I started working at the local public library just over four years ago. Besides getting first dibs on the new releases and getting to help choose which books to buy, another benefit of my job is the amount of money I save. I know you don’t have to be an employee of a library in order to reap the benefits of them, but I didn’t really use it to its full potential until I worked there. I am continually reminded of the fact that I can get my hands on almost any book I’d ever want to read for free. Sometimes though, I come across a book that I feel compelled to own. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is one such book.
Barbara Kingsolver has been one of my favorite authors since I first read “The Bean Trees” back in 1990. And I’ve referred to her personal essays in “High Tide in Tucson” many times when I’ve been trying to transform my own thoughts into writing. When I read the premise of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” I knew it would be a good investment so a couple years ago, on the day it was released, I made a special trip to The Homer Bookstore and forked over $26.95 plus 6% sales tax for a brand new hardcover.
In case you aren’t familiar with the book it’s about a year in the author’s life when she makes a concerted effort to feed herself and her family only food that is locally produced. She describes raising turkeys and chickens, growing a garden and seeking out goods produced by other farmers and ranchers near her community.
The concept wasn’t entirely new to me. I grew up eating lots of food that my parents had either grown or killed themselves. In my adult life I eat salmon and berries that my family harvests each summer and I keep chickens for the fresh eggs they provide. We try every year, with varying degrees of success, to grow a vegetable garden. But Barbara Kingsolver’s book inspired me to take it all a step further.
This year we bought half of a cow that spent the summer grazing at the head of Kachemak Bay, just a few miles east of our house. Every time I drive to and from town I pass the place where it was born, and the butcher shop where it was processed. It doesn’t get much more local than that. I spent the better part of Friday afternoon sledding three huge boxes of meat to our house, and rearranging the salmon and halibut in our freezer to make room for it. Somehow I managed to make it all fit. The arrangement is precarious however and I feel like I should post avalanche warning signs on the upright freezer in the garage.
There’s something deeply satisfying about having a full freezer, and knowing the stories of how all of the food came to be there. For me it’s the stories that make life more interesting and everything has a story; every item I buy, every tune I play on my fiddle, every person I meet, and every meal I prepare for my family. I guess that explains why I feel compelled to write, and why I’ll never be able to read all the books on my list. It’s a good thing I don’t have to pay for all of them.