Thursday, May 19, 2011

I am a whiny, candyass wimp

I picked up "The Dirty Life" last Saturday, while Miles and I were on a anniversary getaway. It's a memoir, as the subtitle says, of farming, food and love. I finished it Sunday night, because I just couldn't put it down. Kristen Kimball writes of her life as she leaves a career as a travel writer, NYC (and her rent-controlled apartment!) to start a CSA in upstate New York with a farmer so idealistic, he doesn't believe in building a house using nails. Now, that's one hell of a leap of faith. 

Kimball describes, in picturesque, gory detail, the realities of running a farm. Yeah, it looks all bucolic driving past on the road, but running a farm means daily dealings with numerous varieties of animal shit, being at the mercy of the weather and the needs of those animals and the inescapable nature of death. Often, death you dealt with your own hands. 

Oh, and the work. Intense, physical, hard, astonishingly dirty work. Milking cows by hand as they do their best to kick you. Hauling buckets, harnessing draft horses, planting acres of potatoes in the dark, slinging bales of hay around, weeding 40 different kinds of vegetables with a hoe. Kimball reports incidents of being run over by a steer and knocked over and swarmed by hungry, biting pigs.

What could possibly be the compensation for such drudgery and grossness, I hear you ask? I can tell you in one word: food. Delicious, organic, I-grew-it-myself food. Kimball, a vegetarian for 13 years, tried her future husband's homemade pork sausage, had two helpings, and that was the end to any restrictions to her diet. She wallows in root vegetables that could make a grown man swoon, drinks maple sap straight for the bucket, glories in fresh milk and cream from a sloe-eyed Jersey cow named Delia.*

Now, comparing oneself to others seems to be a persistent trait in the human animal. We just can't help it. "Am I prettier than her?" or "Does he make more money than me?" or "Am I the worst dancer here?" It's a pretty useless hobby, when you think about it. What damn difference does it make if she is prettier than you? 

All that said, as I read this book, I still couldn't help but think that I am an absolutely useless, whiny human being who would die after one normal day of Kimball's life. I moan about how hard it is to keep a suburban house tidy, or how tired I am after a day of wrangling a couple of kindergarteners. Puh-leeze! This woman works herself to exhaustion every single day, and loves it. Really. Kimball swears she loves the dirt and the chores and working herself 'til she drops. The mud, and blood and sweat and gore seems to make her feel alive. The physicality of the sore muscles, the intense gratification of flavorful foods you produced yourself, are their own rewards. 

Something to envy.

*She loves the man who doesn't believe in nails, too.


  1. we all love and will work ourselves to exhaustion when we are pursuing what we are called to do ... however we understand that. that's not to say that we aren't allowed to doubt, ponder and whine a little bit about that call from time to time, too.

    : )

    tx for sharing the book with us!

  2. You have made it so that I MUST read this book now. Even though there is just no well EVER that I would do what she did, it is an absolutely fascinating life choice. I whine too much as it is. I can't imagine how high the whine factor would be if a cow kicked me.

  3. Dearest Mel- I can bring the book with me and read it to you as you breastfeed Baby Dodge #2.

    Liz - Yeah...cow runs me over and I would be all, "OK, Done now! Gonna go drink!" And from what I can tell, the lady doesn't drink much at all. Well, 'cept that vodka shot right before she walked down the aisle... ;)