I stumbled upon this book in one of Brattleboro's FIVE bookstores. It was on sale so I picked it up, thinking it looked like fun. Turns out you can judge a book by its cover, because fun it is. Doug Fine is a humorous writer and a great story teller. At 200 pages it's a quick and enjoyable read but still full of insight.
Fine moves to the New Mexican desert with the goal of kicking his fossil fuel habit and getting off the grid. He has no experience whatsoever with ranching, farming, or any of the things people need to be self-sufficient. To top it off, he's a Wal-Mart addict. But, he kicks his addiction early in the book and makes no secret of the fact that he asks for help whenever he can. He also buys two goats to help him get his other habit off-grid: ice cream.
A few solar panels, and one veggie oil run monster truck later and Fine is well on his way to reaching his goals. He plants a garden (several times, due to many crop-decimating hail storms), installs a solar hot water heater and gets himself some chickens. He almost makes the task seem simple (given the right friends and enough money, of course). He certainly makes it seem fun, especially with all of the humorous and well-placed recipes (rattlesnake stew when he discovers a rattlesnake near his home, although in this case the rattlesnake escapes unharmed).
The part that I found most interesting was his veggie oil car. I had all but forgotten about these little miracles with my secret (ok, not so secret) obsession with buying an electric car and powering it with solar panels. Of course a much cheaper option is to get an old diesel car and convert it to veggie oil. It's a great deal all around because normally restaurants have to pay someone to pick up their used oil and normally drivers have to pay higher and higher prices for their gas. The image of a massive fuel-guzzling truck roaring around town spurting out chinese food-scented emissions is almost too good to pas up!
My only criticism of this book is the lack of sources. Throughout the story Fine drops a few facts and figures having to do with energy and resource consumption, typical statistics to find in a book on environmentalism, but he sites no sources. Where did this information come from? There is no bibliography, no where to go for further reading. If he picked these facts up from the internet, what are the websites? Who did the studies? Who collected this data? I've never come across a book with facts that lacked sources and I found the whole thing confusing.
All in all, it was a great book and although it's not in my section at the bookstore now, it will soon.
Buy it Indie!