Sunday, December 27, 2015

One of the Best Books I Read in 2015: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

Kristin Kimball and her now-husband Mark are the founders of Essex Farm in upstate New York. The CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares they sell to their members provide a diet for an entire year - meats, eggs, vegetables, grains, syrup and beans. They raise all of this on their 500 acres of land. The Dirty Life is the story of how Kristin and Mark met, fell in love, and made this incredible farm come into being with very little funding, even less experience, and enough enthusiasm and dedication to make up for it.

Kimball's narration of the first years of the farm and her relationship with Mark is mesmerizing. Within months, she goes from living in the East Village, to a home without electricity or toilets, to leading a team of draft horses, and everything in between. Her style is witty and descriptive, and I often had trouble putting the book down. I was captured on the first page by a mouthwatering depiction of a home-grown, home-cooked meal. There is plenty of adventure and suspense as well: although Kimball states from the beginning that she is now married to Mark, reading about the many months that planning their wedding took the back burner to farm chores was nerve-wracking. I understood how they became so distracted, though, with farm life. Kimball and her fiance barely had time to sleep between caring for the animals, staying ahead of the weather, and acquiring complicated equipment to manage their land.

Every chapter offers a new anecdote: juicy gossip among small-town neighbors, a frigid day at an Amish auction, visits from skeptical mainstream friends, and various misadventures with animals, including Kimball being charged by a bull, are just a few of my favorites. Within pages, Kimball swings from heartwarming to hilarious to heartbreaking and back again, luring you to read on and continue the cycle. Whether you're a foodie, a farmer, a vegetarian city-dweller (as Kimball was before she met Mark), or just someone who finds yourself captivated by a sunset or a birdsong, Kimball's story will keep you cozy and entertained on a long, cold winter evening.

~Rachel, Circulation

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