The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love

the dirty life on farming food and loveI came across this book while trying to find memoirs to add to my 25/25 challenge.  I knew it was going to be right up my alley for a few reasons. 1. I’m a transplanted NYer. 2. I now live in farm country. 3. I dream of having a milk cow. 4. I don’t really believe I’m capable of milking a cow twice a day every.single.day.even.when.it’s.snowing.

The book started off with a New York City writer, living on the lower east side  (which apparently is now completely gentrified, it was not when I lived there) traveling to northern NY to do a story on an organic farmer. He immediately put her to work with an assistant and walked away. This happened repeatedly over a couple days. She finally got a chance to sit down and talk to him about the story, and it was love at first site. It seemed a little unbelievable, that they could both just know, from the first moment, but it would seem they did.

She went back to New York with dreams of her farmer growing larger in her head. He came to visit, talked her into marrying him, and moving out of the city, to the country to start a new farm. A farm that would feed the local community, not just vegetables, but replace their grocery store. They’d offer meat, eggs, milk, dairy products, beans, veggies, fruit… just about a complete diet, right from their 500 acre farm.

It was not all smooth sailing, and the first couple years of this relationship were rocky, I mean, wow, rocky. They were stuck in limbo for a while as they searched for the perfect place for their farm. They finally found a place that would work  and moved in. There were plenty of hurdles to overcome, more work than two people could possible bear, but they did. They did, with the help of the community, their neighbors, their new found friends, the members of their newly founded CSA (community supported agriculture ~ where members pay an annual fee up front and then have access to the products grown on the farm throughout the year as things come into season). People they barely knew reached out, helped them, educated them, provided necessary resources, it was really amazing how things just “showed up” at the perfect time. Each and every step they took created this magnificent work of art they called Essex Farm.

“A farm is a form of expression a physical manifestation of the inner life of its farmers. The farm will reveal who you are, whether you like it or not. That’s art.”

Kristin Kimball goes into great detail in this book. Some reviewers have found it a bit tedious, but I absolutely loved it, each and every piece of horse pulled machinery, she explained and described. I could see her (and myself, vicariously) leading a team of draft horses to plow and tend the fields. Each and every animal that came to the farm was well described, including it’s demise.

I loved how we could see the change in Kristin as time went by. Whether it was learning to butcher chickens, or help with birthing calves. I loved how for every problem she came across she went and got books to find the answers… which reminds me of my own book shelves littered with books from how to raise chickens, to how to preserve your harvest.

Kristin is a woman after my own heart. I’d like to think if I had the kind of husband she has I’d be up to the challenge, but chances are, I wouldn’t. ;) I do still want a milk cow though. The descriptions of the butter, cream and cheese… mmmm… let’s just say they got me dreaming.

Which brings me to the food.  Oh yes, the food. Food that sounds so delightfully pure and delicious, it almost begs you to grow your own, so you can taste food straight out of the garden. While food was featured in the book, it was not the central theme, which I liked. It was kind of like a side dish that helps the main dish shine.

This was definitely a memoir right up my alley, and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re a transplanted city girl, finding yourself out of your element. It will probably give you a bit of hope that no matter how hard things get you’ll find a way through.

Jackie Lee Zen Wahm

This is memoir #3 in the 25/25 challenge. You can read all about the challenge here, and see the complete list of books I’ve read so far in 2015 here. 

PS. If you’d like to follow the journey of the Essex Farm, here’s their blog.

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One Response to The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love

  1. I don’t think I could ever live on a farm but I would like to learn about their lifestyle. I love to read and sounds like this one would give readers better appreciation for what farmers do for us. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday linkup last week and hope you join us again this week!

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