When Novella Carpenter and her boyfriend decide to move to an apartment at the end of a street in a rough neighborhood in Oakland, California, they base their choice on the large and vacant lot next door. Already experienced with raising chickens, gardening, and keeping bees, Carpenter wants to take on a larger challenge: creating an urban farm. Farm City is a memoir chronicling her development of the vacant lot, the acquisition of livestock, and the rich and diverse characters that populate her new neighborhood.
Carpenter's voice comes through Karen White's narration as having matter-of-fact sensibility, dotted throughout the book with dry humor and a healthy sense of irony. Carpenter is constantly planning to take the operations of her farm a step further than the season before, starting with raising ducks and turkeys in addition to her chickens; but as much as she plans, something unexpected is always around the corner. White's narration at once reflects Carpenter's excitement and frustration at setbacks, as every project turns out to be something slightly other than what she bargained for.
As the narrative of Farm City unfolds, Carpenter routinely reflects on herself in relation to the tradition of farming, and it is clear she sees herself in line with both the people of the past who farmed out of necessity and writers and scholars who have written about man's connection with earth as an intellectual exercise. Instead of trying to obtain a novel and unique experience, Carpenter wants to see herself as part of a very human tradition, and White's voice commands authority when she quotes the people who have inspired Carpenter. As Carpenter describes her rationale for deciding to raise livestock for meat and the daunting task of butchering the animals herself; White is unflinching. She conveys a confidence that what may seem brutal about killing her livestock has been a mere fact of life for human beings up until recent decades, and her candid descriptions and frank tone force the listener to wonder why it's the idea of having one's own farm that seems strange, and not the fact that so few of us has any connection at all with what we eat every day. Erin Ikeler
Ambivalent about repeating her parents' disastrous mistakes, yet drawn to the idea of backyard self-sufficiency, Carpenter decided that it might be possible to have it both ways: a homegrown vegetable plot as well as museums, bars, concerts, and a 24-hour convenience mart mere minutes away - especially when she moved to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovered a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door. She closed her eyes and pictured heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop. What started out as a few egg-laying chickens led to turkeys, geese, and ducks. Soon, some rabbits joined the fun, then two 300-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals weren't pets; she was a farmer, not a zookeeper. Novella was raising these animals for dinner.
Novella Carpenter's corner of downtown Oakland is populated by unforgettable characters. Lana (anal spelled backward, she reminds us) runs a speakeasy across the street and refuses to hurt even a fly, let alone condone raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Bobby, the homeless man who collects cars and car parts just outside the farm, is an invaluable neighborhood concierge. The turkeys, Harold and Maude, tend to escape on a daily basis to cavort with the prostitutes hanging around just off the highway nearby.
Every day on this strange and beautiful farm, urban meets rural in the most surprising ways. For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill or tomatoes on their fire escape, or who has obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers' market, Carpenter's story will capture your heart.
©2009 Novella Carpenter; (P)2009 Tantor
"Utterly enchanting.... The juxtaposition of the farming life with inner-city grit...elevates it to the realm of the magical." (Publishers Weekly)
A great adventure in farming in the worst part of Oakland, CA. The adventures and misadventures of Nouvella Carpenter, hippy farmer are by turns touching and hilarious. Dumpster-diving to feed her pigs, hauling horse manure from farms outside the city, losing her geese and ducks to an opossum - all told from a singular point of view. Even if you're not as big a bleeding heart as Nouvella (and I'm not), there's lots of food for thought, along with stories of food for her neighbors.
Nouvella's more than just a latter-day hippie farmer, though - along with lots of references to to the literature on farming, self-sufficiency, ecology and environmentalism, I caught mentions of Icarus and Nobel Prize laureate Maurice Maeterlinck.
I'm a complete city-slicker, with more a black thumb than a green thumb, but this book is making me rethink a bit of how I live my life - and certainly making me change what I plan to read next. And to think I only got it on a whim, as $4.95 members-only special!
I can so relate to this book, but I live in a not so urban area. Novella pokes fun of herself and others who have tried to live this life and still be a part of the modern movement that we live in today. A must read if you have ever thought of doing the unconventional such as raising a garden, canning, or raising farm animals. This book is for you.
Wonderful reading by Karen White. Great intonation and believability as a first person reader.
The story itself was an intimate retelling of life on the farm. The urban farm. The city-dweller's forty by sixty chain link fence crop container. A realistic acknowledgement of the work, idiosyncrasies and lunacy of trying to eat off the land amidst the culture of the city.
I loved this memoir if it could be called such a work.
I loved this book! While I will never be either an urban or rural farmer, I grew up in a household that raised meat animals and grew virtually all the produce needed for the year and I think more people who want to do so, should have the freedom to. And it fascinates me to hear how it can be made to work - and work well - in surroundings that don't appear conducive to doing so!
I love a good cozy mystery or paranormal book. Some of my favorites are Dresden Files, Stephanie Plum, the Hollows, & Hannah Swenson series.
When you choose a book like this you expect to read something that's a little more educational than entertaining. In other words, informative but not as liesurely a read as maybe a Stephanie Plum novel. However, this one surprised me. It WAS educational in some ways, and definitely autobiographical, but it was also quite entertaining. I was very pleased by this book, and by the end of it I wished I had a neighbor with a secret restaurant in her basement and a pair of turkeys in my back yard. I would almost consider this story to be the Eat-Pray-Love of urban farming except Novella Carpenter's final revelation doesn't have quite the umph of Elizabeth Gilbert's. Still, the story has a similar feel and was worth my time & credits. I would recommend it to others (in fact, I am) most certainly.
This lady is so strong willed, ready to take on anything for her tiny farm, and does a great job. I really enjoyed her animal antics, her with the pigs. and just funny ways of talking on and solving PROBLEMS that came up with her animals . I listened to it two times and will listen to it again, it is very refreshing.
Her attitude about the people in her neighborhood.the way she loves her animals and the attitude when an animal has to be taken for food shows a great attitude and the follow through herself is statement to her character, I have a small farm and I totally understood her feelings
Karen is anawesome she was my favorite, but hubby went along easy to whatever she whants
Yes, I did that. watng for more books from every year the adventure continues
Can be listen to many times , it's fun.
Although not someone I would normally choose to listen to, the story of Novella in Oakland, what animals she went though had me at times in tears of laughter and I learnt a great deal from her story! Before this story, I had considered keeping a Pig but no-way now! Bees are still a possibility.
Karen's Oratory was superbly on target, it just had an air of authenticity that I've only ever heard from Bill Wallis, really made the trials and successes a joy to listen to!
One of the best of this genre of audio books I have heard.
can listen better than can read these days
the bee keeping parts
the bee keeping parts
enjoyable . educational
The humor and joy mixed with the grit.
She gives a real feel of being in the story.
There may be "no there, there" but They're There and living the dream (my dream, anyway)
Might there be a "further adventures" coming out?
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.