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.)
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
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
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."
…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