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Sunday, Nov 18, 2018
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City Girl Farms Inspiring Territory

"Made From Scratch," by Jenna Woginrich (Storey Publishing. $21) What happens when a city girl in her mid-20s begins to discover her inner farmer? When she has college loans to pay off, she doesn't quit her day job in Web design, and she doesn't plunk down money for a ranch. Instead, she starts small at her rented place: a few square feet of vegetable garden, a handful of chickens and some entertaining thoughts about recalibrating her life to reflect her new goal of becoming just a little bit more self-sufficient. Subtitled "Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life," this slender (160 or so pages) book is part humorous memoir, part how-to manual and wholly inspiring.
The road to farming is not without bumps. Jenna Woginrich has her share of livestock disasters. Her "otherwise sweet Siberian huskies" eat the first brood of chicks. There's a fatal rabbit mishap, and of her beekeeping, she notes, "I can't say I'm proud to admit that I spent a summer killing 20,000 bees." Still, the rewards are sweet: "When your friends fall asleep on the couch with full stomachs from the food you've produced and cooked for them, it gratifies you in a way your expectations could never have prepared you for. When you can give people that sense of fullness and contentment, you start seeing your garden and kitchen and chicken coop in a different light." By slowing down and learning to produce her own food (and occasional clothing item) from start to finish, Woginrich uncovers alternatives not just for eating or a lifestyle, but also for finding joy. It's a timeless theme, one explored by such American greats as Benjamin Franklin, Wendell Berry and Frances Moore Lappe. Woginrich brings a slightly goofy 21st century perspective to the subject: "The flock was less work than a housecat and cost less to acquire, set up, and feed than buying a new iPod. I didn't understand why every backyard in America didn't have a flock of its own. They were quieter than any of the neighbor's dogs and just puttered around the garden eating slugs and bathing in clouds of dust. I envied them every day I drove off to work." And by the end of the book - if not the end of the chapter titled "Chickens, the most exciting backyard accessory since lawn darts" - the reader will be wondering as well: Why not chickens? Why not chickens now?

Amy Smith Linton of Tampa is a freelance writer.

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