Weekend Review: Hit by a Farm by Catherine Friend

Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn
If you're looking for narratives of scrappy individuals trying to start a farm or homestead, a quick library or Internet search will bring you a multitude of people willing to share their experiences. If, on the other hand, you'd like to know what it's like to be the reluctant partner of said scrappy individual and to be somewhat dragged into farming by someone you love, stories are fewer and more far between.  Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn (2006) by Catherine Friend chronicles several years in which Catherine and her partner Melissa buy 57 acres in Minnesota, build a house, and start raising sheep, chickens, and the occasional goat and alpaca. Along the way, Friend wrestles with trying to balance her desire to return to the city and continue her "normal" life as a children's book author, with her love for Melissa, whose only dream is to live on a farm and raise animals.

This perspective is one that I really enjoy seeing and would like to hear more often (Sharon over at Casaubon's Book has a particularly wonderful take and The Pioneer Woman is probably the most well-known example), especially because I often feel a great deal of guilt at all the life changes I've imposed on my own loved one. The content of this book was delightful. These women are all about doing. When they first buy their land they designate a folder as "Wild Hairs;" a place to gather every possible idea of how to make money off their land. They then go through them, weigh the pros and cons and see what they can make work. They end up devoting a small portion of their space to grape vines and the rest to sheep pasture. I find this to be an inspiring way to go about the whole process. Instead of diving in with a bunch of preconceived notions about how or what they want to farm, they find the land first and then they allow that specific place to guide what they do. This combination of extensive research and presence in a specific place demonstrates an inspiring and gentle approach to becoming a new farmer that I'd like to emulate.

While I enjoyed following their journey and even learned a thing or two along the way, there was much about Friend's writing style that grated on me. She uses an over-arching metaphor of "fences" and "boundaries" to describe the physicality of the farm work as well as her emotional states. I found this to be contrived. To me, it reeked of bad college freshman writing. I also found her character development to be repetitive and lacking in any real arc. I understand that this is a memoir and to a certain degree she is "telling it like it is," but nearly every chapter ends with her agonizing with self-doubt about her writing and debating about whether or not to leave Melissa. She came across as indulgent and petulant. That said, this was a very quick read. I finished it in an afternoon. If you can stomach some mediocre writing, the down-and-dirty narrative of two city girls learning how to farm is worth picking it up from the library.

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