Weekend Review: The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
This was an incredibly enjoyable and quick read, but I'm finding that I'm having a hard time putting it into some sort of context. In the "city-folk-turned-country-living" sub-genre of memoirs, the goal is generally along the lines of self sufficiency or frugal living. This is not the case in The Bucolic Plague: How two Manhattanites became gentlemen farmers. In it, Josh Kilmer-Purcell tells us about how he and his partner Brent stumbled upon a million dollar historical mansion on 60 acres in the middle-of-nowhere-upstate-New-York, purchased it as their weekend home (living in Manhattan during the week), and the follies of their first year in this situation. As two individuals, each with six figure incomes, this is not an outline of a lifestyle that most people can emulate, but they never pretend that it is. Kilmer-Purcell is very aware that their situation is unique and he is just trying to share his story, which just happens to be incredibly funny, honest, and relatable.
During the week, Josh works in advertising and Brent works for Martha Stewart Omnimedia, but on the weekends they travel 4 hours north to their weekend home where they garden, help to keep goats, and generally enjoy country living. For Josh, this is an opportunity to return to his Midwestern upbringing and on New Year's Eve he reveals his resolution to find a way to live full time at their farm. Cashing in on their New York connections, the pair start a mail order artisanal soap business. To support this venture, they build a lifestyle website featuring tutorials, blog posts about the farm, and guest writings by the locals. But as their weekends become more and more work and less enjoyable, their relationship begins to suffer and all seems to be lost when they both face financial crisis in the economic downturn.
I liked this couple and I was rooting for them the entire time. It's not the bumbling city boys in the country story that one might assume it to be (although there are moments when other people come to visit and they do bumble), but it's also not a how-to manual for simple living (although it provides plenty of inspiration for undertaking things like gardening and home food preservation). It is a story of love of people and of place, of honest living and building a community, of reaching out and finally finding home.