SCRATCHING THE WOODCHUCK: Nature on an Amish Farm by David Kline

SCRATCHING THE WOODCHUCK: Nature on an Amish Farm

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An Amish farmer's blissful account of the rhythms of nature and work, finding delight in everyday places. ""Sometimes I wonder whether I farm to make a living or whether it is all a front, just an excuse to be out in the fields looking at clouds,"" writes Kline (Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer's Journal, 1990), who works the farm in northwestern Ohio where he grew up. He's not a typical modern-day farmer: He plows with draft horses and uses chemical pesticides only as a last resort, and then reluctantly. His view of wildlife is more enlightened, too. He tolerates woodchucks (considered unredeemed pests by farmers dependent on expensive heavy equipment) because their burrows nurture foxes, rabbits, and other species. Kline organizes his observations into short, discursive essays that shift easily from farmstead to fields, woods, and the community. Though some early passages seem pedestrian (the section on spiders reads like an elementary science text), his observations of plants and animals grow more intriguing the farther from home he wanders. Kline's finest moments involve fascinating interactions with wildlife that show how attuned he is to nature. He observes a titmouse plucking fur for its nest from a sleeping raccoon's back, recalls a pet crow from childhood who liked to grip the hood ornaments of cars and go for a feather-ruffling ride, and stands stock still in a field until a weasel passes between his legs, close enough for Kline to observe drops of blood on its nose. He respects nature, and it rewards him with genuine oddities: A damselfly lays eggs on his finger; a napping woodchuck arches its back appreciatively when he scratches it with his walking stick. Though Kline's thoroughly charming survey of the natural world focuses on the flora and fauna indigenous to Ohio, it has much to teach us about appreciating wild things wherever we happen to be.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0820321540
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia