by William Alexander
TBR books sitting by my bed and requested from the local library five titles on gardening and food that have been looming in my mind recently, whispering: read me, read me, read me. This was the first. Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable Miracle is next. And all of Michael Pollan's books on food are following!
In The $64 Tomato, William Alexander looks at twenty-five years of gardening in his backyard. He turned a hillside field into a huge, nearly unmanageable vegetable and flower garden. The book follows his battles with nature: groundhogs, insect pests, thieving squirrels, etc. It's pretty hilarious.I don't think I would ever use his methods: hiring a landscaper to prepare the plot, setting up a five-thousand voltage electric fence, trying to outright kill any wildlife that wants to munch on his prize heirloom tomatoes. Yet I can sympathize with his frustrations. The crazy thing is that after spending tons of money on his garden, and struggling to get it to produce, he had more food than his family could eat, and ended up giving most of it away. At that point I would seriously scale down my garden!
If I tell you all the things I identified with in this book, you'll learn a lot about me. I could relate to: buying a house that's stood empty too long and needs fixing up, having to deal with independent contractors as a new homeowner, growing apples (my mother has apple trees in her backyard), having a family member in private medical practice (my dad) which makes everyone think you're rich but you're not, dealing with clay soil, attempting to use a hand mower (I borrowed the neighbor's once, then gave up on that romantic idea and bought a gas one), even the groundhog! We have caught two glimpses of one that lives under our backyard shed, but he doesn't seem to be eating the garden yet and I certainly wouldn't wage war on him if he did. I doubt I would enjoy this book so much if it all wasn't such familiar ground. It's not the greatest writing, and the humor certainly won't appeal to all. But I kept laughing, and laughing, because it was so close to home. Thanks to Juli at Can I Borrow Your Book? for bringing this one to my attention!
Rating: 4/5 ........ 265 pages, 2006
More opinions at:
My Life by the Book