Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Nook - The Dirty Life

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball:

DH and I were talking a while back about moving into a different house, one that maybe had a little bit of land to it, or maybe some great fixer-upper deal, or even something just a little less 70s.  I joked at the time that maybe we should buy a farm.  We could have bees!  And chickens!  And a cow!  And all the organic local veggies we could eat!  I was only half serious, but the idea does have merit - you can eat healthy, homegrown food without having to pay a fortune for it.  Kristin Kimball addresses this very idea in her book The Dirty Life, when she tells us "the only way he [her future husband, Mark] would be able to afford the quality of food he craved, he said, was to become a banker or grow it himself, and he couldn't sit still long enough to be a banker."

The book is just as much about food as it is about farming.  Kimball details many of their cooking adventures.  I loved reading about what foodie-farmers eat - meals like pigeon with rice and caramelized onion, nettle soup, scrapple (pig parts) and black pudding (a mousse made from blood).  There's also wild strawberries, salad greens that don't need dressing and rich, golden butter.

In addition to telling us all about their love of good wholesome food, the author shares all the labor that goes into every bite.  And it's a whole lot of labor.  She writes, "in my experience, tranquil and simple are two things farming is not.  Nor is it lucrative, stable, safe, or easy.  Sometimes the work is enough to make you weep."  Weasels will kill your farm kittens, owls will kill your chickens, you will have to kill your lame horse.  And it's not just the life and death struggle that happens every day either.  From what our author tells us, farming is almost-impossible physical work.  The kind of work where you wake up after only a few hours of sleep, throw on yesterday's dirty clothes, and work until you practically fall over from exhaustion.  And the toll farming takes on a person's health can be a great one, from farmer's tans and permanent dirty fingernails to an elderly neighbor who "was a short figure on legs so insulted by decades of labor they hardly bent at the knee at all."

The book details their first year on the farm, all the struggles the author and her husband had to get there, and all the difficulties they had when they moved in.  It's a very real look at farming.  While it certainly made me second guess my half-hearted suggestion of buying a farm, it also gave me a renewed appreciation for our local farmers and all that they do.


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