Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Kristin's Winter Reads

First off, before the subject at hand.... if you are interested in coming to the farm for one of my knitting/color/farm retreats this year, the class listing will be up this Friday, March 9th. If you want to be notified of the upcoming classes, sign up for my e-mail newsletter at the top right of my sidebar. You'll get advance notice of the the days the retreats will be held.

To sign up:
1. Type your name in the box at upper right.
2. Hit the subscribe button.
3. You will be taken to a confirmation window.
It should work but if you can't get it to happen, send me an email and I will add your name to the list myself. Email address is kristinnicholasATgmailDOTcom.

Thanks to the readers who have emailed me to suggest that I read Catherine Friend's books recently. I stumbled upon Catherine Friend's "Compassionate Carnivore" a couple years ago via my friend Carrie Healy who owns Wells Tavern Farm with her husband Miles. I started reading it and just couldn't keep going. It's a book that I think did very well in cities, but living here on the farm, it didn't resonate. Carrie and I both agreed on this..... I had pretty much given up on Catherine Friend but decided to give her another try this winter.

I was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed Hit by a Farm - Catherine's account of moving to the country with her partner and beginning a sheep farm. Unlike many books about farming that are way too precious and not resembling real farm life (even if highly recommended), Catherine details some of the  common events of farm life that people may not want to read. It is honest and as a woman who frequently has lambs in her kitchen, I was really happy that it was quite a real account of farm living. Evidently the book did well enough to give Catherine a chance at a sequel. After I read Hit by a Farm, I decided that I could try "Sheepish", Catherine's second memoir somewhat about learning to knit and spin, while raising sheep and writing books. Although I didn't find this book quite as good as HBAF, I still enjoyed it.

The other book I have really enjoyed this winter is The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcel. From the outside in, this book didn't look to have much to offer me - I thought it would be just another "city boy moves to the country and discovers the beautiful life" saga. But my friend Kit Mitchell recommended it and I trust Kit so I gave it a go. OMG, I was in hysterics - a really funny book, with some bits of truth about farming (although not as much as HBAF). What this book is really about is taking a chance, changing your life and building a brand and business. I passed my copy along to a bunch of friends and it is still circulating. I hear there is a tv series that I need to get my hands on through interlibrary loan.

Another book I enjoyed a few years back is called A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm. Nice read about family, farming, and history. And then as a surprise gift from knitwear designer Julie Hoff-Weisenberger, I loved Hughie Call's Golden Fleece - an account of sheep ranching in Montana in the mid-twentieth century.

The book I just finished reading is Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. It's a good read and if you are interested in passion, food, cooking, and sustainability, it will give you a glimpse inside the movement, the woman, and the restaurant that continues to chug on.

Anyone else have any good books they want to add to this list. Add them in the comments. Can't wait to hear all your ideas.


Meg C said...

Good morning, Kristin! Thanks for the reading list. I've made a note of Hit By A Farm and The Bucolic Plague. I need some good, new books to read. Here's a recommendation that has almost nothing to do with farming and knitting, although there are sweaters knitted in the book: The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by G. B. Edwards (Gerard Basil Edwards). Ebenezer Le Page is a Guernsey fisherman in the first half of the 20th century, and he writes this memoir in his quiet evenings. Perhaps his life as a fisherman is a lot like yours as a farmer: there is little romance, although the hard work has its own rewards, and he finds, and conveys to us, a deep sense of peace from learning to work with the moods of the Channel. The "real" story is actually a life-long love story and a mystery of parenthood. It subtly (sp, Meg!), winds throughout the entire narrative. Ebenezer and the others on the island survive the Nazi occupation (did everyone know that the Nazis took the Channel Islands during WWII?). His account of the starvation and brutality is intense, but the islands are liberated, or more accurately abandoned by the Nazis, and life finds its way back to normal. I do recommend it, it's quite engrossing. Edwards was hugely gifted,but he destroyed his other manuscripts before his death. We are lucky to have this one. If your only opportunity to read is in bed, the short, diary-like entries are easy to manage.

On the lighter side, and with NOTHING to do with farming, I recommend the P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves stories. Completely charming, full of eccentric characters.

When it gets to be around shearing time, Kristin, I'd be curious to know what happens with the fleeces. Do you sell the wool to the wool pool, or does the shearer take it away as part of his or her pay? It's good for us knitters and spinners to have an idea of what your hard work earns you, and how our farmers have to be careful to use all their products to keep the farm going.

Keep up the good work, and pats to the flock.

Oh, did anyone get to the Winter Market on Saturday? The driving was hideous!

Kathy said...

I have read "Hit by a Farm" and enjoyed it too. The author lives 10-15 minutes from me. I drive by her farm on Hwy 52 2-5 times a week.


Kit Mitchell said...

Hi Kristin,
I am so happy that you enjoyed Josh Kilmer-Purcell's The Bucolic Plague!
I hesitate to recommend books as you never know what will click with another reader, but I really enjoyed that one.

josh kilmer-purcell said...

Thank you for recommending my book, Kristin. I've very glad you enjoyed it. Happy almost spring.

Robin Allen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

I read both HBF and Sheepish. I liked them, but wasn't Gaa-gaa over them. I do remember a scene-I think it was in HBF- about chasing 40 or so lambs through the pasture, wrestling them to the ground and dosing them with Corid (to treat coccidia), being covered in runny poop and Catherine was thinking..."we have to do this for FIVE DAYS in a row"!!!
I could totally relate to that and was laughing out loud....been there, done that :-)