Book Review: Farewell, My Subaru

by Doug Fine, copyright 2008

by Doug Fine, copyright 2008

I finished this quick read this morning and thought I should post some similarly quick thoughts on it. For starters, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  I expected a story, but I thought it would have some more useful how-to’s and suggestions for things.  Instead it was basically a quick memoir of 2006-2007 for Doug Fine, of his experiment to try his hand a building a sustainable ranch in the desert of New Mexico.  It was cute, and it was very easy reading, but wasn’t as fascinating as I thought it would be.  Not sure why. I think the author and I just didn’t connect and so I really didn’t care as much when things went well or didn’t go well for him.  It may have been his writing style, I’m not sure.

The story follows Doug from his purchase of a New Mexico ranch of 41 acres in the middle of nowhere and apparently on a massive floodplain that gets promptly inundated only a few days or weeks after he moves there.  His intention is to eventually be completely self-sustaining but he goes about it pretty half-assed in the beginning.  Which is completely understandable, and made me appreciate the difficulties of trying to buy local AND organic.  There’s sort of a conundrum there…either I can buy organic food that is shipped 2100 miles to my local grocery store, OR I can buy something non-organic that was grown in my county…what do you do?  (For me, I tend to go local).

He buys a couple of goats that he promptly names Natalie and Melissa (um, after Natalie Merchant and Melissa Etheridge of course) with the intention of one day becoming the king of all goat milk ice cream makers.  He talks about ice cream.  A lot.  I think he really likes it.  But he never gets any ice cream in the book, save for one time his enviro-hippie-heroine-girlfriend-flavor of the month, that he makes sure to tell us he scored with, brings him some, along with live-saving goat medicine for Natalie.  Maybe he doesn’t get sex that often, but he really seemed to go out of his way to be all, “Yup, we did it!” in the story.  Hmm…more and more he rubs me the wrong way 🙂

The book goes through his adventures in converting his transportation to vegetable oil fuel, leaving the world behind him smelling like a fast food complex, and reminding me to never ever eat at Panda Express again in my life, no matter how much I like Chinese food.  Seriously, eww.  You’ll see if you read this.  Then it goes on to his near-death solar power experience in which I wonder where the hell he got $12,000 to purchase solar panels…but then I wonder why I am asking myself this as he obviously had enough money to buy a small ranch and live there for years without any paychecks coming in.  Clearly, I’m a cynic.  Or jealous.  We’ll see.

Finally, we are treated to lovely tales about the predator and prey cycles which I probably enjoyed most of all, especially the coyote he names Dick Cheney and the rooster he names Donald Trump.  Yes, Fine’s political views shine through a lot of this book, and sometimes are funny, and sometimes are even a little much for my non-conservative but not flaming liberal eyes.  Still, he makes me laugh out loud every few pages, so all in all, I can take it.  I appreciate his reverence for the “U.N. haters” as much as the alfalfa sprout lovers, after all.

There were lots of recipes and fun facts sprinkled throughout the books and I really really need to try a few.  For instance, this one:

Thai Peanut Chard Stir-fry

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • handful of shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 leek
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (what…peanuts you say?)
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 8 rainbow chard leaves
  • 1/4 cup snow pea pods
  • 1/4 cup carrots, sliced
  • 2 TBSP tamari (must find out what this is, but presuming a spice)
  • 1 TSP Thai red curry paste
  • 1 TBSP peanut butter

Over medium-high heate, sauté garlic, ‘shrooms, leek, and pine nuts in olive oil until garlic begins to crisp.  (mmm…crispy garlic)

Add chard, pea pods and carrots.  Top with tamari and red curry paste.  Sauté, stirring periodically, untill veggies are blazing hot but still firm.  Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter.  Squeeze lime over finished stir-fry.  Garnish with parsley.

Oh yum.

(For more on Doug Fine and his book, check out www.dougfine.com.)