The Quarter-Acre Farm:
How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn,
and Fed My Family for a Year

by Spring Warren

Seal Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-580-05340-2.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 05/16/2011

Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

I couldn't stop to write this review until after I planted my yard full of tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, acorn squash, parsley and other vegetables that I knew would keep me eating until winter. Although my garden is much smaller than a quarter acre, I easily used the practices, advice, and suggestions I found in Spring Warren's funny, informative and inspiring book.

With each chapter beautifully illustrated by her son, "Nemo," Warren's book gave me the "I can do it" motivation to plant my own garden. But not just planting is in this book. Suggestions for what to do with the results of your efforts fill at least half of this book, including how to control the bugs with chickens and geese and what to do with all the eggs they produce. She froze some eggs: "cracked open the shells then stirred the white and yolk together and put them into ice cube trays to freeze...They should last up to a year." Warren also ends each chapter with yummy-sounding recipes, such as Pasta Con Zucca (linguine, squash, dark brown sugar, and sage), Mushroom Soup, and Olive Focaccia.

Warren did feed her family and herself for a year and continued farming in subsequent years as she modified, experimented, and adjusted her techniques. Acknowledging that her quarter-acre farm doesn't have all the risks of a large farm, she said, "My losses are a dollhouse mirror's refection of a regular farm. Yet that truncated risk is why the gamble is within reach for most of us. And why someone who doesn't know much about gardening can weather the ups and downs of learning to grow their own food. The learning curve is steep, but it isn't expensive."

Growing her own food left Warren and her family enjoying the fruits of their labors, sharing it with friends and neighbors, and now with her readers, as we follow her example and find joy in the harvest. Although we don't all live in California and have such a long growing season, Warren's techniques can be adapted to any growing zone.

Spring Warren is a writer who enjoys making art, building furniture, and cooking. Her novel, Turpentine, won the bronze medal in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year for Historic Fiction, was a recommended title for the New York Center for Independent Publishing, and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. She continues to grow most of her family's food on the Quarter-Acre Farm, and writes about it on her website.

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