For me, the novelty of year-long project books wore off long before A.J. Jacobs dulled my enthusiasm with The Year of Living Biblically and Gretchen Rubin killed my tolerance completely with The Happiness Project. Happily, I didn’t notice from the sub-title that The Quarter-acre Farm is one of these very projects.
In 2008, amidst mad-cow disease, sky-rocketing fuel costs, salmonella outbreaks and news reports of genetically altered food and pesticide risks, Spring Warren announced to her family that she would transform their suburban lawn into a garden from which they would eat. And thus, a hobby grew into a passionate gardening habit. The appeal of The Quarter-acre Farm, over a traditional cookbook or gardening book, is that the lessons are enveloped in story. I had made two of the included recipes before I had finished reading the book, and have since realized that I’ve never before made two recipes out of the same cookbook. It’s true, unlike Warren, I had to purchase the majority of tomatoes for my vegetable sauce, but the recipe took care of an over-abundance of squash I had on hand. And the simplicity of Walnut French Toast meant I had everything on hand to make a luxurious Sunday morning breakfast without a special trip to the store. And while I won’t ever eat the snails I find under the rotting log pile, I don’t judge Warren and her family for having done so.
The convergence of circumstances that inspired action alone, makes for thoughtful reading. Then watching someone approach a project that many discuss, but few act upon is inspiring. Warren has led by example, for I am now wondering what my small patio might look like with an apple tree instead of the redbud; grapes instead of honeysuckle; blueberries in place of azaleas.