A Year of Picnics


The Essential Book of Homesteading















  • Rough day yesterday Alistair has had a vicious head coldhellip
  • I like to imagine that in addition to we fourhellip
  • Carpe diem Seize the day When I first watched Deadhellip
  • We introduced solid food to Alistair today June 30th washellip
  • I am very easily satisfied A blazing fire in thehellip
  • I generally dont like to traffic in absolutes but Ihellip
  • In the past week and a half I have bakedhellip
  • Babys first snow Underneath this bear suit are red andhellip
  • Letting the light in Both kids have head colds Hearinghellip
  • These are the days we wait for all year thehellip
  • My homesteading gateway Getting a flock of backyard chickens washellip
  • That feeling when the folks youre a fan of becomehellip
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The Essential Urban Farmer (Humpday Giveaway!!!)

When I was in my early teens, I started to imagine the type of woman I wanted to be when I grew up. At the time, I was equal parts smitten with fashion, skateboarding (my brother and I had a half-pipe in our backyard and I had posters of Tony Hawk adorning my bedroom walls alongside those of Joey McIntyre), and creative self-expression. I was on the journalism staff, acted in school plays, and pursued my French homework with a studied conviction. Though I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to be when older, I knew, more or less, who I wanted to be. I wanted to be bold. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to be innovative. I couldn’t possibly have known it then, but, essentially, I wanted to be Novella Carpenter.

Novella is the sort of person you want to know. She’s resourceful. She’s smart (not just everyone can say they studied under Michael Pollan at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism). She’s funny. She’s tenaciously devoted to her convictions. And she engages in all of this resourcefulness and intelligence and humor and conviction from an urban farm in Oakland, California, where she’s been toiling the soil (and fighting the law to do so) for the past decade. Her memoir, Farm City, details her epic journey as the steward of Ghost Town Farm. This excerpt, from the book’s opening chapter, gives you a taste of the concise yet evocative prose that Novella is known for. She’s a great writer, in my opinion. She’s a seriously righteous lady, also in my opinion.

To that end, I’d like to share a bit of Novella’s newest venture with you today. Well, firstly, let me state that she actually has two new ventures going on. The first, and most paramount, is in her new role of mom to a baby girl born in late December. Secondly, and more directly relevant to this blog (and, thereby, you!) is her new book The Essential Urban Farmer, co-authored with fellow urban farmer Willow Rosenthal. A beast of a book at over 500 pages, this hefty tome details all it takes to make things live and grow in an urban setting. As the book’s press release details it:
    Carpenter and Rosenthal share their experiences as successful urban farmers and provide practical blueprints-complete with rich visual material-for novice and experienced growers looking to bring the principles of ethical food to the city streets. The Essential Urban Farmer guides readers from day one to market day, advising on how to find the perfect site, design a landscape, and cultivate crops.

Novella ran into, and continues to run into, a number of challenges as an urban farmer. From growing a renegade garden on an abandoned plot to butchering animals in an urban setting, it’s not always sunshine and happiness in the ‘hood. And that’s part of what I love about her writing, and her spirit, so very much. She doesn’t sugarcoat things. She gives it to you straight. And she’s not afraid of controversy, or of carrying the torch a long, long time for something she feels strongly about.

Penguin Books, Novella’s publisher, has graciously given me two copies, one for review and one to give away to a small measure reader. To be entered in the giveaway for a copy of The Essential Urban Farmer, simply leave a comment below. Please leave a means of reaching you, should you be the winner. I’ll run the giveaway through next Wednesday, February 8th, midnight EST. Canadians, let’s hear from you, too!

Winner or not, do check out Novella’s blog and publications. She’s a gifted, colorful, inspiring writer. She’s full of gumption. She goes for the jugular. She’s all I hope to be, and then some. My teenage self would have loved her, and my grown up self does, too.

UPDATE: The winner of the “The Essential Urban Farmer” is lucky #99, Valerie. Thank you so very much to everyone that entered! This book is a sure-fire winner, that much I know! 

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