Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, by Doug Fine

Hoping to reduce his carbon footprint, journalist Doug Fine purchased a sprawling ranch in New Mexico, along with a couple of goats, some solar panels and a truck that runs on vegetable oil. He then vowed to grow his own food, despite the fact that he had no farming, mechanical, or goat-keeping-related skills. These experiences provided the material for Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, the half-horrifying, half-hilarious account of Fine’s first year as a green-living gentleman farmer.

I had some stylistic quibbles with Farewell, My Subaru (Fine never met a clunky political simile he didn’t like), but I was more concerned about the environmental impact of Fine’s lifestyle. Living on a ranch twenty-odd miles from the nearest town provides plenty of opportunities for survivalist hijinks, but it doesn’t seem all that green. Sure, Fine drives a car fueled by vegetable oil, but what about his girlfriend? His mail carrier? The Fed-Ex driver who brings him goat medicine? Shouldn’t he live closer to other people, thereby minimizing sprawl and lessening the environmental impact of the various automobiles that have to trek out to his place? Is his water coming from the rapidly vanishing Ogallala Aquifer? Most of us don’t need forty-one acres of remote ranchland to experience the life he describes—I can own chickens*, raise vegetables, and eat locally-grown food right here in my semi-urban neighborhood in Olympia, WA.

But while I might question the greenness of some of the decisions in Farewell, My Subaru, nobody could fault Fine's sincerity, enthusiasm, or work ethic. Fine’s determination to minimize his carbon footprint involved making more Earth-friendly choices in every aspect of his life—even when those choices came with slimy, labor-intensive, Chinese-food-scented consequences (like his veggie-oil-burning truck). I’m not about to go out there and recreate his experiment, but I’ll raise a glass of locally-grown hard cider to his success.

*Not that I’d want to, but it’s legal. I have no idea about goats, although I see various people in town have been using them for weed control.
Posted by: Julianka


23 Apr, 2008 01:23 AM @ version 0

As it happens, Salon.com just posted an article about Fed-Ex's environmental impact:

23 Apr, 2008 04:13 PM @ version 0

I read this, and I thought it was adorable (although he certainly name-dropped a lot of girlfriends, which I thought came across as a dig at his earlier relationship, which he describes-unironically!-as "spiritually unsatisfying"). The whole thing reminded me of a grown-up, nonfiction nod to 'My Side of the Mountain'.

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