I came across The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball by accident when I was looking up books on Amazon. It was one of those recommended books and since I am a book addict I clicked. The first few pages grabbed my interest as they talked about cooking, organic farming and a dream. The Prologue did everything a good prologue should do: give some background information, sets the setting and hooks the reader.
The book arrived at the library after my first rush of books so it got set on the back burner. A few days later though, the audio version came in. Obviously I was having a brilliant moment when I requested it, although I cannot remember requesting it through the library - go late night book requesting. The audio version was perfectly timed. I had nothing to listen to in the car and having recently joined a CSA that is thirty minutes away. This audio CD beat all the others to my library and thus began The Dirty Life.
In order to listen to a book two things must happen: I must enjoy the voice of the reader and I must enjoy the content. There have been very few books that I did not enjoy the reader and I continued listening anyway. I would put this book into latter category. There was nothing wrong with the reader's voice but for me, there wasn't enough expression and she didn't convey some of the sentences well. The reader was very good at reading slowly and deliberately. Parts of the book were rather sluggish and listening to the audio version helped me plow through those little parts.
This book is a memoir and I would recommend for anyone who is considering farming. It is also a highly enjoyable tale for those of us who are homesteaders or are interested in the rural way of life. The book is full of good and accurate information and there were many times was when I gave a little "huh" as I filed information away. The memoir is filled with laughable commentary such as her comments about how commitment to a cow:
There is no better lesson in commitment than the cow. Her udder knows no exceptions or excuses... Morning and evening, on holidays, in good weather and in bad, from the day she gives birth to her calf until the day ten months later when you dry her off, your cow is the frame in which you must fit your days, the twelve hour tether beyond which you may no longer travel.As a nursing mom, I can relate.
There were multiple times when I was surprised and giggled at myself. There are things that I would never have thought of like when the author is frustrated because she has tons of milk and admonishes that they "have to do something about this." My first thought would be, sell the milk/cheese. (I have no idea about what is required to sell raw milk or cheese or anything but that was my first thought.) Her husband's thought? Get some piglets. "They could drink some milk." That day they got pigs.
The grim side of the book includes the realities of dealing with death on a farm, from the death of their horse to the death of the dogs who attack their cow. The author writes with an emotional detachment that part of me wants to scream "They are animals!" and part of me understands that these animals are in fact livestock. They are not pets, they are part of a working farm. My biggest issue, I fear, is myself. I wonder if I could and will look at each animal and understand that they are part of a working farm. I have no issues with raising meat birds or butchering chickens but I wonder if when the day comes for culling our flock, will I have the heart to? I can shot and clean a deer but an animal that is part of my everyday life? I don't know yet. I like to think so. I like to think that I will feel the same as Jill at The Prairie Homestead. Her post on butchering her own animals gives me hope that I too will be able to butcher our own meat.
The book is laced with recipes that sounds amazing for only being a few lines long. It is an excellent reminder that it is not necessary for us to use exotic ingredients and pricey foods to have great meals. One of the recipes uses pigeon that her husband shoots. The first few sentences I heard, I couldn't help but think, Seriously? As the author says:
When I was a city person you couldn't have paid me to touch a pigeon, let alone eat one... Moreover, I knew what these pigeons have been eating, and it wasn't garbage or the stale crumbs out of some creepy old lady's scrap bag. I'd watched them stuff themselves all winter on the very expensive organic corn and wheat we were feeding to the pigs and chickens.I wouldn't have thought about it that way before reading this book. The thing is, that although we strive and dream of self sufficiency, we have a wonderful backup of the supermarket should it be necessary. We are neither removed nor secluded from society. We live in a small hamlet with more than 5 acres but could easily get to a larger city in under 30 minutes. If push came to shove, we would have no problems feeding ourselves, however it is the simple solutions, the ones right in front of us that are often overlooked. Left to my own devices, the idea of eating pigeons would sadly take years to register primarily due to my own preconceived notions. And that is one of the best things about this book. It really does make you reconsider some of our opinions on everything from horse powered farming to rats. It is subtle and there is nothing that screams "what you think is wrong!" It is a record of a journey. It is the thoughts and experiences of one woman as she goes from city life to a life of farming. It is a story of how her thoughts and daily life change, both good and bad. She has a knack for putting some of the simplest things into perspective.
I really loved the book right up until I hit the very end when the author discusses her marriage. One month after getting married, she accepts a two month writing assignment away from home in Hawaii. She comments that both her and her husband weren't sure if she would come back after. Hearing her words, I wanted to scream and ask: Why did you get married if you weren't fully committed?
Aside from the one annoyance I thought this was an amazing book. I will probably add it to my bookshelves in the near future, as much for the recipes as for the inspiration. The author and her husband make this farm successful through hard work and determination. They wanted something and went for it. The author wonders how her daughter will look back at her childhood. I think if nothing else, her daughter will know that her parents were doing something they believed in and loved. Parents who loved each other and what they do. What better memory could she have?
This article was shared on The Backyard Farming Connection, An Oregon Cottage, My Turn for Us, Diana Rambles, The Adventure Bite