The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

4.2 111
by Kristin Kimball
     
 

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"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…  See more details below

Overview

"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

 

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Editorial Reviews

Dominique Browning
…Kimball has a lusty appetite, and her memoir is as much a celebration of food as it is of farming…As Kimball loses her cool attitude in the round of daily chores, her writing acquires a lilting softness.
—The New York Times
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. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Kimball has a gift for throwing into high relief contemporary Americans' disconnect between farm-life realities and city ambitions." —Booklist
Library Journal
Kimball, a farmer and freelance writer, here tells the story of two loves: one with farming, and one with a man. She travels to Pennsylvania for an interview and meets Mark, a handsome farmer with a flair for culinary courtship. Driven by love and longing for a home, she follows him to northern New York, where they transform a neglected piece of land into a sustainable farm powered by horses and supported by year-round community-supported agriculture (CSA) memberships. While learning animal husbandry, nose-to-tail cooking, and maple syrup and cheese making, Kimball also learns to cope with the harsh realities of an agrarian lifestyle. VERDICT With a fiery romance at its heart, Kimball's welcome addition stands out from others in the growing genre of books on city girls turned farmers, butchers, cheese makers, and ranchers. Comparable titles include Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska's Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life and Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.—Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa
Kirkus Reviews

A freelance writer moves from Manhattan to create an organic farm in upstate New York.

When she met her future husband, Mark, Kimball was working on a story about young farmers going local and organic. The two eventually fell in love, married and moved to Essex, N.Y., to take stewardship of a 500-acre derelict farm, with dreams of making it into a community-funded agricultural project—not just vegetables, but also grain, dairy and meat. Following their utopian vision, they began raising draft horses, milked cows by hand, ran a forge and created their own energy and resources. 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 in building a sugaring sled, treating the cattle for mites, dealing with flies and rats and finding the old-fashioned tools required to work with draft horses—at an auction of Amish implements, which "looked like a ZZ Top tribute band convention, all long beards, dark suits, and shades." The couple often warred with each other: Kimball is a passive-aggressive disputant, Mark a tenacious arguer, but both think they are right. "I had come to the farm with the unarticulated belief that concrete things were for dumb people and abstract things were for smart people," writes the author. She soon realized, however, that "there's no better cure for snobbery than a good ass kicking." Finally, when the harvest comes, "you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own."

A hearty, chromatic account of a meaningful accomplishment in farming, "that dirty concupiscent art."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439187142
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
10/12/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
100,042
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Kimball has a gift for throwing into high relief contemporary Americans' disconnect between farm-life realities and city ambitions." —-Booklist

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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