April 25, 2012

The Dirty Life

A few months ago we were having dinner with some friends and I was chatting about my reoccurring urge to bring home chickens or move to the middle of eastern Montana and build a barn big enough for a milk cow and some gardening tools.  My friend Tammy said "Oh my gosh, you should read "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball! You'll love it!"  And so I did - and she was right. I loved it.

Before I tell you about the book I have to tell you what happened when I went home that night and tried to look it up on Amazon. Because I am slowly losing my mind to old age, I couldn't remember the author or the title. The Dirty --. Hmmm. The Dirty . . . Girl? Yeah, I thought, that's it: The Dirty Girl. Warning: that is not the title and if you type in "The Dirty Girl you get inundated with a list of books whose covers alone make you turn beet red.

Okay, on to the review.

The full title of the book is "The Dirty Life - A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love." It's the story of Kimball, a Manhattan writer, who travels from her home in New York City to a rural area to interview a dynamic farmer named Mark. The two instantly fall in love and in a daring moment Kristin sheds her previous life to start a 500-acre farm with him near Lake Champlain. The adventures are endless. Kristin is brave and hardworking and I was continually in awe of her perseverance. She goes from vegetarian to slaughtering a chicken almost overnight. She wrestles aggressive piglets, endures rat infestations, survives being tossed in the air by a steer, and learns to drive a team of horses. There is disease, animal escapes, exhaustion (so much exhaustion) and ultimately a wedding. (I told you she was hardworking!)

Aside from being fearless, Kristin Kimball is a fantastic writer. Her clean, vivid text is dappled with lots of levity and soft wisdom. She made me feel like I was right there working alongside her. I loved her descriptions of the struggles and complexities of farm life and its emotional and physical toll. One minute her story would make me think "That's it - we're getting a cow" and then within pages I'd be saying "Oh my goodness, I could NEVER have a cow." (Obviously I'm not ready for a cow.)

This quick read is for everyone - the diehard homesteader, the suburban gardener, those wondering about a different life, even folks with no interest in even tending a houseplant. Kristin's story is full of adventure, life and even has a happy ending. Enjoy!

UPDATE: if you enjoyed her book and want a weekly dose of life on Essex Farm I just discovered Kristin's blog.

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