Can I just begin by saying that I love, love, loved this book? I didn’t just like it, I absolutely adored it, as Angela can attest to because I kept gushing about it in our convos as I was reading it.
I am not sure how Vicki does it, but she has this amazing way with words where she manages to tell you a story of climate change, peak oil, and food insecurity, but in such a way that you feel uplifted and ready to make a change in your local community by the end of it!
That was how Blessing The Hands That Feed Us made me feel, and I want everyone to read it.
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The greatest book you’ve never heard about?
It seems to me that everyone in the personal finance, frugality and freedom community has heard about and loved Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. I read it a few years ago, and while I did thoroughly enjoy it, it did not leave me with the same warm, fuzzy feelings like Blessing The Hands That Feed Us did. But it seems to me that no one, or very very few, of the people who rave over Your Money or Your Life even know that Vicki wrote another book!
Take my word for it. If you’re in any way ecofrugally inclined and you liked YMOYL, you’re going to absolutely love Blessing The Hands That Feed Us.
What is it about?
In a nutshell, Vicki is challenged by her friend and gardener to live on what she can grow for her for an entire month. Never one to contend with small life-changing challenges, Vicki decides to limit herself to sourcing all her food (except a few exotics like oil, salt and lemons) from within a 10-mile radius during that same month.
Where she lives, that means no grain, no coffee, no chocolate, no sugar, and a great deal of other things. The book follows her as she shares her reflections, her brainstorming and her creative problem solving skills as she traverses her local area from top to bottom in order to squirrel out all sorts of local suppliers. From honey and eggs to meat, dairy and cheese.
But this isn’t just a book about the challenge ™. If anything, the challenge gets almost surprisingly little attention. The focus on the book is about how Vicki rediscovers community of a kind she remembers as a child when she truly connects with the people who grow her food.
Milk is not just an anonymous carton from the grocery store shelves. It comes from a real cow and a real farmer who shares her views, her story and her struggles with you.
The price of carrots
If food we bought from the grocery shop goes bad, we feel a little guilty, toss it out, and buy some more.
But would you be able to look your friend in the eye if the carrots they lovingly planted, tended, harvested, and gave to you went bad and were never eaten?
Would you fight with your neighbor over the price per pound of their organic, free-range chicken when you know they have a family to feed and barely make minimum wage for their time if you look at the numbers in earnest?
This book is about that. And it is about how food suddenly became so much more than just sustenance when it comes from the people you know and speak to on a regular basis.
It is also a book about making change, and great big numbers about big agriculture and global food supplies and local resilience and a great many other, important things. All in the voice of a fun, humble, and reflected author with incredible storytelling skills. You are never made to feel stupid, or that these issues are too big for any single person to tackle. On the contrary, after reading the book you are left with the feeling of local communities and single people being the best solution to regional resilience both in terms of food supply and climate change.
Throughout the book, you fall in love with Vicki’s neighbors and community, just as she is doing, and you find yourself wanting the same thing. Her deep admiration of younger generations is a stark and welcome contrast to headlines who insist on putting different generations at opposing ends of almost everything.
A book about hope
When I sat down to write about this book, I was not sure I would be able to write a whole post about it. I just loved it. It was as easy as that. And as difficult as that. Vicki is an amazing role model. Using her financial independence responsibly to enact change and invest in local, sustainable efforts and improving her community.
It is rare in this time of heavy, serious books about climate change and peak oil, to find one that covers the same topics, but in a way that makes you feel happy and hopeful by the end of it, instead of a sense of overwhelm and despair.
Blessing The Hands That Feed Us is exactly such a book. So go, read it, and let me know what you think!
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