An “artsy San Francisco dilettante” tells the story of how she traded her urban existence for a life of “chasing cows…and executing chickens” in rural New Zealand.
In 2004, Murphy and her husband decided to move abroad to New Zealand, where Murphy gave birth to a developmentally delayed son named Silas and, later, a little “savage” of a daughter named Miranda. When it came time for Silas to start his education, the family moved to Purua, a tiny community that was home to a school where “no one would judge [him]” for being different.
American bohemians with romantic visions of country living, they took up residence on a rented farm. Strange accents, Murphy’s own peculiar habit of wearing Halloween animal ears, and lack of knowledge regarding what it really took to raise livestock and grow their own food soon made the Murphys the object of curiosity and scorn.
The arrival of a farm-savvy niece from New York proved the family's salvation. She helped the Murphys persevere through misadventures involving baby calves with long, black tongues, alpacas that looked like teddy bears but behaved atrociously, sheep that required “ovine Brazilian[s]” and a dog that ate feces.
Stripped of their initial illusions, Murphy and her husband learned that “[r]eal country life…involved blood, shit, and worms.” But it also involved simple yet profound pleasures, such as consuming their homemade artisanal wines and cheeses with the colorful group of expatriates and locals who eventually became family friends.
Murphy’s book presents an unsentimental, at times unapologetically graphic, treatment of farm life. At the same time, it offers a comic yet thoroughly wise perspective on what it means to start over in a new country and live close to a natural world that is anything but romantic.
Warm, funny and touching.