The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball is what I read to reward myself after finishing The Brothers Karamazov. I was expecting a hilarious book about farming neophytes who don't know an udder from a testicle, but The Dirty Life is something different. Kristin Kimball is a farming neophyte, who leaves Manhattan to farm in the North Country of New York. Her husband, however, is an experienced farmer and knows what he's doing. His vision is to go beyond the CSA concept and provide an entire diet, not just fruits and vegetables, for their subscribers. The fact that within one year, the two of them took the neglected five hundred acre parcel and using only horse-powered tools, turned it into an organic farm, providing meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and maple syrup for their subscribers is downright miraculous.
Kimball is clear about just how difficult this was. It took multiple tries to master milking their one cow and getting the milk to land in the bucket rather than soaking her own sleeves. She had to learn to butcher and can and make maple syrup, butter, and cheese, and care for pigs and chickens and harness their enormous draft horses to the plow. They are in a constant race against the weather, especially in the spring, when everything must be planted on time to maximize the short growing season. It also wasn't easy on their relationship--they're engaged when they first get to the farm and sometimes it seems like they won't make it to the altar.
I appreciated Kimball's honesty. Sometimes I think this is what I would like to do--chuck it all and buy a farm-- above all a farm in the North Country, which is Almanzo Wilder territory, and one of my favorite places on earth. Despite the hard work, there must be real contentment in such a life. But then I remember how utterly hopeless I am with plants and gardening and manual labor in general.