CUTTING HILL: A Chronicle of a Family Farm by Alan Pistorius

CUTTING HILL: A Chronicle of a Family Farm

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Very much as Richard Rhodes did for a Missouri farmer in Farm (1989), Pistorius takes Dick and Joan Tredway and their family through a year of work and life on their Vermont dairy farm. Like Rhodes, Pistorius focuses on daily and seasonal chores, including the dirty work (here that can involve immersion in a manure pit), with due emphasis on the expenses of an occupation where much is grossed and little netted, and where equipment and parts seem to be forever breaking down; and he brings out the farmers' blend of self-reliance and community spirit. (In addition to long hours on the farm, the Tredways spend time as on-call volunteers for the local rescue squad.) With good intentions but not much spark, Pistorius gives a little more attention than did Rhodes to the wife's activities, even taking readers through a sock-sorting session and a trip to the supermarket, where Jane spends about $200 a week without much apparent thought. Pistorius emphasizes that only two percent of Americans now live on farms and only half of them earn their livings from fanning; otherwise he is not interested in any of the issues surrounding dairy farming, such as subsidies for overproduction and the stresses on cows of high production and mechanized milking. Pistorius' chronicle lacks the richness and resonance of Rhodes' account, but it reads fluently and will give urban readers a faithful picture of their contemporary country cousins.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1990
Publisher: Knopf