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The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for a Year Paperback – March 15, 2011
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—Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Reading Spring Warren’s book is like chatting with a good friend over coffee as she relates her garden adventures (some hilarious) and muses on the meaning of almost everything. This is an instructive, useful book, based on sound garden experience and in-depth research, and it’s an intimate tale of one woman’s relationship to food and family.”
—Georgeanne Brennan, author of Potager: Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style and A Pig in Provence
Spring Warren’s memoir of a year feeding her family from her suburban garden resonates with the American dream of self-sufficiencywhat she comes to know of growing food is impressive, the recipes superband it is beautifully written, enlightening, and very funny.”
—John Lescroart, New York Times best-selling author
"A wise and tender-hearted book that will teach you as much about life as it will about gardening."
—Thrity Umrigar, best-selling author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven
About the Author
Warren comes from Wyoming, where here family has lived since 1870. A true gal of the American West, she grew up in Casper and at a ranch in the Black Hills that her parents still own. She’s been a schoolteacher (children bring cow testicles to school for show and tell in Wyoming), raised pigs, killed rattlesnakes, hunted, and fished. When she moved toward writing, she was a working as a short order cook, selling worms and maple bars to campers, and teaching swimming lessons in the shadow of Devil's Tower, and was living in a trailer where she washed clothes in a wringer washer and dried them by the heat of the wood stove.
Warren now lives in Davis, California, an educational hub of the agricultural world, in the Central Valley, the world’s most productive agricultural region.
Top customer reviews
As for my review title - Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the standard I hold a lot of "homesteading" books to. That book taught me SO much about so many subjects that it's an excellent yardstick for me. Kingsolver's book is highly educational, makes me think, makes me feel involved due to her tone, and offers recipes that are approachable and "doable" for folks like me who aren't going to become pro chefs any time soon.
Warren's format in The Quarter-Acre Farm is similar to the format of Kingsolver's book; a chapter full of personal stories and interesting insights and research, along with a recipe to top off each chapter. How did Warren bump Kingsolver from my top 3? With her humor. While Kingsolver shares some fantastic stories, Warren's tone is more approachable and less professorial. Even her chapter titles bring fun to the read: "Pole Dancing" (which gave me a chuckle but then taught me very important things via her pumpkin trellis experiment) - "Magical Fruit" (yes, that would be the beans, of course!) - all sorts of things made me chuckle, smirk, and in some cases try to roar with laughter as quietly as possible so I wouldn't wake my sleeping children.
Spring Warren definitely shares plenty of insights from her own trials and triumphs in the garden that will be useful to me in my own garden; many authors in the gardening and homesteading arena do this. What she did that very few do is make everything educational AND fun to read. I highly recommend The Quarter-Acre Farm to anyone interested in gardening, whether on a hobby scale or for a full-scale local eating/self-sufficiency effort. I will be rereading this book and plan to have my children read it as one of our more non-traditional texts in our homeschool as well. I'm preparing now for the giggles from my 'tween daughter when we go over snail reproduction. (Trust me, it's worth a giggle - and who knew snails were that strong, too?) I suspect the story of her sister's hair dye venture will bring forth plenty of knowing nods from my kids as it did from me.
The reviews on the back of the book say it all. One author described reading this book as being like sitting down for a chat with a friend over coffee; I would thoroughly agree, but I expect I'd be asked to weed a bit as well. (Which made me laugh all the harder to myself, because I think Warren would convince me quite easily to do so!)
I'm not certain if the Kindle edition of this book includes the illustrations; I plan to find out in the near future by ordering it. If you want to be able to see those, I would highly recommend the print copy. But if you don't care about the pictures as much as just having a phenomenal read, get either version. Hopefully you'll learn as much and laugh as much as I did, and walk away hoping for more from Spring Warren and her garden.
I applaud the author's efforts to feed herself almost solely from her garden, but some of this didn't ring true for me. It takes a lot of time to get even a small farm going, and I wonder if she had a lot of help or spent a ton of money to get her quarter-acre farm fully operational and productional in the first season. (Which is a record!) These specifics are not mentioned.
I don't mind entertainment in the gardening book arena, and this book seems to lean more heavily toward wit and entertainment than sharing actual knowledge, which is fine. However, I consumed Marni Jameson's book, "The House Always Wins," which is written in a similar prose and storyline as Spring Warren's book (albeit Marni's book is her home improvement story). However, not only is Marni's book laugh-out-loud hilarious, but she also manages to squeeze in a ton of how-to information that really helps a homeowner. Though I did learn some interesting things in Mrs. Warren's book, I felt The Quarter-Acre Farm was a little skimpy in both areas.
Again, I hope Mrs. Warren continues her gardening journey and I applaud her success, but her book left me hungry for a little more substance.
I'm glad I read this and would recommend this to anyone who wants to start a garden or loves gardening. You get to follow along through the ups and downs and in the end find out what her family thought of her experiment.