Ever since I learned to read at the age of 4, the written word has been like food for my soul. Or maybe more like a good crack rock to an addict. Through books I am able to live a thousand lives. When my own life disappoints, they provide a temporary escape. Books teach, entertain, transport and elevate. I can leave my small town behind and be anywhere or anything I please.
I blame my obsession with reading on genetics. More often that not, my dad can be found sitting in an armchair, legs stretched out, reading glasses perched on his nose, a concentrated furrow in his brow as he holds a thick volume in his hands. He blasts through 500 page books in hours, running through them like a stack of pancakes.
I like to carry novels around with me like a talisman for good luck. A long stop light, waiting rooms, and other boring moments in life afford perfect opportunities to read.
As a result of this addiction, my home is overrun with books. I have three bookshelves stuffed full. Stacks of novels seem to multiply on flat surfaces and I’m usually caught up in several stories at once. I squirrel them away like I’m stockpiling food during a famine. I love book stores, especially used ones.
This weekend, I made a trip to the Foothills Farmers Market, wandering between booths set out on Washington Street in front of the grand old courthouse. Though the perpetually cloudy sky threatened rain, it held off all morning and I purchased some ground beef, a basket of peaches, still as firm as apples, and a bottle of pale pink wine made of muscadines and scuppernongs at a local vineyard.
Afterwards, we made a stop at the Hospice store. People donate items and the proceeds go towards supporting patients and their families receiving hospice care.
It had the usual jumble of cast-off furniture, toys, handbags, candle holders. And books. Lot and lots of books. Four for a dollar. My arms quickly filled up with a few children’s books for Nat, a Steinbeck classic, a compilation of Annie Dillard’s works and a nonfiction called “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter.
After scanning the first few sentences of Farm City, I was hooked.
It was right up my alley. A quirky, nonconformist with a penchant for both the urban and the outdoorsy, Carpenter details her experience as an inner-city farmer in a section of Oakland, CA known as “Ghost Town.”
It all begins with an empty lot beside the apartment she shares with her boyfriend. That empty lot, claimed like a squatter, becomes a lush garden yielding limes, herbs, melons, carrots and so much more. She keeps bees on her deck and raises meat and egg chickens. I love Carpenter’s fresh descriptions, her forthright personality and the way she takes scraps and abandoned things and turns them into something useful. I also like the way she writes, the fresh descriptions and the way she brings her neighbors to life – an eclectic, motley crew that ranges from Buddhist monks to Bobby who sleeps in junkyard cars.
I’m not even half-way through the book and I’m already longing to see this place in person. Carpenter has also inspired me to begin my own adventures in “farming.”
Now I am scheming how to build an A-frame chicken coop to keep in my backyard. I want to start gardening, canning and preserving.
And that is the power of a good book – it leads to a life that is a littler fuller, a little more enriched and a lot more inspired.
If interested in learning more about Novella Carpenter and her urban farm, visit her blog at: ghosttownfarm.wordpress.com