Who was that masked man?

It was Henry, keeping a barrier against infection between himself and the world.

We picked about 750 lbs of good apples today, with probably another 250 lbs of culls. Not a good year for apples, it seems, which is strange since it was such a banner year for pears.

I finished Farm City today, it being Novella Carpenter’s tale of her squatter’s farm on a cement-covered vacant lot in the part of Oakland that doesn’t have a Sur la Table store. It was a very enjoyable book, but it really got me thinking how even the most fact-based memoir is a story, constructed to convey what’s desired. For example, at one point, she talks about a building at UC Berkeley, “where I was taking some classes,” but the author bio on the flyleaf proudly proclaims, “After moving to California, she attended UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.” Not that it makes what she does write about any less true. But ever since I ran for governor in the recall election in 2003, I’ve been very sensitive to the stories that the facts are used to tell.

And it also struck me with renewed force how tiresome I find it when people impose weird dietary restrictions on themselves, and then complain about them. Carpenter resolves to eat for the month of July (of an unspecified year) just from her farm, but ends up with an odd list of rules.

  1. Only food from the garden and the farm animals.
  2. Foraged fruit from neighborhood trees OK.
  3. No food from Dumpsters (except to feed the animals.)
  4. Items previously grown and preserved allowed.
  5. Bartering allowed, but only for crops grown by other farmers.

She relates how she was so desperate for carbohydrates that she uses an antique coffee grinder to make meal from the multicolored corn she has decorating her mantel, and growls at her boyfriend when he wants to eat the food presented by friends at a party.

But really, that’s a small quibble, albeit one about something that seems all too common in the literature. The beautiful word portrait of Chris Lee at Eccolo is made almost unbearably poignant by the knowledge that Eccolo has since closed. And the love for her two pigs, Big Guy and Little Girl, and her anguish when she realizes that she’s sent them off to die alone, come shining through.