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Kristin Kimball is loving THE DIRTY LIFE

One pig had figured out how to wiggle past the wall that divided the pigpen from the cow pen, and when I arrived at the farm in the morning, I'd find her in with Delia. There was no way to get her back in the proper place without catching her, lifting her, and dropping her over the chest-high barrier.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

It was like catching a large greased watermelon, a shockingly fast and willful one, one with an ear-piercing squeal. I hit pig bottom one day during the darkest week of December, when the temperature had ventured tentatively above freezing and the snow wilted into chilly, slick-bottomed puddles. I was alone on the farm, Mark off to the farmers' market in Troy, networking. Aside from chores and milking, my only job of the day was to move the pigs out of their pen in the west barn, which they'd outgrown, and into the roomy run-in of the east barn thirty feet away, which I had already filled with a thick layer of mulch hay.

I figured I could get this done quickly and then go home, stoke up the fire, and enjoy the almost unimaginable luxury of a quiet, empty house, a hot bath, and a book. The problem was that, when it came down to it, I realized I had no idea how I was going to move those pigs. They'd become too big to carry. I knew from experience that they would not herd, and if I tried to push them they would just push back. I suspected if they got loose outside they'd be gone, quite possibly for good.

Okay, I thought, I'm a smart person. I can figure out how to move five pigs thirty feet. The thing to do, I decided, was to build a chute. I filled a wheelbarrow with things I found in the machine shop that looked like they might be useful: Then I walked back to the barns and stared at my problem. The pigpen had a door that let out onto the alley between the two barns, but the door to the run-in was all the way around on the east barn's south side. I was thinking I would somehow build a laneway for the pigs with the sheets of roofing, but I didn't have enough material to get all the way to the door of the east barn.

Just then, as if on cue, a wet, sleety snow began to fall. The bath and the book that I had been looking forward to all week began to seem remote. I decided I was overthinking it, trying to come up with an elegant solution when any solution would do. We weren't building the Taj Mahal here, I reminded myself. We were trying to move five pigs thirty feet. So I picked up the saw from the wheelbarrow and began cutting a hole in the wall of the east barn run-in, directly across from the door to the pigpen. I was struggling mightily with the sawing, making very little progress, and the sleet was dripping off the edge of the barn down the collar of my coat, when I heard a pickup idling in the driveway.

I looked up to see Shep Shields, our neighbor from over the hill, hobbling toward me. Shep had become a daily visitor, bringing us small things from his barn that he thought we could use, or sometimes a box of cake he picked up at the store. On my birthday, he brought me a potted plant. He squinted at me through the sleet.

I thought about how I must look, wet, red-fingered from cold, cutting a hole in a perfectly good barn for no apparent reason. This, I'd found, was a very common statement in the North Country. You're not considered rude if you don't return phone calls, or if you get drunk while working, or fail to show up as promised, but telling someone how to do something is bad form and requires a disclaimer. You want a wood saw.

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I was coming up against a cold, hard truth. I was well-educated, well-read, and well-traveled. I could hold my own in cocktail conversation most places in the world. But when it came to physical work, I was virtually retarded. After I'd traded the hacksaw for a wood saw and made a pig-size hole in the barn wall, I propped the rusty roofing into a chute held together with baling twine and opened the pen door. I braced myself for a five-pig stampede, but absolutely nothing happened.

We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 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.

Kristin was a freelance writer in New York City, which gave her the opportunity to travel around the world.

'The Dirty Life': From City Girl To Hog Butcher

In what ways do you think this feeling comforted her? Were you surprised when the situation flipped and Kristin felt foreign to the life she used to lead in the city? If you were put in a similar situation, do you think you would have made the same decision? Why or why not? Mark and Kristin start a farm that aims to provide a whole diet for their year-round members.

If a farm in your area did the same thing, would you become a member? How would it change the way you cook and eat? The first year on Essex Farm was full of trial and error. In what ways did all of the mishaps shape Kristin and change her perspective? One of the biggest adjustments Kristin has to make when moving to Essex Farm is learning to live with the absence of instant gratification. How does Kristin respond to this new kind of work?


