630: One-Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich

by Gerard


630.974749: Woginrich, Jenna. One-Woman Farm: My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2013. 208 pp. ISBN 978-1-6034-2718-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 630: Agriculture and related technologies
  • +974749: Washington County, New York, United States

One day, while listening to a friend wax contently about life on his farm in the Hudson Valley, Jenna Woginrich became jealous. She wanted that life, filled with cold mornings, broken fences, herding chickens, and baling hay. She wanted her life to have more seasons and less weekends. She wanted a dog at her side and a horse under saddle. In One-Woman Farm, she recounts how she did just that and gives us a year in the life of a New York State farmer.

The book is a simple one: a recounting from October to October of the life a homestead farmer. She runs Cold Antler Farm in Washington County, New York. There are a few goats, some sheep, a clutch of rabbits, chickens, a few dogs, and some pigs. Each day brings new joys, new pains, and new cycles of life. She keeps a keen eye on the calendar for the best days to breed sheep, plant new crops, order hay, and press cider. Woginrich and her fellow farmers band together to ensure that everyone (as long as they work hard and contribute well) makes it through each season. She learns to make goat cheese, play the fiddle, and simplify her life.

While Woginrich’s writing is indeed poetic, it’s the illustrations by Emma Dibben that make the book truly stand out. Each page is like a scrapbook of design and story-telling. While I wouldn’t go so far as to compare the writing to William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost, you can definitely tell she grew up in that style of reading. Maybe it’s the rhythm of farming or the natural beauty of working outdoors, but the text is just beautiful. She takes the reader through each season, encountering interesting problems and laughable situations, and in the end, she makes ends meet and marches from day to day. It’s clear she has a few outside sources of income, but that just pays the bills—it’s the farm that truly sustains her. A absolutely wonderful book.