Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Review

This was another book in my 10 Book Reading Challenge. I actually read part of this as a reading-discussion group activity last year, but I never got to finish it. So, I went back and read the whole thing.

Now, I’m going to warn you up front that this book is not for those who are easily offended. Author Joel Salatin is very blunt, and his sarcasm is sharper than a butcher’s knife. But, you know what, sometimes we need some of that in our lives.

In his book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, Salatin describes himself as a “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic.” In actuality, Joel Salatin is an eco-friendly farmer in Virginia who raises grass-fed beef and pasture chickens. You can find out more about his farm, Polyface, here.

As the title suggests, Folks, This Ain’t Normal discusses our culture’s shift to hyper abnormality in the 20th and 21st centuries. Salatin mainly addresses these issues in regards to agriculture, highlighting issues like CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), Monsanto policies (GMO issues), and illogical government regulations regarding farming. Salatin is a die-hard advocate for the individual’s right to unadulterated food produced in an unadulterated way, and the reader definitely gets that message reading about Salatin’s propositions for ways to return to agricultural normalcy.

File:Confined-animal-feeding-operation.jpg

CAFO

In addition to addressing farming, Salatin also discusses the shift from normality in society as a whole. For example, the opening chapter, “Children, Chores, Humility, and Health,” discusses the new role youth play in the societal structure of the 21st century. Salatin contrasts the video-game playing, iPad tapping youth of today to the wood-hauling, chicken-feeding, weed-pulling kiddos of yesteryear, asserting the normal childhood is in nature and not in the realm of virtual reality (hear, hear!). Salatin also addresses environmental issues in this book, including improper usage of water and other valuable resources, cheap energy, and food mileage.

I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a book like this. It has really challenged me to view my world in a completely different life. After all, is anything in our world today normal anymore? Just turn on the news. Abnormality is trendy.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the power to change it. And that’s what Folks, This Ain’t Normal is all about.

Of course, normalcy does not mean returning to horse and buggies and women being chained to cook stoves (I don’t like that expression, but that’s another blog topic). Salatin’s view of normal incorporates the best of both worlds – the old-fashioned, common sense practices with the modern advances we enjoy today. Most of his ideas may seem extreme…but I’m not so sure they wouldn’t work, at least to an extent.

With that being said, be prepared to be assaulted with some radical ideas. Salatin urges readers to do everything from eliminating traditional toilets in favor of eco-friendly models (Sorry, but there is NO WAY I’m getting a composting toilet) to installing solar energy technology in our homes. While some of his ideas may not be feasible for the general public, Salatin does offer some very doable suggestions for our own return to normalcy, like gardening (window-sill, backyard, or full-scale), turning off the TV and electronics, making our own food, and monitoring food and agriculture legislature to ensure nutritional freedom.

File:Camille Pissarro - In the Vegetable Garden.jpg

In the Vegetable Garden by Camille Pisarro

I think one of the coolest things I learned in this book was in the chapter entitled, “You Get What You Pay For.” Here, Salatin talks about our investment in our nutrition. If you’re like me, you would like to eat all-natural, organic, pasture-raised, local foods, but reall, who has the time or the money for that? I jumped on that bandwagon last year, and for me, it was based on fear. A few months ago, I felt like God asked me if I was going to trust in myself and what I could do to keep me healthy or if I was going to trust in Him, my Great Physician. So, I’ve been kind of careful in submerging myself in the hyper health movement since that. But, I liked what Joel Salatin had to say in this chapter about our investment in good food. Probably the number one reason people choose conventional products is because they don’t have the time or the money. I like the example the author used to counter these reasons. He tells of a demonstration he did in a college classroom. As part of a learning experience, he had brought in local, farm-fresh produce and made omelets for each student, serving them with fresh apple juice. The entire meal, he averaged, cost about $1.50 per person, and prep time was about 3 minutes. Salatin showed students that they could afford to eat whole foods – both in terms of finances and time. I never really thought about it quite like that. I suppose that with a lot of planning, a family could switch over to a whole foods diet without wrecking their financial security, especially if they planted a garden. Of course, this shift may require, as Salatin pointed out to the college class, giving up “luxury” items like sodas and forgoing an hour and a half movie, but I suppose you have to view that as an investment in your health. An interesting point to ponder.

If I talked about all the ideas this book has to offer, I would be here for a very long time. I won’t bore you with my own opinion. I’ll let you read Folks, This Ain’t Normal and formulate your own.

Happy Reading!

~The Vintage Book Lady

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