Monday, August 22, 2011

Great Read: The Dirty Life

I think the reason I enjoy reading about farm life so much is because it's something I could never do. It's not the hard work, it's not even the early mornings (although i don't love those), it's the rats and the snakes and the mice and I'm sure there are spiders :) Yesterday I went to weed the front garden and there was a really big worm and it scared me a little, in my defense it was a really really big worm and it only scared me a little!
None the less I still feel the pull of farm life,
Sometimes I take the long way home and drive through farm country, thinking about how nice it would be to have a big giant farm with chickens, and goats, and maybe a piglet or two! But in the clear light of day I think that I'm more suited to a little urban homestead (maybe with chickens someday).

The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball is everything I LOVE about the idea of having a big working farm, and everything that reminds me why I can't have a working farm. Things like rats in the barn, rats in the wall, anything to do with rats :) oh and a little thing called blood sausage, I know I shouldn't be surprised at what's in blood sausage, because it says it right in the name but wow!

I couldn't put this book down, I read it in two days and LOVED it. I cried almost as much as I laughed.  It's a grab some tissues, grab your dog and hunker down for a weekend kinda book!
I hope you'll give it a read and let me know what you thought of it! Disclaimer: it's very in depth, you get a real up close look at farm life, the good, the bad, the ugly, the gory, the sad and the beautiful! I LOVED it and I think you will too!


  1. I have picked up several books you have recommended and I have loved them all. Mark's grandma had a farm, and he talks about it all the time. I think when most think of farms they think, wide open spaces, clear skies, the smell of hay and fresh plowed fields, homemade pies, fresh eggs, I could go on. But, in reality...there is a lot of very hard backbreaking work that goes into farm life. I'd love to read this just so I would be more appreciative of what they go through to get us those fresh eggs, milk, etc.

  2. I loved this book. I made a list while reading of all the things I have to do - buy chickens, buy cow, buy goats.

  3. Oh my gosh, blood husband grew up eating that, and yes, it is every bit as yucky as it sounds! Another of his family's favorites is head cheese. If you want to know what's in that, look it up and be prepared to be grossed out!

    I grew up on a farm and it is constant hard work and never a day off from it. It was a great way to grow up, but I have absolutely no desire to farm now as an adult. Now I'm able to live out in the country without all those farm chores - it's perfect :)

  4. I got scared of worms when I was planting flowers a few months ago in our first yard. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see worms cause I heard about them growing up hahaha ;) OH and then one day I was pruning the flowers and there was a FROG hiding in the dirt and that really freaked me out so I KNOW I wouldn't survive living on a farm!
    Oh and I just searched for this book on the online library catalog and was kind of shocked at some of the other titles that popped up. Oh brother!!

  5. I think this is why I love reading Pioneer Woman's blog! It sounds so cool and exciting, but then, when you realise a lot of it is moving bulls about, getting really dusty in the searing heat... suddenly reading about it sounds much more appealing!

  6. Thanks for the recommendation! This book is right up my alley. I love books that fall into (what I call) "food adventure journalism." Can't wait to pick it up from the library! :)

  7. Sounds like an awesome read.

    Ashli, if you want chickens, be prepared for chicken poop! It's about a 10 to 1 ratio to the number of eggs you get. Are you planning to let them run all over or are you going to build an enclosure along with the chicken coop?

    My former BF had 4 chickens and they were free range...totally. It was an easter egg hunt to find the eggs because they'd change where they laid them. All. The. Time.

  8. Cant wait to read the book. We live in the country and have chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, goats, a sheep, rabbits, pigs and bees...whew! let me tell you... While we love living in the country, its a ton of work. The goats are constantly getting into the garden, the chickens eat any landscaping (ie, all my hostas are gone) and the pigs smell. a ton. most days i wear skirts and like to imagine how it all looks from a passerby. one who doesnt notice the poop and dirt all over me.

  9. Jessica,
    I laughed out loud when I read your comment "the poop and dirt all over me" haha
    Sounds beautiful, minus the poop and dirt :)
    Good to know about the pigs smell :) How about the chickens, I've been thinking about a little backyard homestead but I'm worried about chicken smell??

  10. Thanks for the recommendation. I am half-way through this wonderful book :)

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  13. I've heard mixed reviews about chicken smell. I never really noticed it, myself, though. Keeping things clean helps.
    You'll want straw or something to line their beds in the winter and a heat lamp, and then you'll really want to clean it out in the spring and fall. That is a messy job--there is SO much poop involved. Haha. You might make it easier on yourself, though, if you waited for a hot, sunny morning, let them out into their run (you'll want a run, they will devour your back yard in no time if you don't have one), closed off the shed, used a small pitch fork to take out the straw and then hosed it down with the garden hose on high pressure, perhaps... and let it dry. Then use less straw to line it with, again, so they have nesting material for the summer, and do it again in the fall, putting more straw in there for the winter. :)
    Also, as you are in an urban area with a little yard and close quarters, you probably just want laying hens. In that case, even though the roosters are pretty and it's nice to think about rising to a rooster's crow and baby chicks, DON'T get a rooster. That bugger is most likely to crow at all hours of the night and drive your neighbors crazy. The hens cackle, but that's not the same.
    Also, brood hens can be mean about their eggs, so you might get pecked for trying to take them (even if you don't have a rooster to fertilize the eggs--they will just sit on those eggs until they're rotten). So look for hens that don't brood, if all you want is eggs. The ones that come as chicks from local stores will probably never brood, even if the eggs are fertilized (when we got a brood hen, all of your store-bought chicks, then adults, were actually terrified of the brood hen's chicks, and would run away!) but sometimes they make mistakes when marking them as male/female, so be prepared for the possibility of getting a rooster if you go that route.
    And as for how many you want... each hen might lay around an egg per day, if given laying mash and good conditions. They're inclined to not lay so much in the winter, but you can prolong that with the aforementioned things. So, when it comes down to it (unless you guys want to eat eggs every day) you might be inclined to get just one or two hens, which would work great if it weren't for the fact that things happen, chickens die, some may not lay as much as expected, and one chick would almost certainly die of loneliness. So, instead, you might should get four or something, and then sell your extra eggs or give them to friends and family if they all live through to adulthood and are good layers. (Some places gladly buy eggs from local growers and sell them as local/fresh/organic, however they want to label them. They won't pay you much for them, but it adds up, and it's better than letting them go bad.)
    I don't think you will want to raise any for meat, what with having to raise and butcher them, but if you do then go ahead and get a rooster and a brood hen (one of each will be enough for starters), and then just butcher and freeze the extra chickens each year, and for the sake of your hens, keep only one rooster at a time. The older they get, the tougher their meat. But I really doubt you want to do that--just having laying hens makes having the entire thing more fun and affectionate, and less business-like. Butchering something you're attached to is extremely sad, trust me, and your conditions just don't allow for a growing chicken population. If you want to go the laying hens only route, then just buy new chicks once in a while when the others pass away. Never buy just one, and keep them separate from the adults while they grow, until they get moderately sized.
    Having chickens can be very rewarding, and I have found them to be very low-maintenance farm animals, so they're a pretty good option for a little urban homestead. It can still be hard work, but I think you would enjoy it once you started doing it.
    Thanks for the recommendation on a good-sounding book. :)



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