Over the holidays, a friend strongly encouraged me to read Kristin Kimball’s memoir of her beginnings as a farmer. I knew I had a copy of The Dirty Life on the shelf but I had someone managed to avoid reading both it and all the other memoirs of life as a farmer. For me, reading is something of an escape, and I wasn’t really interested in escaping to other farms as I settled in to living on mine. I was making my own life and wasn’t ready for outside influences.
But my friend’s insistence and a lovely long holiday break provided me with the incentive to dive in. Kimball’s story captured me and didn’t let go. It was a story of farming but also the story of her own life journey and how it was impacted by her relationship with her husband. I found myself wondering how things would have turned out if she hadn’t met Mark and been taken in by his passion for living close to the land. As I’m feeding the pigs on a cold morning, I find myself wondering the same thing. I may not have chosen the farm life if it weren’t for my husband. But, like Kimball, I would never go back.
Kimball’s tale is compellingly honest: her life is not for everyone. I laughed at her description of her fashionable clothing slowly being turned into work clothes. I sympathized with her struggles to become skillful with the horses. And, I completely understood the dirt. There are days when I just strip down in the mud room. After spending the day in a very wet and muddy pig pen, I soaked my jeans in a bucket first because they were too filthy to go into the washing machine. Sometimes, even the simplest chores like feeding the chickens, end in dirt when you step in turkey poop or rub up against a wet hay bale.
I was awed by the challenge Kimball and her husband undertook to produce more than just seasonal vegetables. From dairy to grains to meat, they are showing the way to not just local but personal eating and some of my favorite passages are her descriptions of the simple meals they shared at some of the toughest junctures on the journey. I am planning to add dandelion greens to my spring cooking this year.
I may not tackle the rest of the new farmer books on the shelf but if The Dirty Life is an example of their quality, maybe they are worth a try. Or maybe I’m just ready to welcome fellow travelers into this new life we are making.