The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love gives readers fresh insight into the heart and soul of putting your whole life on the line to learn a craft. Kimball’s story of dedicating herself to this way of life, the seemingly foreign world of the farm, is a game changer for anyone needing a reminder that life can never be perfect, but it will always be beautiful.
A million easy triumphs would not have sculpted Kimball into such a strong person. It is in fact her mishaps that shape her into someone who, when away, actually misses the incredibly hard work that farm life demands. Admitting that she has moved on from the “instant gratification” she once had as a writer in New York City, her definition of satisfaction has changed, and she now finds happiness in the journey, not the destination. Early in the memoir she puts it all out on the table:
“I would ask Mark if he really thought we had a chance. Of course we had a chance, he’d say, and anyways, it didn’t matter if this venture failed. In his view, we were already a success, because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us.”
This beautifully written work delves into two love stories: Kimball and her husband; and Kimball and her farm. It is a story of not only hard work and dedication, but of self-acceptance. A year or so into her arduous foray into farm life, and one month after she and Mark were married, she was close to thinking of leaving it all behind. In a moment of revelation she instead found peace:
“There is no such thing as an escape after all, only an exchange of one set of difficulties for another. It wasn’t Mark or the farm or marriage I was trying to shake loose from but my own imperfect self, and even if I kept moving, she would dog me all the way around the world, forever.”
This book is as much about love as it is community. Farmers need support, because farming isn’t easy; nature is so much bigger and we have little recourse when things go wrong. As Kimball puts it, “Farmers toil. Nature laughs. Farmers weep. There’s your history of agriculture in a nutshell.”
With a deep reverence for the land and the animals she has surrounded herself with, Kimball tells of her exploits: the good, the bad, and the outright hilarious. She argues with a mean rooster, learns how to make cheese and charcuterie, she chases horses and cattle, herds pigs from one pen to another, and saves a baby calf from nearly freezing to death. In an incredible paragraph about an old horseshoe she finds buried in the fields, she comments on time… memories… nostalgia. An incredible memoir, indeed.
Even if you are not interested in farming, you could interchange “farming” for the craft you do want to pursue—and you’ll likely walk away from the book with tears in your eyes, ready to do just that.