by Doug Fine
(Villard; 2008; 210pps.; $24.00)
Doug Fine set four goals for himself for living locally this year:
1. Use a lot less oil
2. Power my life by renewable energy
3. Eat as locally as possible
4. Don’t starve, electrocute myself, get eaten by the local mountain lions, get shot by my neighbors, or otherwise die in a way that would cause embarrassment if the obituary writer did his or her research
To accomplish his goals, he purchased a 41-acre ranch in the high desert of New Mexico, located across arroyos that fill with high, rushing water for long periods of time. He did this with very little, if any, prior experience and with a great deal of good humor. He did indeed use less oil (trading an old Subaru for a new truck converted to use biodiesel, which he ran on grease from local restaurants), power his life with renewable energy (installing solar panels in a death-defying windstorm), eat locally (from local farmers and his challenging garden attempts and soon-to-be-milked goats), and, fortunately, didn’t die in the attempt. Which is rather remarkable, considering the total lack of knowledge he had about raising goats, installing solar panels, living in the southwest desert, and growing a garden.
Along the way, he forges meaningful connections with members of his community and shows himself to be a compassionate, dedicated person, whose love for his goats touches one’s heart. As hilariously funny as this diary is from beginning to end, it is also informative: of ways to live locally that anyone could attempt (if someone with no prior knowledge can accomplish what Doug did), of how to be flexible to meet the real challenges that will arise in such an experiment, of the importance of maintaining realistic expectations of returns on one’s efforts (like realizing that you have to raise goats a long time before you get to milk them), and of significant facts about climate change and organic agriculture interspersed throughout the story at appropriate places.
This is a how-to book for local living in a broad, not a detailed sense. It illustrates what an individual can accomplish to reduce his ecological footprint, but is not a manual on solar installation or organic gardening nor does it explain the cost involved. The author does provide a meaningful list of web resources at the end, for those who do want more instructions. And the best website to follow-up is his own, www.farewellmysubaru.com , because when you finish this book, you know the adventure is not over and you will want to keep in touch with the ongoing saga of Funky Butte Ranch to see if Mr. Fine ever is able to make his to-die-for goat ice cream!