I grew up in a beautiful, green town where families maintained very careful lawns and flower gardens and tidy backyard patches of vegetables. When we moved in, my parents considered the yards (front and back), their size, their access to sun, and ultimately put in two vegetable gardens: one outside the kitchen door, along the driveway, and one long, wide strip right in the front yard. They screened it from the street with a lush hedge of beach roses, but still, I think the neighbors were probably a bit appalled. I know I was embarrassed, even though in retrospect I’m proud of their resistance to suburban mores, and I’m certainly grateful that I grew up with so many home grown vegetables.
Spring Warren’s story is a kind of 21st century version of my family’s. In The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family For a Year, she writes about how she turned her big yard into a more productive space, despite the reservations of her family. Unlike Barbara Kingsolver, whose wonderful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle tells a somewhat similar story of a family trying to live off their own produce for a year, Warren operates on a smaller scale. Her goal is to produce 75% of the food she eats, and she doesn’t require her husband and son to make the same pledge. The book is honest and funny and includes recipes, which makes it a winner to me. I have a copy to give away to one randomly-drawn reader who leaves a comment by the end of the week.