The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
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The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

4.2 111
by Kristin Kimball
     
 

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From a “graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail,” this riveting memoir explores a year on a sustainable farm—and the real world epitome of Michael Pollan’s food philosophy.

"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent

Overview

From a “graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail,” this riveting memoir explores a year on a sustainable farm—and the real world epitome of Michael Pollan’s food philosophy.

"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent art—and the other with a complicated and exasperating farmer."

Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.

Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the "whole diet"—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.

"As much as you transform the land by farming," she writes, "farming transforms you." In her old life, Kimball would stay out until four a.m., wear heels, and carry a handbag. Now she wakes up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a pocket knife. At Essex Farm, she discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Dirty Life is a delightful, tumultuous, and tender story of the author's love affair with the man who becomes her husband and the farm they work together to restore. With wisdom and humor, Kristin Kimball describes how she abandoned her career in New York City, leaving behind everything she thought was important for a hard, distinctly unglamorous existence that turns out to be the most fulfilling thing she’s ever done.”

JEANNETTE WALLS, author of Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle

The Dirty Life is a wonderfully told tale of one of the most interesting farms in the country. If you want to understand the heart and soul of the new/old movement towards local food, this is the book you need. It's the voice of what comes next in this land, of the generation unleashed by Wendell Berry to do something really grand.” —Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"In her beguiling memoir, Kimball describes the complex truth about the simple life in prose that is observant and lyrical, yet tempered by a farmer’s lack of sentimentality." Elle Magazine

"Kimball is a graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail... How lucky we are to be able to step into that world with no sweat. I wished for a hundred pages more." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"As Kimball chronicles that first year in supple prose, the farm takes on vivid form, with the frustrations balancing the satisfactions and the dark complementing the light. Throughout the book, the author ably describes the various trials and tribulations involved... A hearty, chromatic account of a meaningful accomplishment in farming."Kirkus Reviews

"Kimball writes in vivid but unsentimental language, equal parts dirt and poetry." —Burlington Free Press

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780594603689
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
04/12/2011
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
21,662
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Kristin Kimball is a farmer and a writer living in northern New York. Prior to farming, Kimball worked as a freelance writer, writing teacher, and as an assistant to a literary agent in New York City. A graduate of Harvard University, she and her husband Mark have run Essex Farm since 2003, where they live with their two daughters.

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Dirty Life 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 111 reviews.
Neha Pandit More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most insightful books that I've read. It's written with a beautiful poetic narrative that can only be presented by a gifted author, and a perspective on life that can only be presented by one that's been well lived.
nhces29 More than 1 year ago
Almost makes me want to live the dirty life too...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read, will make you want to become a farmer.
Mitton More than 1 year ago
Comfortable read. Universal. I have a friend who says that food – real food - should be dirty and bloody. In other words, fresh and clean and near to the earth. I think Kimball would agree. In ‘The Dirty Life’ she writes about love and dirt and farming, to be sure, but the book is deeper and explores ideas about success and commitment and simplicity. Kimball writes in a comfortable prose though her Ivy League education peeks through at times. Other reviewers note some oddities that I can’t argue with. She converts from being a long-time vegetarian to meat eater in a single night, helping her boyfriend kill a deer and then romantically feasting on its liver. Her commitments waver. There is a feeling throughout the book that she is tip-toeing through this new adventure in the way that an adrenaline junkie would: the commitment lasts as long as the feeling does. Even as the book reaches its climax, her marriage and the reaping of their first harvest, she runs off to Hawaii just in time to let her husband harvest the crop by himself. But I think it’s these inconsistencies that make the book more human and universal. The book isn’t about farming or living a simple life – there are much better books about those things – but it’s about the struggle to work hard and stay committed to something you choose. It’s about growing into who you want to be. As such I think it’s an excellent read. Highly recommended.
Devinzgrandma More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, full of humor and determination.
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I totally enjoyed this book. However if your not into reading a lot about vegitation on a farm then this book isn't for you. I found the ups and downs of their farm life very interesting, but what amazed me was the people in their lives. I loved the wedding. I don't know how I would have felt when I found my new husband milking cows durring our reception.
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I loved this book and so did my book club. I sent a copy to my 84 year old mother who grew up on a farm and she loved it also.
Sglo More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed every word.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super interesting book with an engaging story line. Made me want to leave the city and live the harder, but seemingly more fulfilling life of a farmer.
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...makes you want to get your fingers in the dirt!
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NattiFranz More than 1 year ago
Kristin Kimball’s intriguing memoir, the Dirty Life, gave me a taste of a different lifestyle, one that consists purely of commitment and of hard, dirty, and rewarding work. Kimball’s story tells of her decision to leave her Harvard education, family, and whole life behind in New York City, in exchange for a life of hard farm work. Mark, her fiancé is an experienced farmer and together they take on the challenge of providing full-diet shares to their customers by means of their own farm, this diet including steak, chicken, pork, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, celery, syrup, cheese, milk, etc. And if that was not a grand enough challenge, Mark and Kimball decide to jump back a century and farm by means of horses and ploughs and their own genuine physical labor – nothing else. Their day begins at around 3 am, when Kimball and Mark must milk the cows, feed their assortment of animals, weed the fields, and anything else you can imagine that must be done on a farm. The work is never ending, but somehow the two of them develop a farm that today has grown to feed over 100 customers and employs over 20 workers. The success seen between Kimball and Mark is extremely inspiring, as it thoroughly shows the amount of effort required to attain what you want most, as well as the commitment. A theme of perseverance is constantly conveyed throughout Kimball’s memoir, and has the effect of showing the reader that things in life do not always come easy. They aren’t supposed to, as If they did then there would never be that essential feeling of fulfillment in life, an emotion that keeps one striving forward. Kimball must not only fight onward for her farm, but for Mark as well. Without their relationship the farm would have failed. The effort they must put in to keep each other happy while keeping the farm running proves to be quite a challenge. Thus, a theme of love is also prominent; love for the farm and all its animals and plants, and love for Mark. A message about the importance of decision making is always present, as Kimball explains how decisions determine the paths of our lives. You can make or break yourself, and others, with a yes or a no. My family is a health nut family, always dedicated to the thought that a good diet makes for a healthy life. The Dirty Life, hit home for me – an everyday consumer of organic foods. This book made me yearn for fresh, fresh food, straight from the source! I would recommend that those interested in health and good food read this, as it inspires one to start their own garden. Anyone up for a good story about problem solving and woman falling in love with a man and a farm should read this as well. Its detail about the effort needed to accomplish the humble act of providing food is captivating and interesting. My dislikes were the areas where there was too much attention to detail though, as this drew away from the story and my focus waivered.
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