Here's what Goodreads says about the book:
"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent art—and the other with a complicated and exasperating farmer."Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. 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, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.
I woke up at 2 AM and couldn't sleep, so I pulled the book back out and finished it by 4. (Some pregnant women who find themselves unable to sleep fold laundry. I read books about other people's hard work. Go figure.) I found it compulsively readable (obviously), and even if I hadn't known the area she's describing I would have found it so, but I think my enjoyment of the book was increased by the fact that I have been to that part of New York. I know what it looks like, and I know how cold it is when the snow squeaks. I know that when she says they went to an Amish auction "three hours southwest" they were headed to a part of New York state we drove through on a regular basis, because it was pretty near to Sharon Springs, the tiny town where we lived for five years. In that sense, it was something of a bittersweet read for me. I miss my fifteen acres and our big garden and the big goldenrod meadow and the white birches in the snow and the scent of the piney woods and the maple syrup we made by tapping our own trees and boiling it on the woodstove. We didn't have the same experience with friendly neighbors, and I sure don't miss having to chip the van out of the ice and snow while the wind whips by at a brisk -20 degrees. But I could relate to her story of having to catch every single chicken out of the yard before their wedding. I remember one night practically having to climb the crabapple tree in the snowy dark to get a chicken out of it. She wouldn't go home to roost because the snow had altered the look of the coop. The rest of the chickens were arranged in easier places around the driveway, but that one dang chicken who thought she was a bluejay. I finally got her down by snapping the branch she was on like a catapult.
Gosh, I miss that crabapple tree.
Anyway, if you are an armchair farmer or a homesteader or you have a garden or you belong to a CSA or you are interested in eating "real food" or you just want to read a good story about a woman who falls in love with a farmer and a farm and is transformed -- not easily, which is why it's a story after all -- then I'd highly recommend this book. Sometimes it seemed to me that Kimball fell in love with farming more than the farmer, but you'll appreciate the book because it will leave you with a lot of questions -- in the good way that interesting books do -- and it may make you think hard thoughts about how we think about work and leisure and the value of creating things by the sweat of our own brows. It will certainly make you think about the value of the food you eat.
And if you're like me, it may inspire you to go out and work in your garden. We pruned blackberry and blueberry bushes yesterday, and cleaned up the asparagus bed, and pulled a bunch of baby carrots to eat this week, and I yanked the rest of the golden beets and fed the frost-burned greens to the rabbit, who seemed most appreciative.
And then Andy and I had (another) talk about getting a cow, with me for and him advocating goats first, so maybe he's changed my mind, and now I have more reading to do. About goats. And bees.
That big green barn does seem a little empty lately.