A smiling woman leans against a red barn with a chicken tucked under one arm and a basket of vegetables at her feet. In this case, you really can judge a book by its cover and, once I laid hands on this memoir, it was hard to put it down.
In The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, Kristin Kimball writes of the astonishing ways her life changes when she falls in love with a man, a special man, an earthy man who dives into organic farming with a passion. Leaving her New York City heels and lattes behind, she moves with him to a broken-down farm upstate in the North Country in the middle of winter. Way past bedtime, I was reading my way through that horrible winter into the promise of spring, and in the early hours before dawn I read about her exhausting but amazing summer and slid into the abundance and celebration of a farmer’s autumn. I learned how to stop a team of runaway draft horses, the intricacies of re-tooling rusty equipment for digging up carrots and straining maple sap, and ways to make offal and pigeon breast into gourmet meals. I labored alongside Kristin as the garlic crop froze, the potatoes were harvested and cooked on the field for the crew, and she hauled back antique treasures gleaned at an Amish auction that would soon be put to use on the farm. I cried when her favorite draft horse broke his leg and when her first milk cow got mauled by dogs, but cheered when orphan calves were hand-raised, a car full of little squirming piglets made the noisy journey to their new home, and bees gave up hundreds of amber jars of honey.
If you like country life, this book is for you. You’ll get a bit of romance, a significant dose of technical know-how on running farm machinery and tending to livestock, and a peek in a year’s worth of living from a woman farmer who lives large and keeps moving forward, no matter what hardships stand in her way.