Kristin Kimball started out a hip, single, vegetarian woman living in a shoebox apartment seven years ago. So how did she end up a wife, meateater, and mother… and a farmer?
The Dirty Life is a love story, not just to her husband, Mark, but to the farm that they built together. Like anything or anyone you love, it took time for Kimball to get to know the farm, to learn to relish the frustrations of the relationship. Unlike other love stories, this one includes butchering cattle and Amish auctions.
In some ways, this book is redolent of other organic-farming tales that have been so popular lately. When Kimball is plowing behind her two work horses, she stops to muse on whether it is ever possible to get food without killing. This is sharply reminiscent of Joan Dye Gussow’s comment in This Organic Life that all food is gotten through the suffering of animals. While Kimball certainly hearkens back to these other writers, it would be reductive to claim she’s simply ripping them off. On the contrary, her delicate yet honest prose is a lot like the food her husband cooks: rich, rewarding, interesting, and making use of animal parts no one else might eat.
One of the most interesting things about this book for me was the business model they’ve built. Unlike your run-of-the-mill CSA, Kimball isn’t just giving people their summer veggies. For a not-small sum, she and Mark have committed to trying to provide all the food their members need: maple syrup for sweetening, dairy products, vegetables, fruit, and meat. I’ll be honest: this book made me want to move close enough to become a member, although presumably they can’t provide a damned thing Zachary would eat. Because he doesn’t eat food.
It’s an honest but not brutal memoir, gently humorous without hysteria. It didn’t make me want to become a farmer, but I’d sure as hell like to spend a week on their place, as long as I wasn’t put in charge of leading the giant workhorses on the plow. Or slaughtering anything.