The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The Call of the Farm

Rochelle Bilow

As gripping as a novel, The Call of the Farm immerses you in an aspiring-food-writer's journey from city to country as Rochelle Bilow falls in love with a farmer and learns to cook with real food.  This beautifully written, honest, and vivid memoir sucks the reader in and lets us share Rochelle's failed attempts at butter churning, cold days of rock-picking in the spring mud, and moments of delight finding companionship with a crew of like-minded farmers.

Like The Dirty Life, Bilow's memoir is set on a full-diet, draft-powered CSA farm in the northeast.  Along with four acres of organic veggies, the crew raises layers, milk cows, and chickens, pigs, sheep, and cattle for meat.  CSA members are invited to take home as much as they can eat, and the whole operation is run by idealistic young people who consider 60 hours of farm work per week to be a part-time job.  Bilow ends up becoming immersed in the farm, where she spends most of her time cooking, sharing her favorite dishes in both story and recipe form throughout the book.

Cooking with raw milk

The setting aside, the heart of Bilow's memoir follows her "emotions-first" love affair with a man and a farm.  If you're like me, you'll be unable to put the book down once you start, and will end up reading long into the night.  I owe you two pieces of warning, though, before you pick up this riveting memoir.  First, strong language and moderately explicit sex would garner an R rating if The Call of the Farm were a movie --- use your own judgment if you prefer your books to be squeaky clean.  Second, the ending might depress you as much as it did me, and you will definitely spoil the story if you read the about-the-author blurb on the back of the book.  On the other hand, if you enjoyed This Life is in Your Hands, The Call of the Farm will be right up your alley.

Draft horses

Those caveats aside, The Call of the Farm is poised to become one of those must-read homesteading books of 2014.  I enjoyed a galley copy, but the title will be available to the general public in September and can be preordered now.  All told, I'd highly recommend Rochelle's book if you enjoy homesteading memoirs (especially of the "city girl goes to the country" type), since this piece of light summer reading packs a punch.

(As a side note, all of the photos in this post come from Rochelle Bilow's website and were taken by Anthony Aquino.)

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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