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Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn Paperback – March 28, 2006
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Farming had never been children's book writer Friend's dream; her fantasies ran more along the lines of nurturing her writing career. But when her partner, Melissa, talks her into buying a farm--and reality hits in the form of 53 worn-out acres in Minnesota--she learns how to test a ram's testicles and select a flock of 50 ewe lambs by the scientific criteria of who had the cutest face and could be caught, and she is now in the sheep business. The couple soon adds a border collie, 2 pet goats, 150 chickens, 200 grapevines, an old pickup, and an even older tractor and begin to acquire the skills needed to make a go of it. This honest look at collaboration and compromise, the pain and the joy of partnership, and the hands-on of farming will find a ready audience. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
From the Publisher
"Farms have fences. People have boundaries. Mine began crumbling the day I knelt behind a male sheep, reached between his legs, and squeezed his testicles....Janet, the instructor of this course on raising sheep, had indicated it was my turn. 'Grab his testicles here, around the widest part.' Right, no problem. At that very moment all my friends were attending a writing conference. They were warm, clean, and not feeling up a ram with sixteen-inch testicles....Wincing, I reached between the ram's back legs with my thumb and forefinger. 'Don't pinch him,' Janet cried."
Hit by a Farm is a hilarious recounting of Catherine's attempt to become a farmer; it is also a coming-of(middle)-age story of a woman trying to close the divide between who she wants to be, and who she really is. After helping Melissa fulfill her dream, Catherine eventually finds a way to recapture her own. By turns funny and moving, Hit by a Farm is a crash course in both living off and living with the land that will appeal to anyone hungering for a connection to rural life.
Praise for Hit by a Farm:
"A sweet and funny book in the classic Hardy Girls Go Farming genre, elegantly told, from the first two pages, which are particularly riveting for the male reader, through the astonishing revelation that chickens have belly-buttons and on to the end, which comes much too soon. It has dogs, sheep, a pickup truck, women's underwear, electric fences, the works."--Garrison Keillor
"What a funny, touching delightful, human story! Catherine is not only a farmer; she is most certainly a writer too."--Marion Dane Bauer, Newbery Honor Book author
"If you ever thought farming could be a fabulous back-to-basics adventure, if you ever wondered about the difference in raising, say, a sheep or a peacock, if you ever wanted an honest -- but jaundiced -- peek at farm living, read Catherine Friend's Hit by a Farm. You'll be hit by her candor and humor, and your thoughts about farming will never be the same."--Cindy Rogers, author, Word Magic for Writers, childhood farmer
"Tractor mommas, this is the book for you!"--Rita Mae Brown
"I simply could not put the book down. Catherine Friend is a luscious writer. She packs this memoir of two women starting a farm together in Southern Minnesota with hilarity, tenderness, grim reality and suspense. This memoir is, hands down, the best story I've read in ages."--Ellen Hart, author of 21 mystery novels, five-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award
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Their idea of harvesting their chickens is taking them elsewhere for processing. CHICKENS!!!!!!
Couldn't bring myself to finish this book, just not worth it.
I'm glad I checked this out of the library, instead of buying it.
If I could give a negative star, I would.
It was very interesting to learn to farm along with the author and her partner and I felt empathy for them in their many difficult situations, including their relationship woes related to the stress of being new farmers. The animals were very endearing and fun to read about . This couple clearly felt love and had personal relationships with their animals. So it was puzzling to me that they never really dealt head on with the contradictions of loving them and then sending them to slaughter. Perhaps because they didn't "do the deed" themselves they were able to distance themselves from the fact that ultimately these animals were treated not as beings but as products for slaughter, sale and consumption. To come face to face with the contradiction would have been honest and riveting, even if they made a choice to continue on that path. They never seemed to recognize the contradiction they were living and that was very sad.
Also, and it may be just me, but I read the second half of the book waiting to hear more about the border collie, Robin. He is mentioned twice, barely, and then seems to have disappeared. For a book primarily about raising sheep, it would have been nice to know if the dog was ever utilized or even kept. In the last chapter the author goes into great detail about the various animals that still grace the homestead but nothing on poor Robin. Come on gals....where is the DOG?
From the title alone, it sounds like farming did not come easily, at least not for Friend. First of all, I smiled through the opening chapters because Friend’s description of Melissa reminded me so much of the person I remembered from those days in the early 80s – a gentle, funny, considerate woman. I could totally picture her doing all of these things that Catherine details so vividly – driving the tractor, eagerly learning everything there was to learn about sheep and chickens and grapes. But as the chapters went on, so did the depiction of breeding and birthing and one problem after another. There was plenty of humor, yes, and both women learned to laugh at their struggles and their failures.
But there was also stress, a lot of stress. There were arguments. Catherine felt as if she were losing herself. She couldn’t write. She felt trapped by the farm. She called her relationship with Melissa and the farm a “ménage a trois”, which I felt was an apt metaphor. She came to recognize that the farm was Melissa’s dream, not hers, yet there was much to love about the animals and farm life. Parts of this diatribe became frustrating to me, because both women seemed to be spinning their wheels in the manure for quite some time, unable to verbalize what was happening, stuck in the daily grind that was, for Catherine, the stuff of nightmares. As a reader, I was quite relieved when the aha moment” finally arrived.
Along with the day-to-day toil of shepherding (and raising chickens, trying to establish a vineyard, coping with an ailing parent) and the personal struggles within the relationship, Friend writes about things that some readers, especially those of us who have never been exposed to farming, may find challenging to think about. Those who farm have livestock; they also have “dead stock.” Nature is not idyllic. Sure, lambs and baby chicks are cute and cuddly, but death on the farm is not an uncommon experience. Even though Melissa and Catherine did not name their sheep, they still tried to raise them humanely and it was painful to lose animals. There were some animals with names, and pets that they lost. I almost didn’t finish one particular chapter, having lost two beloved cats in the past six months, one only two weeks ago. I also identified with Melissa’s loss of her father, experiencing the death of both my mother and mother-in-law only a few months ago. These personal stories made this memoir feel very real to me.
It also made me feel more conscious of the meat that I eat. While I don’t eat huge quantities of meat, nor any lamb, I felt that Hit by a Farm shows a kinder, gentler way to raise our food.
I read some reviews that complain that Catherine Friend whines too much in this book. I have a feeling that in reality, her misery was much worse than what she reveals in print. I give her and Melissa so much credit for respecting each other, for accepting the challenge, and for working it all out. Like any other choice, the farm came with a learning curve. As we all say on the journey, “Are we there yet?” Isn’t getting there what it’s all about? Thank you, Catherine Friend, for an eye-opening, entertaining look at life on your farm.
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However, the Kindle version is very poorly done, considering what Amazon is charging for...Read more