Book Corner 2019.56

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Good Husbandry by Kristin Kimball

Having first met Kristin Kimball in THE DIRTY LIFE, we follow up now to see how her marriage to Mark and Essex Farm are doing.

Well, one observation of hers that I liked was an interesting angle on the by-now over-observed ‘curated’ nature of our lives today.  Someday, she said, future generations will look back on how we only showed a positive picture of our personal lives, and marvel at what a load of shit it was, the way we look back at the Victorians and their ostensibly prudish mores and know that they got down and did the nasty just like every other generation.

So Kimball purports to pull back the curtain a bit and show us some of the miserable bits of existence on a farm with a nutjob husband who wants to dress the kids in sacks.  But of course, overall the, arc of the book has to bend towards positivity, or else it wouldn’t be a product of its time; or else, nobody in this time would want to read it.

The second kid they have basically wrecks everything.  Kimball starts to feel separated from the farm and its work and from Mark as she spends all her time taking care of babies and cooking.

It’s so easy to see the solutions to other people’s problems – that’s why I like reading advice columns so much.  I wanted to shout, YOU’RE DOING TOO MUCH.  Why do you guys think you have to fee the entire town?  Feed yourselves – and a few extra people as gravy!  You can do that easy!  At no time or place in history did an entire town get fed from a single freaking farm.  What on earth do you think you’re trying to do?

As for the martial problems, I wanted to shout: is Kristen a partner in this farm business or is she a hired hand?  If she’s a partner, why can’t she decide to spend a few dollars improving a room in the house, or taking a freaking afternoon off to go to Plattsburgh – with the kids, to buy a piece of plumbing equipment for chirssakes – it’s not like she even wanted to go there to buy shoes, although that should have been perfectly acceptable too.  You know, world, not every physical step taken in a marriage has to be we, we, we.

I really liked DIRTY LIFE and I still like reading Kimball because I share her feelings about growing and cooking food.  I envied the meals she described making – not because they sounded so delicious, though I’m sure they were, or creative or anything, but because they were all so hard-earned, which is its own special sauce.  Some people aim to work hard and play hard.  I wish I could work hard and eat hard.  I really like that about vacations where we bike & hike – I like basically wrecking our bodies all day so we can just fill them up with abandon at the end.

Anyway as we feel Kimball’s worry and read about their privation through hardships and setbacks on the farm, only towards the end of the book does she mention the help they got from a royalty check from her first book.  It made me conk myself on the head and say, oh yeah, there is that.  They did have an alternate potential source of income this whole time, which she never mentions – she’s a writer.  They aren’t only holding on by their fingernails on the farm.

One last observation is about how they struggled with flooding; their farm is low-lying and they had no drainage until some weirdo in town decided to voluntarily finance it for them out of the blue.  She touches on the realization that the ‘bad’ years of wetness actually were outnumbering the ‘good’ years, and it takes years for people to slowly realize that a particular piece of land or region of the country maybe isn’t all that suited to what they envisioned doing with it during an odd beautiful year.  Reminds me of an old quote I read about early white settlers in New England, to the effect of, “When I think of the glowing pictures of this place that they wrote to us back home, I can only think, they must have been writing during strawberry time.”

In the end things started looking up for Essex Farm.  Key things seemed to be the book royalties, and opening up their market to the rich weirdoes in NYC.  Yay rich weirdoes.

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