Monday, May 2, 2011

The Dirty Life Book Review

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball has now become one of my favorite books. Kimball tells the story of her transformation from a single New York City denizen to Upstate New York farmer and wife in a way that read more like a novel than a memoir or autobiography. Her descriptive powers and incredible honesty paints the picture of a farmer's life in a way that would make even those who think worms are icky want to pick up a shovel and dig in. From the book jacket:

Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed  her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a  new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm...
I loved some of the wildly funny yet vivid descriptions in this book. In one chapter, Kimball and her husband travel to an Amish auction where a few Amish farmers were selling the contents of their farm in order to relocate. Since Essex Farm was to be worked by draft horses using organic methods rather than by tractors, an Amish farm had most of the equipment they would need. She describes the auction process as well as the people who attended and worked at the auction site. At one point after the auction had concluded a group of men walked into the refreshment area.
They all have the same style eyeglasses - those slightly oversize plain wire frames that the kids who took the auto shop classes in high school wore - and they have the lenses that tint dark when they're out in the sun, so when the whole lot of them walked into the warming area, it looked like a ZZ Top tribute band convention, all long beards, dark suits, and shades.
Conversely, Kimball is also proficient in conveying the true love she felt for the animals on her farm and how hard it was to see them suffer from attacks by wild animals or other natural but heartbreaking ailments. She came to realize that on a farm the animals take top priority over anything else that may seem important to the rest of the world. Farm chores were kept organized on their planning calendar in the kitchen.

The day in October when we planned to get married Mark had written WEDDING, and below that, on the same day's square, 50 CHICKS ARRIVE. The letters were the same size, and the only thing that set the first event apart from the second was a pair of conjoined hearts. The following week he had written HONEYMOON and also, neatly, EXTRACT HONEY from the hive.
I am intrigued by the idea of the "whole diet" CSA model that Kimball and her husband pioneered in their small farming community. From their farm, subscribers could get vegetables, fruit, beans, pork, beef, chicken, grain, flours, eggs, milk, cheese, maple syrup, flowers, herbs and more. I would love to have such a model in my back yard, but sadly I don't live on 500 acres or have the farming experience to make something so grand work at this time in my life...maybe someday.  But until then I can live vicariously through Kristin and Mark. I loved this book and definitely recommend it to those of you who are interested in gardening, farming, country life or who just like a good read.

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