Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits

Mar 30, 2011

Review: The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

The Book:

Kristin Kimball was single, living and working the fast track in New York City. Then she meets Mark during an interview about farming and everything changes. Kristin finds herself leaving the life she knew behind and follows Mark upstate to start a CSA farm. With no experience, Kristin begins a journey over the next year creating a place to raise crops, animals, and a marriage.

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Mar 23, 2011

Review: Art of the Chicken Coop by Chris Gleason

The Book:

Chickens need a coop, and what better way to show your love than building one?  In The Art of the Chicken Coop, seven unique coops are presented with detailed building instructions, along with an additional gallery for more inspiration for your ideal coop.  With additional information from other chicken owners, the lessons to creating a place for your chickens starts here.

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Mar 16, 2011

Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

The Book:

Everyone knew why Patrick ended up in a coma, but no one really wanted to talk about it.  Cat knew Patrick was gay, but the horrific hate crime was lost in tiny, tight-knit Black Creek, North Carolina.  Cat knows that someone is to blame, and she is willing to face her own demons to discover the one that is residing inside her town.

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Mar 10, 2011

Review: The Cruel Ever After by Ellen Hart

The Book:

Near broke, Chester Garrity returns to the one place he swore he would never go: Minneapolis.  Chester is planning on making his fortune back by selling a priceless artifact that was recently stolen from the Bagdhad Museum.  Unfortunately the sale falls through when Chester wakes up the next morning with no recollection of what happened the night before, and his mark dead beside him.  Chester runs from the area, but returns to try to clean up the mess he made.  However he comes back to a tidy home and no body.  Who would help him, and what will it cost him?

Chester decides to turn to the one person from his past that he helped start on her way to making her own mark in town.  Restaurateur - and ex-wife - Jane Lawless.

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Mar 8, 2011

Review: Tales of an Urban Werewolf series by Karen MacInerney

The Books:

Sophie Garou has a great job as an auditor for a prestigous accounting firm, a wonderful boyfriend, and a whole lot of clothes in her closet.  The only downside is the fact that she goes through a bunch of razors and a lot of wolfsbane tea each month.  Sophie is a werewolf, and after over twenty years of being on her own in Austin, she is discovered by the local pack and finds that family ties can bind in a big way.

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Mar 3, 2011

Review: Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail

The Book:

Not everyone has the space for sprawling garden beds.  Not everyone has the funds to invest in designer planters and elaborate arrangements.  Grow Great Grub is a gardening book for those with limited spaces and budgets, who want to focus on growing food in an organic way.  Gayla Trail brings an easy but comprehensive look at microfarming, no yard required.

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Mar 1, 2011

Review: My Empire of Dirt by Manny Howard

The Book:

Manny Howard was looking for work in 2007.  When New York magazine approached him to write a story about the rising urban agricultural movement and try growing food in his backyard to subsist on for 30 days.  But why stop there?  Howard decided to make his Brooklyn backyard into a farm.  For the next seven months, Howard toiled, struggled and fought for and against The Farm, his lack of knowledge and his family's dismay to prove himself worthy of the challenge.  No matter what happened.

The Yarn:

The idea of locavorism and urban agriculture is one I support wholeheartedly.  Howard's basic idea of creating a sustainable farm in his yard was a great big picture with ideas for gardening and meat animals.   However the big picture seemed to be his best way of thinking.  The actual ideas behind raising rabbits and chickens are erratic, his search for live tilapia is hilarious in its own right.  Howard dives into each project with a lot of energy but little thought.  It hurts a bit to think of the amount of money that went into preparing his dead clay yard for growing, the lumber and parts for housing chickens and rabbits and feeding them, the description of the growing pile of trash, accidental (and not so accidental) deaths of animals.

Amidst the day to day struggle of creating this farm Howard talks about his family: wife Lisa and children Heath and Bevan Jake.  Background of how they ended up married and in the house is there, along with the struggle of keeping some - very little, in fact - normalcy for his family.  The tension and trouble the farm creates for his marriage is outlined in great detail in the book.

I struggled with a lack of empathy for Howard.  His descriptions of making decisions with very little planning, and obvious lack of conversation with Lisa, definitely rub me the wrong way.  As Howard talks about his first attempt at seedstarting and watching them fail (for too little and too far away lights), this is one I have gone through myself, but instead of looking to researching why, he jumps into a hydroponics store and tries to buy the most he can with the least amount of information.  This carries through the book, and while is definitely a thought and action style some may see themselves in, my own need for planning made me want to throw books about gardening and livestock at him.

However, some of that is recovered in the last few chapters, once Howard finishes his 30 days and reflects on what he has done.  Howard's marriage survived dead animals, his daughter's surgery, a lot of alcohol, and a tornado. He is still keeping chickens, and the rabbits (for the most part) escaped being part of the food chain.  He found authenticity on "The Farm", even if it wasn't always the best pieces of himself.

My Empire of Dirt is a strong, if not always sympathetic, story of one man's work on an urban agricultural project.  You can read Manny Howard's story in New York online.

The Ink:

Title:  My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard Into a Farm
Author:  Manny Howard
Publisher:  Scribner
Date:  March 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover
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