October 09, 2011

Hayfever by Angela Miller

A new homesteader, I pick up anything I can find on other people's accounts of homesteading. Not only are they informative, but they give me an idea of what I"m in for. However, for this book, while I mostly enjoyed it, there were a few things that made me a bit unsettled.

Angela Miller decides that being a literary agent is not enough. She wants to have a farm, and soon that extends into running and Artisan cheese making business. This requires the hiring of several employees and cheese makers (a common theme in the book) and developing a herd of dairy goats. Throughout this process the business has several ups and downs and Miller elaborates on them. She also tells of making cheeses and the process and then the animal husbandry side of raising the goats and dealing with their personalities as well. She doesn't just hint at the time consuming labors of the farm either, she lets you know just how it is and how hard of work it is.

For writing styles I had several problems with this book. For one, it was very very choppy and I would have liked the writing to be more linear. It seemed to bounce from place to place and if I didn't know any better I'd say it was written in several different parts and then mashed together as it was all over the place and some things were repeated constantly without there being a need. For a book written by a literary agent, I was surprised at this mish mash of writing. My next complaint would be with the tone of the book. In the first person from Miller's perspective it was a bit too prideful. There were constant instances of name-dropping and I'm not a big fan of that. I like a little humility in the books I read. In addition to this name dropping, she makes sure you know what these people do. Its not just Mark Bittman likes our cheese, every time it was "Mark Bittman, cookbook author and newspaper article writer" and the same applied for her making sure we knew she was a literary agent. It drove me mad to be quite honest.

Despite these criticisms though overall I did like the book. When she's not writing about the people, and instead focusing on the cheese itself and the animals, the book is quite enjoyable. Especially the sections on cheese. They made me want to go to the fridge, take out a wedge of whatever was in there and munch. If I ever have the opportunity to try Consider Bardwell Farm's cheese, I will, because they were so wonderfully described in this book. Miller too does a good job of explaining the personalities of her animals and instead of being one giant herd, they are distinct.

I think the biggest saving grace for this book though was the recipes included in the back. There's no better way to make me an enjoy a book than to throw a few recipes in it for me to use. Especially since one of them involves making actual cheese. I'll definitely be trying these recipes out and possibly reading the book again as in between the writing that makes me cringe, there are some gems in this book.

Hay Fever
Copyright 2010
275 pages

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