One of a few entries I posted elsewhere pre-October 2010, before I started The Roving Home blog.
A few years ago I spied a copy of Maine Farm: A Year of Country Life in a stack of coffee table books at my mom’s house and asked if I could borrow it. The borrowing has since become an act of thievery, which I justify because I will give the book a loving home whereas it will just languish, forgotten, at my mom’s house if I return it. (Hmmm…what else can I apply this reasoning to?) And yes, I’m counting on the fact that my mother won’t read this post.
Maine Farm is the kind of book that you can return to again and again for inspiration – and not in a cloying, overly-anesthetized Martha Stewart kind of way (I deeply admire Martha Stewart but sometimes her instruction in making pie crust, or sugared fruit, or pine cone ornaments – or pretty much anything – is given with such precision and perfection that I don’t even attempt her projects, certain as I am that they will never match the picture before I even begin). Maine Farm inspires in a way that makes you put down the book repeatedly between bouts of reading, stare out the window and think: I believe I have what it takes to build a stone wall. Or a sauna. Or a shingled house. I just know I can grow my own food and throw seasonal parties that involve bonfires and ice-skating. And soon I will build a type of traditional boat called a coracle out of hand-woven willow shoots.
Author Stanley Joseph came to coastal Maine in 1975, after being inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing‘s book Living the Good Life – which detailed “how to live simply in a troubled world.” Joseph bought the Nearings’ farm and began to go about living this good life, which the book details, season by season, garden by garden. Lynn Karlin, a photographer, joined him on the farm and together they wrote Maine Farm, published in 1991.
Of course for most of us reading such a book is an exercise in fantasy, but it’s good, hearty, whole-grain (that you milled yourself) fantasy. No matter how many times I revisit the beautiful images and text of Maine Farm with the depiction of the seasonal rhythms – and seasonal satisfactions – of life for its authors, I am always overwhelmed, each time, with a desire for the authentic life. Or the good life. And really – aren’t they one and the same?
I must be honest with myself: I will never live on a beautiful multi-acre farm on the coast, and I will never build a coracle, and I will never do any number of the things depicted in Maine Farm. But I do plan on growing some decent tomatoes this year, and plan to gather around the table with people I love to eat those tomatoes. And that’s a start.
Maine Farm: A Year of Country Life is still available. Track it down, read it, and don’t let anyone borrow your copy – not even a close relative – because you probably won’t get it back.