Leif Reads: Life on a Farm

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Leif Reads
Every month, Ash and I are going to focus on one eco-related book for Leif Reads. To see what this feature is all about, visit this page. This month, we are reading Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry.

Coop is Michael Perry's memoir about his life on a farm. Subtitled A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting, it is about how farming has been and is a major part of his life. So far, I've read about three chapters and I love it so far. I'm enjoying this book far more than I expected to. He talks about milking cows (in his childhood), buying a pig that he wants his daughter to care, his dreams for a chicken coop, splitting wood for his fireplace when previously he would just flick the thermostat switch.

Before starting the book, I did assume that I may have a hard time getting into it. As I mentioned in my post last week, I am so not a farm girl. Part of it has to do with the fact that I never grew up in such an environment. All through my childhood, teenage and adult years, I've lived in cities (big and small). So the idea of ditching everything and moving into a farm is alien to me. But when I started this book, it proved to be a compelling read. Michael Perry, the author of this book, is funny, often using self-deprecating humor to great effect, charming and knowledgeable, and also very practical. And his experiences, however normal, usual or mundane, were fun to read about and can be so easily related to.

Mike grew up on a farm, moved away and returned back to a farm. He talks about both phases of his life, and doesn't rattle on as if this is a common every day thing. Rather, it seems a perfect read for hesitant and unconvinced people like me. Without preaching, he demonstrates many advantages of a farming life. And also many of the downsides. For instance, living on a farm means a heck lot of responsibilities, much like in any normal house. He explains how he and his brothers grew up knowing their chores and helping his father milk the cows. He yearns to impart the same feel of responsibility and accountability to his daughter.

I loved his chapter on the whole cow milking experience. One of the photos I have of my late grandmother is one in which she is milking a cow. Up until I saw that photo, I never imagined that my mother might have grown up in some kind of a farm. So I found it quite enchanting that we did have a cow once. The author talks about the many cows they've had and discusses their various temperaments. For instance, there's one that's always head butting him and then racing him just to knock him down. There's another that doesn't like to be milked and would keep kicking whoever's in charge of the work. It was quite entertaining to read the little annoying characteristics of these animals.

Mike says that his family grew up poor. A farmer's life is not always rich, but he makes it clear that they never grew up wanting. It was a kind of life where nothing is wasted and one would think twice, thrice, four times (frice?) before buying something. A lot of things were recycled and reused. Most importantly, the lessons were ingrained from childhood. Although I never grew in a farming family, my parents clearly did. They brought me up in a frugal lifestyle, and if I so much as threw a little food, I could be sure of seeing my mom's angry face and listen to her lectures for the rest of the day. There's so much more wisdom that Mike shares, so I'm looking forward to what the rest of the book has to offer.


8 comments:

Nina Happyendings said...

Like you I would hesitate to read this book. Not really a farm girl, more like city girl. ;) It does sounds interesting to read and it's certainly out of my comfort zone.

Athira / Aths said...

It is certainly out of my comfort zone, but I love how it doesn't seem to be too hard for me to read. There's no fancy talk or over-my-head-references - it feels all so familiar.

Misha said...

I don't know whether this book is for me, being a city girl like you. However, I like the fact that the author has a good sense of humor - I might try reading the book, after all.

ashbrux said...

I think it's great that we are both reading this book since we're from very different backgrounds. I'm glad you're enjoying it and making connections even though it's not directly related to your childhood like it is for me.

hcmurdoch said...

This book sounds much more interesting than the concept of it. I am glad that you are liking it so much. I must admit that it sounds like a great way to raise kids, but I know I couldn't (or wouldn't) do it

Athira / Aths said...

I think this is a book you can enjoy even without relating to it. There's a candor and a very down-to-earth manner with which the author writes, so it doesn't feel like reading a Latin book, which was my worry initially.

Athira / Aths said...

I agree! Although I had misgivings initially, I'm glad to have them squashed fully. It's the kind of book you can read, enjoy and relate to, even without having much in common with the author.

Athira / Aths said...

That's exactly my point too. If I had the choice, I may not try to live like that, nor may I encourage my nieces or nephews, and yet there are plenty of learnings - lessons that you can apply to your life even without living on a farm. I guess that's part of the effect the author is trying to have.