- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416551603
- ISBN-13: 978-1416551607
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 470 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Kimball chucked life as a Manhattan journalist to start a cooperative farm in upstate New York with a self-taught New Paltz farmer she had interviewed for a story and later married. The Harvard-educated author, in her 30s, and Mark, also college educated and resolved to "live outside of the river of consumption," eventually found an arable 500-acre farm on Lake Champlain, first to lease then to buy. In this poignant, candid chronicle by season, Kimball writes how she and Mark infused new life into Essex Farm, and lost their hearts to it. By dint of hard work and smart planning--using draft horses rather than tractors to plow the five acres of vegetables, and raising dairy cows, and cattle, pigs, and hens for slaughter--they eventually produced a cooperative on the CSA model, in which members were able to buy a fully rounded diet. To create a self-sustaining farm was enormously ambitious, and neighbors, while well-meaning, expected them to fail. However, the couple, relying on Mark's belief in a "magic circle" of good luck, exhausted their savings and set to work. Once June hit, there was the 100-day growing season and an overabundance of vegetables to eat, and no end to the dirty, hard, fiercely satisfying tasks, winningly depicted by Kimball.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Journalist Kimball accepts an assignment to interview a lanky, determined Pennsylvania farmer who runs a community farm supplying subscribers with beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, and grains. He may look a rustic, but he has a college degree and a burning passion for natural living and initiating a barter economy. The interview very quickly turns into something of a date. His visit to her on the Lower East Side of Manhattan only intensifies these two disparate characters’ mutual attraction, and they soon launch a dream farm in the Adirondacks. She proves an eager, but inept, partner who must quickly shed her urban inhibitions and learn to slop pigs and slaughter chickens. Planning a wedding that will satisfy both the couple’s rustic friends as well as her urbane family proves daunting. Kimball has a gift for throwing into high relief contemporary Americans’ disconnect between farm-life realities and city ambitions. --Mark Knoblauch
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So it was with this idyllic vision of farming that I eagerly read Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life, a memoir about establishing a “whole foods” farm with her husband. I learned so much from this book: about farming and about life.
There is so much WORK involved in farming and so much RESPONSIBILITY for living things. As Kristin shows us, there are just some things that can’t be put off until tomorrow…like milking the cow despite a heavy snowstorm or planting potatoes during the night in anticipation of a coming rain.
Kristin and Mark developed strong working relationships with the animals on their farm and dealt with most every possible situation. Their first milk cow was attacked by dogs, they lost baby turkeys to a weasel, and they had to put their trusted draft horse, Silver, down when he broke his leg. Kristin realized she was truly becoming a farmer when she became less emotional about loss…of an animal or a crop… to death of all kinds. She learned that death is just the other side of life.
I was impressed with the determination and work it took to keep weeds out of the vegetable gardens without using pesticides of any kind. I will never choose an organic vegetable over a conventionally raised one without thinking of all the work it takes to make that healthy difference in what we choose to eat.
My husband did grow up on a cotton farm, and I have heard him say that farming, simply put, was optimism, turned to despair, turned to prayer. This seems to complement Kristin’s view of agriculture: Farmers toil. Nature laughs. Farmers weep.
I realize that my romantic vision of a farm was far from the real thing. I’ve learned what I yearned for was basically a house in the country, with a garden and some pets.
Mark and Kristin have truly earned the title of Farmer. I have such admiration and respect for them and for how they have gone about achieving their dream of providing whole food for their family and their community.
I loved this memoir.
Many authors seem to think that, when writing a book about homesteading, every detail of their own psche, relationships, and daily life (buying toothpaste at Target, etc.) is worth including. When I read those books, I usually end up flipping through the book, trying to get to the more interesting parts. Kristin Kimball, on the other hand, did not include one extraneous sentence. And her sentences are those of a true writer. I often laughed outloud and I just as often went back to reread a sentence, savoring Kimball's way with words.
Before reading The Dirty Life, my favorite homesteading book was Tim Young's The Accidental Farmer. He too writes very well and makes every sentence count. But The Dirty Life is even better...
If I have any complaint about the book is that for all the details about the farm, I didn't feel like I got to know Kristin or Mark very well. The farm becomes such a developed "character" in the book, it's as if the people get sidelined a bit. As for the inner life and feelings of Kristin, I feel like she does a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. I get the general idea about how Mark drove her crazy at times, but I don't have concrete examples, anecdotes, images. I get that she fell in love with life on the farm, but I don't have a clear picture about how her transition from heels to work boots FELT.
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