After moving to an upstairs apartment in an old house in inner-city Oakland, Novella Carpenter and her partner Bill take over an adjacent vacant lot to raise food. First they buy honey bees and an assortment of poultry and prepare a vegetable garden. The land does not belong to Novella so she permits neighbors into the garden to take home produce. This is very welcome in a neighborhood where most groceries are purchased at a nearby convenience store. Through her garden, Novella and Bill become friendly with an assortment of interesting neighbors. Rabbits are added to the menagerie, raised for meat as are some of the poultry. At one point, Novella decides to live for a month eating only what she produces or can trade for. She gets tired of the monotony of her diet (and Bill's disapproval), so she trades some produce for a restaurant meal. Living on a limited budget, Novella and Bill scavenge for food for the animals, spending several evenings each week picking weeds and dumpster- diving at nearby restaurants. Doing this, she meets the chef of an upscale restaurant who teaches her the fine points of curing Italian meats and eventually she has her hogs butchered (yes, she raises 2 hogs on the lot!) and cures the meat under his tutelage.
While the book has many funny moments, one caveat: Novella Carpenter doesn't hold back when describing the killing of the animals—descriptions are often explicit. This book would appeal to those who are interested in gardening, farming or raising livestock for food. It shows that anyone can grow something edible-even if only on their patio or balcony.
Reviewed by nw, 03/11. Other reviews by nw.