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Would you be able to accommodate a similar change? The Dirty Life is segmented into seasons. What are the underlying issues that take place within each season and how do they relate to the year in full? I do think there was about 75 pages in the middle somewhere that I can't recall for the most part, and which should be considerably slimmed down.

Jan 26, Lyuda rated it it was amazing Recommended to Lyuda by: And the ones I did were either just plain not interesting or the writer came across as self-absorbed and narcissistic to the point of being off-putting. So, I started this book with a great deal of reser Question: So, I started this book with a great deal of reservation considering its genre and the subject matter farming and….

I couldn't stop reading it. And when I finished, I wanted to know more about the author's farm, I was totally fascinated! From "About Kristin Kimball": The book starts with this first interview and continues with a captivating chronicle of the couple's first year on Essex Farm in Upstate New York. Kristin Kimball does not romanticize her new found adventure; rather with a sprinkling of humor she exposes a life of exhausting days, grueling work and dirty fingernails.

There are passages in the story that are not for a fainted heart, specially, for city people like me who associate meat with neatly packaged variety in the local supermarket. She is such a talented writer. I never thought I would find milking of cows or pulling weeds so captivating.

And her descriptions of the gourmet meals made from their fresh farm products Oh, they were so vivid and drool-inducing.. The book is much more than depiction of farm life. It's a quiet love story. It's a story of courage, conviction, and dedication to ones goal.

It's a truly inspirational story! View all 9 comments. Jan 19, Alexis rated it liked it Shelves: This non-fiction book begins as a young journalist from the city interviews a hot, young, single farmer and falls in love with him. They move to the country, decide to get married and start up their own CSA. Question number one- I'm an agricultural journalist. Perhaps it is because I interview farmers all the time, but generally they aren't young, single or hot.

Admittedly, some of the older farmers who like me often make a point of mentioning their single sons This non-fiction book begins as a young journalist from the city interviews a hot, young, single farmer and falls in love with him. Admittedly, some of the older farmers who like me often make a point of mentioning their single sons or grandsons. On the other hand, I can be poor and sit in my own apartment writing and enjoy the pleasures of the city, or I could be poor out in the country, get up at absurd hours and be covered with manure.

Anyway, this book made me smile a few times and it was a pretty interesting story. I really like how the author didn't glamourize farming and talks about how hard it is and how much of a financial crapshoot it is. She also talks about the difference between book smarts and farm smarts, and how being educated might not actually help you out on the farm. I also liked how she was honest about her marriage. She admitted that at times she balked about her engagement, that it was difficult to run a business with someone you love lots of farm couples get divorced in tough times , and that when you get married, you have to accept a certain lifestyle and say goodbye to some other options.

I thought this was extremely refreshing, and honest and something that people don't talk about that much. I also liked some of the farming details- particularily the details about her dairy cows.


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The Kimballs farm using draft horses and I have to admit that that didn't interest me as much as it should have. These people also eat amazing food. Apr 13, Linda rated it it was amazing Shelves: Their quirky life with all its ups and downs was refreshingly interesting. Kristin was raised in an upper middle class family with parents who mimicked Ward and June Cleaver.

She graduated from Harvard University and traveled the globe writing various articles. Mark, on the other hand, grew up with folks from the hippy generation. He valued what was earned from the land.

The Dirty Life

Kristin had an amazing way with words; she made me feel like I was near her watching things pan out. This is a non-fiction story for those of you that like memoirs. Thank you, Gita, for bringing this story to my attention and, Lyuda, for your wonderful review! View all 4 comments. Jun 05, Michelle Gragg rated it it was amazing.

I did not think this would be a page turner, but it was for me! This is a story about the authors transformation from city girl to farmer. I loved her ability to describe her journey without making the reader feel like it should be theirs, or that it shouldn't. Educational about animals and work on a farm. It kept my interest.

This is not the kind of book I usually read, but someone gave it to me. I was surprised that it kept my interest. Only a couple times did I skim a paragraph or two. College educated city girl Kristin leaves that life to be with Mark a farmer. The two of them work every day to exhaustion. Emergencies and work never end. Kristin initially went with Mark because she desired family and children and maybe felt like something was missing Educational about animals and work on a farm.

