Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Book Review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver, 2007
Pages: 384, ISBN: 9780060852559

Reviewed by Jeff Ross, Master Gardener, Maricopa County, AZ – 2007

“Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them.” — Barbara Kingsolver

Master Gardeners have a diverse set of interests and concerns some of which may be directly connected to gardening. I have always had a respect for nature and science and how they relate to the various methods involved with successful gardening, i.e. composting, vermiculture, pest management, etc.

It was because of these attractions that I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver first got my attention because she lived in Tucson and did her fair share of desert gardening. This book, however discusses her journey from the desert southwest to “a place that could feed us”; Virginia. Not only did she and her family change their geographic location, they took this opportunity to revise their lifestyle to adapt their lives to creating as small an environmental footprint as possible as a one-year experiment which could be extended.

She readily admits that what she and her family embarked upon is not practical for some and may be difficult for others. The book, however, is an attempt to encourage most of us to think about how we obtain our food and water and whether we can do so in a way that is better for our health and the health of our planet.

Barbara Kingsolver does not attempt to force this lifestyle on the reader. Throughout the book she simply says this is what I am doing and you can do it too. There is no preaching, just an explanation of her methodology and environmental philosophy. The author makes note of the trade-offs. Naturally some of the adjustments will not work in other geographic areas or meld well with certain lifestyles. The main takeaway is that most of us can probably do better and work smarter to help ourselves and our environs.

The reader follows along as Kingsolver and her family raise their plants for both immediate consumption and preserving for out-of-season use. The sections related to raising animals for family meals may prove a bit more difficult for some to appreciate. Even turkeys are cute when they are chicks, but this does not shield them being served on a dinner platter in Kingsolver’s household once they become adults.

This book does not portray the family’s adventure as a panacea and we suffer along with Kingsolver and her family as they deal with a variety of pests, blights and animal infertility. Through it all she exhibits her witty take on the entire situation as only she can do. Injecting humor into serious topics proves to be one of her fortes and makes the book immensely enjoyable even as she refers to the slaughtering of animals using the euphemism of “harvesting.”

Not only do we read the thoughts of Barbara Kingsolver herself, but also those of her husband Steven Hopp and her daughter Camille. Camille focuses on the nutrition aspects of the family’s locavore inclination and contributes recipes for us to consider. Steven offers a deeper dive into the science and business-related aspects of their new lifestyle and how it contributes to their goals.

One of the last chapters of the book discusses her ordeal with trying to raise turkeys who are generally artificially inseminated for this process, but she is determined to encourage her charges to do it the old fashioned way. We follow her trials and tribulations thorough this ordeal. It is perhaps the most poignant and satisfactory section of the book.

To make the book and subsequent message more enriching for readers, the author(s) have created a website to add to and enhance their story in hopes of helping all readers to consider some of their suggested lifestyles modifications.

NOTE – The website,, is divided into several sections: The Book (a few brief excerpts), Farm Tour (seasonal happenings), Recipes (downloadable format), Harvest Table Restaurant and more.

Photography: My Shot — Male Elk on a Hill

We were up early and exciting about taking a hike along the Beaver Ponds Trail at Yellowstone National Park. As we began the moderate incline to start the hike, a male elk was standing watch with a doe a bit farther down the side of the hill.

As we waited a moment before proceeding, the elk sensed our presence and took a look over his shoulder. I quickly snapped a photograph with my least capable, but longest telephoto camera to grab this shot.

Looking at him in this photograph, viewers can tell that this adolescent male was very confident and proud. Shortly after capturing this picture we were called back by park rangers and headed for another access to the trail. After all, this is their home!




File Name: IMG_1061.CR2
Capture time: 8:16 AM
Capture date: Sept 14, 2018
Exposure: 1/200 sec @ f/8.6
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Lens: 4.3-215mm
Edited in Lightroom


See more photography posts HERE and visit Jeff’s Instagram site HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 –

Photography: My Shot — White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae)

As readers of JBRish might recall, I volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix, AZ. It is the second most visited tourist attraction in the state after the Grand Canyon. After all, what can compete with the Grand Canyon?

The DBG recently constructed a new and much improved butterfly pavilion which houses two different butterfly exhibits each year. One focuses on the Monarch butterfly while the other shows a variety of butterflies.

The picture above was taken during a recent visit to the DBG and the butterfly exhibit. These are beautiful and dainty creatures. It is always breathtaking to see so many of them up close among a captivating floral setting.




File Name: XT2A1876_r.tif
Capture time: 11:18 AM
Capture date: Oct. 6, 2018
Exposure: 1/320 sec @ f/5.6
Focal Length: 55mm
ISO: 200
Camera: Fuji X-T2
Lens: XF18-55mm, F2.8-4 R LM OIS
Edited in Lightroom & Photoshop


See more photography posts HERE and visit Jeff’s Instagram site HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 –

Photography: Animal Silhouettes or People

As readers of JBRish know, photography is one of my hobbies and it is very interesting to me to find that there are so many subsets of photography for specialists.

Did you ever try to take a good picture of food? It is harder than you might think. Look at a couple of recipe websites and notice how interesting and wonderful most people manage to make the ingredients and finish serving appear.

Besides food photography, there are the more popular categories of landscape, portraiture, travel, etc. Of course there are some very unique categories as well such as astrophotography, medical photography and street photography just to name a few.

Then there are those photographers who are just very creative in what they do. I have often come across an interesting photograph and wondered: “Why didn’t I think of that?” And then again, even if I had, there is a world of difference between thinking of something and the doing. The photograph below is an example.

The only information I could gather is that this photograph was taken to support animal adoption. Some consider it an example of optical illusions. I just think it is pretty darn clever.

Have you seen any interesting photographs that were extremely creative? If so, why not provide that information in a comment for all readers to appreciate?



NOTE – I don’t have the information for appropriate attribution. If anyone can provide the correct data, please leave it in a comment and I will certainly update the post.