In her humorous book, Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer, Antonia Murphy invites readers to take an inside peak into life as an amateur lifestyle farmer. Her story starts with her babysitting some chickens for her father and step-mother. At the time, their farming experiment was of little interest to Antonia, and when one chicken ended up dead, she was rather traumatized by the experience. Living near San Francisco, she did appreciate the work of artisan farmers for all the delicious options they made available to consumers, but that was as far as her interest in agriculture extended.
Years later, Antonia and her husband moved with their two children to New Zealand. With its more remote population, the foodie in her realized that if she wanted to experience the culinary options she had at home, she would need to grow more of her own food. As it turned out, the house they decided to rent for a year came with a cow for them to tend to. Not realizing how ignorant they were on animal husbandry, she and her husband agreed to the terms and dipped their toes into farming. While her husband worked as a computer technician, Antonia cared for the children and home…and their growing collection of animals…cows, goats, sheep, alpacas, a dog, a cat and chickens.
I found her observations completely hilarious, probably because we too have experienced some of the learning curve that goes into a more “self-sufficient” lifestyle. The author observes that “cow herding wasn’t a subject they’d covered in liberal arts school.” I concurred as my husband and I found that everything from gardening effectively to raising animals (and keeping them alive) seemed hugely complicated and expensive, because we were starting with almost zero knowledge despite having several college degrees between us. Anyone who has attempted such a huge lifestyle shift will appreciate her stories of calamity and chaos. If your preference is to enjoy the local bounty via farmer’s market, this book is for you too. You will appreciate all the effort that brings food to your table and will likely feel very good about the extra cost of your farm fresh produce and animal products. Antonia’s approach is real to life, although a bit crass at times. Part comedy and part memoir, it is sure to be enjoyed by a wide audience.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.