Kristin initially went with Mark because she desired family and children and maybe felt like something was missing in her life. Later when she left the farm temporarily, the two things she missed most were the land and the work. Their life was one of financial poverty - but rich in other ways.

If you can tire your own bones while growing the beans, so much the better for you. Members would get all the meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, etc. Mark wanted to do everything possible with horses rather than tractors. Their operation was similar to the Amish although Mark and Kristin were not Amish. The end of the book briefly summarizes some subsequent years. Dec 23, Sarah rated it really liked it Shelves: This book fits into the whole foods, local grown, thinking ecologically about how we eat genre that is popular these days. Coming from Nebraska, it was nice to read a book that talks about farming as a nontrivial, nonmenial career.

I suppose some might argue that Kimball glorifies it all a bit more than she should, but I'm not convinced. She talks about sleeping in a rat infested house and goes into pretty explicit detail about animal slaughter and birth. I tend to enjoy the whole local grown wh This book fits into the whole foods, local grown, thinking ecologically about how we eat genre that is popular these days.

I tend to enjoy the whole local grown whole foods style books so it isn't surprising that I enjoyed this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find more than just these ideas in this book. This book also talks about controlling your own life and making decisions that might seem crazy to everyone around you. The idea of leaving everything for a life where you understand your impact and the outcome of your decisions really resonates with me after a long number of years in higher education.

No worries, I'm not planning on abandoning everything for the farm just yet. I think many people who are feeling lost in our "new digital age" might enjoy this book for that perspective, even if they aren't into the organic farming movement. Jul 29, Gregory rated it really liked it. Kimball gives us an amazingly good look at her move from New York writer to Old Wave farmer. We also learn a little about local sourcing and Ms. Kimball's interior life as she makes the transition.

Having grown up on something resembling a farm I understand the never ending chores of chopping ice on the pond so the cows could get water. Always being on a tether because something needed to be fed or harvested. Kimball helped me remember all the work involved when I get nostalgic and think I want a cow because I can't get butter that's smooth and creamy to melt on a homemade drop biscuit, and some chickens so I can have eggs where the yolks are so orange they're almost red, and maybe a few sheep oh and those tomatos Nov 15, Lu rated it it was ok.

I really wanted to like - love this book. The ideas of running away from the big city to the country, to spend my days with real hard work instead of work that drives me crazy, and to enjoy the organic chaos of a farm instead of the mania that is modern suburbia all sound like the dreamy foundation of a book I'd love to lose myself in.

I really wanted this book to be that escape for me - but the jumpiness of the writing was so prohibitive from achieving this escape and the focus of the book was I really wanted to like - love this book. I really wanted this book to be that escape for me - but the jumpiness of the writing was so prohibitive from achieving this escape and the focus of the book was more on day to day life on her farm than the experience of leaving it all behind as a working world escapee.

It seemed like the author really wanted to document the activity of the farm instead of revealing an insider's view of what it feels like to escape. The first two chapters about a NYC city girl falling in love and moving to a farm are endearing and funny. Kristin is a very good writer and she had really captured my attention at this point. But the book slowed down for me once the author got to her new life. Kristin was a travel writer prior to this farm gig and uses those skills to describe, in great detail, every experience, every piece of machinery and how it is used and every animal that is bought and slaughtered, etc..

All of this is int The first two chapters about a NYC city girl falling in love and moving to a farm are endearing and funny. All of this is interesting to a point, but I expected more depth and reflection in relation to her new life, her upcoming marriage and the birth of her first child. Without that the book became a string of events seen from a distance. Her attempt at a reflective look back in the epilogue just didn't work or even make sense to me.


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At the end of a memoir I should feel that I know the person and I'm disappointed that I don't know Kristin, but I know all about her farm machinery and her animals. View all 17 comments. Apr 22, Jackie rated it liked it Shelves: I enjoyed this memoir and Ms. It really was quite fascinating that she would give up everything she knew: During parts of the story I totally wanted to become a vegetable farmer. I quickly got over it and realized that a small garden with a few tomato plants would be all that I could ever manage though.

