Changes are Coming

Give a husband and wife five days off in a row, and there’s no telling what might happen.

They might, for instance, serve Thanksgiving dinner to eleven, and in the process decide they’ve had enough of making do in their hodgepodge kitchen, and two days later order brand new cabinets and appliances and start gathering volunteers to tear the place up.

Or they might hear a sob story about a friend of a friend of a friend who found a sweet shepherd-mix puppy in the city and is looking to give her away.  They might visit, swoon and make plans to bring her home, right about the same time they’re planning to lose their kitchen and most of their dining room.

And it’s always possible that the English teacher who hasn’t had time to read anything but papers like this will pick up a book that will change her life.  And if that were true (hypothetically) it wouldn’t matter a bit that the book was a gift from the author, her cousin — if anything, it would make the experience that more meaningful, a little like a letter from an older and more experienced friend who knows the way.

The Urban Farm Handbook is a witty, practical guide to your personal paradigm shift from big-box grocery to local living.  Organized into seasons (beginning with winter — how timely and / or perfect for Christmas!) that are further subdivided into subject chapters, it gives just enough detail to instruct but not overwhelm.

I’ve read a lot about the locavore movement.  The vast majority has been in the form of personal narratives, moving and off-putting by turns.  The author (and, usually, spouse) is drawn to traditional methods of farming, producing, cooking and living; s/he spends a set length of time, almost always a year, practicing these methods, and in doing so reaches some degree of enlightenment.  Even when they’re beautifully written, as most are, these books don’t do more than vaguely inspire you in some ways and nauseate you in others. Titles in this category include:

On the other side of the spectrum are books that are so professional, they’re largely over your head.  They’re also fun to read; they’re great daydream material and would be perfect resources if you decided to move out to the country, but you can’t find much use for their advice where you live.  Examples:

The Urban Farm Handbook has found the Goldilocks sweet spot: just right for people like me, who are frustrated when their increased knowledge doesn’t lead to life changes.  It’s for environmentalists who want to produce less waste, parents who want their children to grow up in a real community, and cooks who are obsessed with freshness.  It gives loads of advice to all kinds of readers.

I’m scheming to make this a monthly feature in my Patch column next year, supplementing the authors’ advice with my own research about the Mid-Atlantic region (they live in the Pacific Northwest.)  But I’ll write here about the behind-the-scenes activity, which you might find just as interesting.  In fact, I’m already hard at work on the first chapter.  Stay tuned!