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Book Review: A Very Small Farm

April 25, 2012

For the past two weeks I’ve been barn sitting for a friend out in the country. Waaay out in the country. Nothing but cornfields and cows type country. No internet, cable, or cell phone coverage country.

And I absolutely loved it. Life without technological distractions and intrusions was infinitely more relaxing and productive. Without the siren song of Hulu, Facebook, and Dreamhorse, I was able to catch up on my reading, riding, and sleep. Life revolved around chores, animals, daily jogs, pleasure reading, and the occasional dog cuddle.

I could have done it forever.

Fortifying my desire for self-imposed country exile was A Very Small Farm, a lovely little tome I read on the sun-bathed front porch of my friend’s farmhouse.

In the style of Walden, A Very Small Farm chronicles the daily miracles of farm life in simple, elegant prose.

After receiving his degree, author William Paul Winchester knew that the traditional trajectory of corporate career climbing wasn’t meant for him. Instead, he chose to pursue something more personally fulfilling, and opted to make a life for himself in the countryside. Quite literally, the man hand-made his life, starting with his house. It’s really humbling to realize that Winchester had planned and constructed a house, by himself when he was my age or even younger. Heck, I can’t even fix the chicken coop…

Following the house came the requisite garden, chickens, dairy cows, and honey bees, and the book is topically divided into chapters that reflect and muse on simple pleasures of these things and how they contribute to the quality of life.

This little book is not a homesteading how-to. Rather, it explicates the why. Why are we compelled to do this; plant gardens, churn butter, milk cows, eat straight from the earth, remove ourselves from the company of people, bake bread when it can be bought far cheaper at the grocery store? Winchester eloquently answers these questions by articulating how deeply impactful and beautiful the simple life can be. I think this book will resonate with any homesteader, farmer, or window-sill gardener. I highly recommend this quick read, and I guarantee it will make you want to build a house in the middle of nowhere, stare at the clouds, bake some bread, and start a garden journal.

It can be purchased on Amazon for $10.

Any other homesteading memoir recommendations?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2012 11:38 am

    I just read “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball and loved it.

  2. MollyJ permalink
    April 28, 2012 5:49 pm

    Having read your review and the few pages provided on Amazon, I bought this book for my Mom for Mother’s Day as she is an organic farmer. My parents are homesteaders who created a beautiful farm for me to grow up on. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Audrey permalink
    May 10, 2012 3:00 pm

    I purchased ” A Very Small Farm” at the Tulsa airport 10+ years ago. I have read it several times and keep searching every so often to see if Wiiliam Paul Winchester has ever written anything again. I have never found anything more about him. Love the book. Wish he would write more.

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