There was a lot of farming jargon that I did not understand. I was reading it on my Nook, so I did a half-hearted attempt t I enjoyed this memoir and Ms. I was reading it on my Nook, so I did a half-hearted attempt to lookup words but if the Nook didn't recognize it then I just moved on. So during those descriptions I could not visualize what she was talking about. This was mostly the machinery that they used for the fields.

There was definitely a part where I skipped paragraphs. I am not a fan of weird foods. It makes me gag just thinking about them! Talking about eating hearts and livers made me squeamish enough but when she broke out the whole section on what they did with the testicles and blood, well, I just skipped the page. Seriously, I almost gagged. But that is just me.

Kristin Kimball | The Dirty Life | Essex Farm

I did run into a few parts that I had to wonder if what she wrote was true, kinda true but embellished, or just made up all together. Blame this on my pessimism of memoirs. The first time I started questioning her was in the beginning of her story where she talked about cooking at the farm where she was interviewing Mark for the first time. In one paragraph she discussed her lack of cooking skills, even admitting that she never once used her oven in 7 years.

My friends that have no cooking skills do not even know those words let alone how to just immediately walk into a random kitchen and start doing all of those things. It seemed a bit of stretch. Jun 13, Alison rated it really liked it. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dirty Life and read it in two days. I had a hard time understanding the inner transformation Kristin Kimball experienced, from city girl to farmer - or honestly, what she ever saw in her husband in the first place, since she paints him as an unsympathetic, crazy New Agish daydreamer - and that lack of depth would be enough to knock this book down another star, if she didn't do such a great job making me feel vividly both the difficulty and beauty of life on a farm at le I thoroughly enjoyed The Dirty Life and read it in two days.

I had a hard time understanding the inner transformation Kristin Kimball experienced, from city girl to farmer - or honestly, what she ever saw in her husband in the first place, since she paints him as an unsympathetic, crazy New Agish daydreamer - and that lack of depth would be enough to knock this book down another star, if she didn't do such a great job making me feel vividly both the difficulty and beauty of life on a farm at least as much as paper and ink allow, which I am sure is really a pale shadow of reality and the ability to make even an uncertain dream come true through sheer perseverance, in spite of almost complete ignorance and inexperience.

The first half of the book is interesting, but she hits her stride about halfway through and there are some genuinely funny passages in the second half. Having just finished "Folks, This Ain't Normal," by Joel Salatin, I found myself wondering about the legality of the haphazard way Kimball and her husband started their CSA program, as well as wondering how they handled all the paperwork and red tape from the start of their farm, but that information wouldn't really fit in this book, as it's not a how-to manual, but more a contemplative memoir.

If you've considered farming, just moving to the country, or making a radical life change of any sort, I highly recommend this book. An impetuous young female writer, financially and emotionally destitute, longing for love, home and motherhood would have accepted almost anything making her life different.

She did, surrendering to a willful man and his work. Farming, love, and a battle of wills ignite a hectic and grueling life as Mark and Kristin continually fail in estimating their measure of physical, emotional, and psychological stamina against the size of their ambition and undertakings. They are assisted warmly by the kindness of their community. Anyone could find this book entertaining, but if you know the nature of erysipelas, a hame, and wet hay season — you might enjoy it more.

May 19, Kate rated it really liked it Shelves: After the first few pages of this book, I was sure it was going to be a detailed description of various meals the author had eaten. I wouldn't have minded as she is a kickass writer. But the book is more than that. It's how a Harvard-educated New York city writer falls in love with a Swarthmore-educated no-nonsense farmer, and how they build a life together, creating an over-the-top organic farm in upstate New York. And, as the title suggests, it's a dirty life--full of pigs, pig entrails, cows After the first few pages of this book, I was sure it was going to be a detailed description of various meals the author had eaten.

And, as the title suggests, it's a dirty life--full of pigs, pig entrails, cows eating their own placentas, magnificent draft horses, clearing fields, harvesting, maple sugaring--just about everything you can think of that would happen on a small-scale organic farm. Farming the old fashioned way is nonstop hard work. But it is extremely rewarding in the end.