The Bucolic Plague
Harper, 2010 (2010)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
osh and Brent have been a couple for ten years, living and working in New York City, but Josh has tired of his job as an advertising executive. On a weekend trip to upstate New York they are amazed to find a beautiful mansion way out in the country. They find that it is for sale. As they are shown around the Beekman mansion, they are both impressed by its beauty and quality. Josh wants nothing more than to spend the rest of his life in this house, making the farm around it live again. They soon buy the place.
osh Kilmer-Purcell tells the story from his point of view, so his partner (Dr. Brent Ridge) only appears through Josh's eyes. A medical doctor, Brent works for Martha Stewart and appears on her television show. Both Josh and Brent have the sort of high paid jobs that allow them to buy a country place where they can get away on weekends from the rat race in New York City. A mansion isn't what most people think about when for weekend retreats, but Josh wants to farm, after all - why not do it on a historic property that's been around for two hundred years, when they can afford it?
must admit that I enjoy reading about city people who buy old farms with the intention of making them work. They are always so surprised by the differences from city life. Winter seems so much colder living in a detached house in the countryside than in a big city. Farming is terribly hard work with little reward. The tomato plants grow six feet tall and have few tomatoes on them, and aren't any good if they aren't picked at just the right time. Weeding is a constant chore. The main animals being raised on this farm are goats and when Josh is told that the cute little male kids are destined for someone's dinner table, he is appalled. Killing animals for food isn't easy for people used to buying their meat in packages or from a butcher. When he kills the turkey that they raised for Thanksgiving, he pours vodka down its throat first to sedate it, but he seems to need the vodka more than the turkey does. All in all, though, they find a lot of satisfaction in growing their own food.
osh grew up on a farm, so he knew what he was getting into, sort of. He's almost forty and is amazed at how hard it is to run a farm, but he has incredible amounts of energy. One weekend in late summer the two of them harvest their tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans and can them, or as many of them as they can manage. After bringing many baskets of tomatoes into the house and working without sleep for the entire weekend canning them, Josh stuffs as many leftover whole tomatoes as he can manage into the freezer, while Brent tries to get him to leave so they won't miss their train back to the city. It's funny to watch Josh throwing unprepared tomatoes into the freezer after he worked so hard to sterilize jars and can so many batches.
osh and Brent had many difficulties trying to farm, but lack of energy wasn't one of them. They worked very hard to make the farm profitable, but the economy tanked not long after they bought it, and that proved to be a much bigger problem for them than anything else.
The Bucolic Plague
is fun to read and it might make someone think twice about chucking city life for the fresh air of the countryside. But then again, maybe it wouldn't.
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