Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy

dirty chick

From time to time, we all imagine abandoning our current lives and completely starting over, unfortunately for most, this remains nothing more than a dream.  For author Antonia Murphy and her husband, Peter, changing their lives completely became a priority when their son, Silas, was born with global developmental delay.  Murphy, a San Francisco native decided that moving to the small New Zealand community of Purua, and becoming farmers would give them the time and support they needed to help Silas. Being a writer, Antonia chronicled the highs, lows and improbable disasters that occurred in their first years as farmers.

The image that Antonia had of a peaceful farm existence was shattered almost immediately, working with the chickens, goats, sheep and other farm animals was loud, dirty, hard and frequently disgusting . With no experience, Antonia and Peter relied on books, which were usually wrong, and their neighbours, who knew better, to guide them.  Their neighbours and the other residents of Purua are mixed lot; some come from generations of New Zealand farmers, some are traditional Maori and others are new arrivals like themselves.  Some of the funniest and most embarrassing portions of the memoir deal with the Murphy’s attempts at socialization.

The animals on the farm are as much characters in the narrative as the humans.  In the first pages of the book we meet, Pearl, the family goat, Lucky, their runaway cow and Quakers, a sex obsessed duck, just to name a few.  Each is painted with its own personality and watching the family try to deal with their charges is at times, hilarious, frustrating, illuminating and sad.

The book moves quickly and Murphy is a likable narrator; strong, honest and willing to laugh at herself.  The memoir, like life itself, moves from laugh out loud funny situations to moments edged with sorrow and I was particularly moved by the care, acceptance and support the community gave to Silas.

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