Skip to main content

Book Review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Homesteading is not a stagnant lifestyle. It is constantly evolving. Each step is a genuine mystery that has a tendency to unfold unexpectedly thus leading us to another interesting pursuit.

The knowledge that we gain along the way is as important as any harvest. In hind sight I am able to gauge specific instances in which my stride lengthens momentarily. Every so often I discover a book or an author who displays information in a manner that resonates to the root of my soul yet until reading their literature I had been unable to find a voice for the specific notion.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read such a book. Though written nearly 10 years ago I read it for the first time this month. I am talking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ~A Year of Food Life~ by Barbara Kingsolver.

An amazing book. The general premise is that the authors family of four move from the food desert of Arizona to the lush farmland of southern Appalachia and decide to eat local and raise their own food for one year. When one takes the time to think about such a venture it really is staggering since we, as a society, are so dependent on "someone else" for our food.

That is the short description. The long review is that this is a life changing read. It covers everything from the Orwellian Farm Bill that does very little to support local farms to the issue of heritage breed livestock and their ever decreasing numbers. It addresses the often overlooked issue that food is political whether you want it to be or not. It is social, it is environmental and in its most basic form it the building block of family and the love they share throughout weekly meals and their yearly traditions. It expresses the fact that food is hard work and each meal has consequences though usually out of sight and out of mind. From cover to cover it is poetic, sad, funny and infuriating.  

Kingsolver's attention to detail is obvious and her research shines through. She is able to balance this with a sly sense of humor. Her husband, Steven L. Hopp, contributes with important social commentary and her oldest daughter Camille Kingsolver provides examples of their yearly meal plan.

On some level it is difficult for me to express how important a book like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is. If you have a library card read it for free. If you have some jingle in your pocket add it to your collection, I did, it is that good.


Popular posts from this blog

Swedish Flower Hen

The rare Swedish Flower Hen has a unique story. Called Skånsk blommehöna(Bloom Hen) in their native country of Sweden this landrace breed was thought to be extinct in the 1970's. (The term landrace refers to the fact that S.F.H.'s were free to develop for nearly five hundreds years without interference from man, so to speak). But in the late 1980's the Swedish Poultry Country Club located isolated flocks in the villages of Esarp, Tofta and Vomb. The gene bank that was eventually created by the S.P.C.C. was successful and there are approximately 1,300 Swedish Flower Hens currently in Sweden.

While enthusiast of rare breeds continue to work hard to increase the numbers it is painfully obvious why they slowly fell out of favor nearly 100 years ago. Though rare and visually stunning they cannot equal the number of eggs some of the top laying hens produce in a peak yearly cycle. Swedish Flower Hens average around 150 eggs over the course of 12 months. Compare that with the nea…

In Winter

I enjoy winter when it arrives at the homestead. Though the gardens are long since dormant there is still plenty to do.The rabbits and the chickens need constant care. A couple of times a day I have to break ice from the animals water and make sure they have enough warm bedding.

I don't mind though. No matter how cold it gets. There is poetry in the garden during summer. Birds sing with triumphant melody. Soft summer rains baptize new growth. But the winter features a more solitary form of art. For the most part there is a resonating silence that is a canvas for the occasional temperamental gust of wind and snow. These same squalls force the breathe from my lungs and scatter the frozen mist before my eyes. Then, once again, there is silence. As any good steward I try not to disturb this peace. If anything, I try to move unnoticed among it.

When it is cold enough the trees will produce an individual moan as they threaten to splinter in the darkness of the woods. They all have their…

The Land of Plenty

The idea that I am about to present to you is certainly nothing new. Wonderful organizations such as Ample HarvestPlant a Row for the Hungry and countless food banks and pantries across the country have been confronting the issue of hunger in our communities head on for some time.

Food insecurity is a cornerstone of the human condition. A little research will lead you to discover a long history of charity in opposition. For example, the seventh century Irish Benedictine monk St. Fiacre who was a master herbalist eventually settled in France and practiced a reverse tithe by keeping 10% of his harvest while giving away 90% to those less fortunate.

Life is complicated, as we all know. There are no easy answers to any of the problems that plague our society but there are some very simple issues that could be addressed that could in turn have a ripple effect on a number of other dilemmas such as poverty, health and even violence.

According to the USDA 40% of the $161 billion dollars’ (yo…