Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Bucolic Plague

As I've mentioned before, I have this fantasy of chucking it all and moving to a farm and living off the land.  To this end, I added several books to my list about people who have done just that.  Unfortunately, so far, none of these books has helped to firm my resolve and the people who wrote them had some kind of edge to help them succeed.  For example, Kristin Kimball, the author of The Dirty Life, (which I wrote about last year) was married to an experienced farmer.  And Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of The Bucolic Plague, had money, a high-powered job in advertising, and a partner who worked for MARTHA FREAKING STEWART, and didn't even need to know much about farming because they hired a farmer to keep the farm going while they spent their weekdays in Manhattan.  And that's not the worst part.  The worst part is that despite having tons of money and their own hired farmer, it was still really, really difficult to make a success of their bucolic life.  So how in the world is a nurse/analyst, who has never lived outside of a city and who's afraid of her own chickens, supposed to succeed as a farmer?  (Okay, okay, they're not exactly my chickens, they're the communal chickens.  And I'm not exactly afraid of them, I just think they're icky and I don't like the twitchy one who pecks my ankles.)

So, Josh and Brent are this high-powered Manhattan couple, and one day, on their annual apple-picking excursion upstate, they stumble across an impeccable 200-year old mansion that just happens to be for sale.  It's expensive, but they buy it anyway, intending to use it as a weekend residence.  They're not planning to farm it, but then a local farmer asks if he can please stay on as caretaker, and oh-by-the-way, he has a whole bunch of goats who need a place to stay too. Then Josh decides to put in a garden and bam! they're farmers.  Sort of.  They continue to commute to the city, but gradually, the pressure of owning the Beekman Mansion starts to get to them.  First of all, Martha Stewart threatens to come up for a visit, which creates an enormous amount of pressure to keep the house and garden perfect at all times.  They start a blog, and a goat milk soap business, but these also add pressure to live a perfectly crafted life.  Then come the financial difficulties and relationship problems.

I don't want to give it all away, but ultimately they manage to keep the Beekman Mansion through the financial crash of 2009 and start a mercantile, Beekman 1802.  The Bucolic Plague is funny, mostly, but sometimes a bit horrifying.  The reader is also given an inside glimpse of Martha Stewart. I know this may come as a shock, but Martha is kind of a bitch. It just goes to show, just because you're a doctor and an MBA, and you work for Martha Stewart, and own one of the most gorgeous historic houses in upstate New York, life still isn't exactly a bed of roses.


  1. Of course Martha isn't pleasant. That's nothing new.

    One thing I've noticed when visiting true working farms, is that they aren't perfect. There's always machines and weeds scattered about, animals running amok, some project half done. Living on a farm is work, not a perfectly crafted life. It's people like the Beekman boys, who try to create this image where everything is perfectly crafted, that drive me nuts. Nothing in life is perfect, especially not on a farm.

    But that said, I too entertain the idea of chucking it all and moving to the country. Usually a visit to a friend's farm shakes me out of it. Not even the visit really, sometimes all it takes is the ride out there.

  2. I'm glad to hear that high-powered Manhattan couples can make it as goat farmers. This reminds me of Season 5 of Downton Abbey (no spoilers for Season 6, please!) in which the aristocrats take up pig farming, meaning actually that they hire a pig farmer.

    My husband also has a fantasy that we will move to a farm when he retires. Ha! No way, because: distance from hospitals and good medical care; heck, distance from anything worthwhile. You have good reason to fear those communal chickens: they carry diseases that transfer easily to humans.

  3. I have never succumbed to the chicken craze, unlike about 98% of my fellow homeschoolers. I can get perfectly good eggs delivered to my house, thank goodness. And I'm not silly enough to think we could live off the land, when running out of shredded Mexican cheese mix rates as a catastrophe in this house.

  4. I totally want to read this now.
    Tell me you loved that Diane Keaton movie, Baby Boom. I did and it seems like such a great fantasy.

    1. I know I saw Baby Boom, but it was so long ago, I can't remember what I thought of it. I will have to watch it again!