I think this is awesome! I actually came across a video of her on a garden blog I read a few months ago. Here is a link if anyone is interested.
I’ll have to get my hands on the book too!
Yeah! I am so glad that ou shared this with me. Thanks!
Kimi, my husband works for an urban ecology research center, and they are currently working on several grants that will establish and foster existing urban gardens in Indianapolis. In fact, our CSA for the coming year will be entirely inner-city-grown produce. It’s an exciting venture, one we hope to join once we’re in a place we own (complete with chickens, someday).
That’s so exciting! I would love for you to keep me updated on their progress!!!
Did I read this correctly? Indianapolis? We are moving to Kokomo in under two weeks (won’t be there until 1 Feb due to the length of the drive.) Could I get some information from you on what is available in that area of Indiana?
sounds like an awesome book! i’m gonna have to put it on my list of must-reads. thanks!
This sounds like a great book. I just added it to my cue at Bookswim! We raise chickens, but we live in the country. I can’t really imagine trying to do it all in the city. I look forward to reading her story. Thanks.
Sounds like a great book!
Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
Wow, that sounds like an adventure. And a great example, too, that farming is possible in a variety of circumstances, not just on 60 acres of pasture in the countryside. People need to know this kind of thing is doable, in whatever scale you can accomplish with your living situation.
I will add the first time I had to kill one of my chickens it was an awful experience forever burned into my mind. But it was under unsual conditions (the other birds had mutilated it and I had to put it out of its misery), so a little different than slaughtering an animal for food. My husband takes care of that for me. 😉 I’d rather avoid doing the actual slaughtering myself if I can (I guess I’m a little squeamish), but when it comes down to it, I really believe in what we’re doing, so that’s something of a comfort.
Fay (Ordinary Eco)
I love the sound of this book. My family and I have just started our own food growing adventure on a 440m2 suburbian block smack between a community/business zone and a local primary school. We are attempting to grow our own food and are raising chickens. There is a wonderful book called Living the good life by Linda Cockburn that is about an australian family’s challenge to spend no money for 6 months and only eat food from their suburban garden.Of course there is also the Dervaes Family in Pasadena who are urban gardening heroes.
I have not read the book yet (can’t wait), but I did take a class from her on How to Raise Chickens in the City. It was amazing, and she was amazing. We live in Sacramento, CA, so we’re just an hour and a half away from her farm in Oakland. Thanks for sharing about the book. The way you described her is really how she is in person.
Sounds a bit like what my mom did with our home in SE Portland when I was growing up, an area that is definitely NOT the nicest in town (we had 2 separate bank robbers hide out on our street in the time that we lived there, and heard gun shots on a nightly basis). In our little yard, we had a flock of chickens, 2 ducks, and 2 rabbits, along with a really big dog. Can’t wait to get the book and read it for myself!!
I read this boo a few months ago and loved it!
I just put her “How to Raise Chickens in the City” book on hold. We’re by no means in the city, but I’m curious to read it, still. I would love to try and have chickens but will have to be happy just w/ a garden as I don’t think our local laws permit them. I also don’t know how even one chicken would fare w/ our small backyard. Anyway, sounds like an interesting book – thanks!
just watched the video of her – and I think I’m confusing her w/ someone else, and a different title, lol!
but… it got me thinking – would love any gardening tips you might have 🙂 Can nourishinggourmet feature gardening articles sometime? 🙂
Kimi, I think she sounds wonderfully crazy! :*) We live in the country with our family of 8 and we truly could not afford to eat the way we do (which still has room for improvement) if we did not grow and raise at least a portion of our food (with future plans for more). (Unless, of course, we put the children in school and I took a job…which isn’t an option for us.)
My favorite agricultural principle comes from Joel Salatin… he says, “Use the space you have.” If you have some pots on a deck, use them productively. Lots more folks than do could have a garden and some chickens and this book proves you could even have pigs. Rabbits are nearly as easy to grow as chickens.
I’m adding this to my future reading list. Thanks for sharing.
I will be adding this inspirational book (with cautions) to my list!
I too read this book a few months ago. What a great book and what insights into urban livestock care. I loved her detail about the life and death of the animals she raised. I grew up on a rural farm when small family farms still existed. Today I live in the suburbs of NJ (isn’t all of NJ a suburb) and I often feel disconnected from my farming upbringing. This book helped me to feel that place isn’t always what matters and that farming and self sufficiency come in many forms.
Christine @ Fresh Local and Best
This book sounds intriguing and inspiring! When I lived in San Francisco I used to compost in my apartment and distributed it in the tree plots along my street. I would have loved to raised chickens, but I’m afraid without a backyard, I was quite restricted.
So glad you shared this book review with us, and thanks to the commenter who posted the link to the video interview. Our library has 4 copies with 3 holds on the first one returned. That makes it really tempting to just buy it from Amazon. I’ll try to hold out….
I read Farm City over the summer. I couldn’t wait to buy it after hearing Novella in an NPR interview, and when I got the book I couldn’t put it down. I live on a rural property (mostly forest, but room for animals), and Novella has done much more with her urban lot than we have with our farm, she puts us to shame. I hope to follow her example and get some chickens this spring and raise our own laying hens. Novella is indeed brave and committed and writes so beautifully about her efforts to produce real food. Thanks for spotlighting her book. I hope all your readers are inspired to read Farm City.
I read this book last winter, after we had begun urban farming. I live in the city in Seattle and took out the front lawn to grow food. I managed to grow enough veg until a few weeks ago and am starting more next month so that we only will need to buy a few month’s worth of veg this year. I put up enough food stocks last summer to last us until next summer. We have chickens for eggs and I’m ordering a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. I have a worm bin in my living room. Planning for honey bees, meat rabbits and possibly meat birds as well.
It’s amazing how much you can grow on a small city lot. I use not even 1/3 of my 1/4 acre. It’s so refreshing to have your own food supply almost completely under your control! No recalls, no label reading, just me and the local farmers I’ve interviewed before buying from them.
I loved this book, too. Not only are her stories so interesting, she writes them so well it’s a real page-turner. Great review!
This sounds interesting, but in my little town, even we have zoning laws about what animals you are permitted on your property. No chickens, no goats, etc. Is this addressed in the book?
My husband remembers, from childhood, that this conditions in chickens is lice. He can’t remember what they did for this but he remembers it was some kind of powder. He said your local feed store will know what to do.
Hope this is helpful,
Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen
Sounds like an inspiring story! I am not an urban farmer, but will soon be a farmer, when we move to our homestead in Northern VT this spring! Can’t wait for the new adventure!
I love the idea of urban farming! My wife and I are currently packing as much farm as possible into an acre in the country, but there’s something even more appealing in creating a peaceful oasis in the inner city. I don’t know if I would want to face those specific challenges, but kudos to those of you who do! We’ll definitely add the book to our reading list.