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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.
This is not a manifesto about why self-gardening is best and it doesn't wrap up uber-neatly, the way a lot of "I tried this for a year" memoirs do. Warren offers up practical tips and lessons on which vegetables thrived, which didn't, and why, and what she did with both the food and how she composted and tried various ways to increase her yield. The chapter where a "real" farmer comes and inspects her farm is especially interesting. I recommend this even if, like me, you have pretty much no thumb at all when it comes to gardening. Of course, if you do have an inclination toward growing even a small amount of your own food, you'll appreciate Warren's tips and especially her voice, but you don't have to have ever though about gardening or farming before to get a lot out of this book. The sheer respect Warren shows for the animals in her yard (geese!) and the plants and land she is using made me take a look at how easily I consume and dispose often prepackaged foods. Though, again, this is not a manifesto and Warren isn't condemning how others eat, her critical look at the true impact of our modern consumption should certainly prompt more than a little introspection when it comes time to grocery shop or choose what to eat next.
Somehow this book manages to be an excellent "how to" guide, an extremely funny diary of the author's failures and successes, and a very readable instruction manual all at once. It will make you feel that producing some portion of your own food is an achievable and worthy goal no matter where you live. This book is just the encouragement and assistance that you've been looking for if you are dreaming of growing your own food on your own small lot/yard.
Above any practical value [though there is TONS of that], this book is the most entertaining and funny thing I've read in ages. Spring Warren has such a humorous perspective and such a clever way of looking at things, I really enjoyed reading what she had to say. I also enjoyed her indomitable spirit which comes through so clearly in this book. Even if you don't ever plan to grow a single thing in your yard, you might enjoy this book just as a really fun read.
I bought this book on a whim because I've been longing to transform my yard into something beautiful and practical [as in: something that feeds us!]. I am so happy that this was the book I chose - it was more than I ever expected. I have laughed out loud and been truly motivated to try this idea. I have learned more than I would have thought possible; all while reading a really great story. You can't ask for more than that from a book.
I agree with another review that says this book avoids all the preaching and chiding that other "environmentally friendly" book often contain - it sure does. The author teaches without preaching and entertains you the whole way.
Buy this book - you won't be sorry!