The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir

I just finished reading this wonderful book, which is funny, because I don’t generally read books anymore. Between the demands of kids, career, and household management, I find that I have less time than ever for pleasure reading beyond the occasional New Yorker length article. But my neighbor (she of the wonderful pasta party) asked if I had heard about the Beekman Boys (I had), and absolutely insisted that I read Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s book, The Bucolic Plague. It’s possibly the best title for a book ever, and it came with a ringing endorsement, so how could I resist?

It is a really fun book. Josh has a witty and charming voice, and certainly does a good job of selling folks on his first book, I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir, which I now also need to read. He’s from Wisconsin (not far from where I graduated high school), and somehow managed to launch himself into the worlds of drag shows, advertising, and farming in rather quick succession. The Bucolic Plague introduces you to Josh’s farming life with his partner Brent, while I Am Not Myself is about Josh’s drag days. One presumes that the advertising  career in the middle would make a less compelling narrative.

After reading the book, I am now officially have a bad case of Beekmania. (Do not be surprised if those of you on my Christmas list get soaps from me this year.) I am in love with the farm and their extraordinary efforts to breathe life into it. I also adore the goats, which entertained my son via live cam for a good quarter hour Sunday morning. Their site makes me long for seasons, canning, and fireplaces again.

The book made me think a lot about freedom. As Josh ticked off the list of events and activities that he and Brent partook in, I couldn’t help but feel bound more than ever by the requirements of the two young ones. Sure, we could take the train every weekend, and arrive at our destination well past any reasonable bedtimes, but we would do so at our own peril. There is no quick stop in at the local restaurant for a drink, no holiday parties that end in hangovers, no working as late as you please (or have to), and certainly no unattended time near fires, stoves, or animals with the very wee ones unless you are unusually tolerant of exhaustion and pain. Kids tie you down.

That said, almost nothing ties you down more than a farm, particularly one with a big mortgage attached. The ritual is seasonal rather than daily, but no less demanding in its need for attention and care. And the book reads a bit like the adjustment to parenthood. Josh and Brent birthed a business and a working farm, and their struggle to keep it all together through challenges is universal.

My only complaint about the book is that when Dr. Brent M.D. loses his job at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia he is just jobless. I would imagine that being a M.D. (and moreover, a geriatric specialist) means that one can dig up some paying work almost anywhere. One wonders why he doesn’t try to take a few shifts at the local hospital in between canning sessions? Presumably there is some reason, but we never learn what it might be.

I do have another complaint, actually – their pictures, their website, their design aesthetic is perfect. I confess that I am a wee bit jealous! I struggle to get halfway decent pictures for my site, while theirs could have been staged by Martha herself. As much as I would like to resist the internal desire to perfect absolutely everything, I can’t help but be seduced by the idyllic images.

Also? I note that they wholesale to Anthropologie, proving yet again that the buyers at Anthro know exactly my taste, better than even I do.


About christianathomas

I'm a working mother of two trying to make eating well fit into our hectic lives. I also used to own a completely chaotic bakery. Follow me for tips and tricks on how to get more whole foods into your diet.
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