For the Herriot crowd: country-life mishaps and triumphs, the vagaries of animals and locals, on this side of the Atlantic--specifically, in rural Virginia a decade ago. Bored with suburbia like so many others, Barnes and her family--husband Larry, a Washington, D.C. employee (always away in crises), and two sons ten and eight--sought out the simple life in a tiny hamlet (pop. 20) on a handsome farm with 112 acres of open land, two ponds, woods, and a stream. Predictably, there were some unpleasant surprises--to the natural delight of local doomsayers. But unlike other chroniclers under similar duress, Barnes weights the rueful jollies with solid information about mighty farming matters. Such as, for example, haying: the machines used, the sweaty processes, the delightful gaffes from the use of inexperienced suburban labor or the help of real pests--like aged ""Colonel Swagnagle"" who forthrightly led his troop of little boys to bale green hay. There are stellar animal personalities: Maggie Mae, a 750-pound cow rescued from post-partum death under the sun by umbrellas; Dooma Lee, the omnivorous hellion goat; Claudine the hen, who hatched ducks and had a nervous breakdown; a stuck duck rescued from the ice by the warming society of his fellows; etc., etc. And, among the humans: two grocery-store doomcrackers, Claude and Clarence, whose advice was drastic and usually wrong; a sharp animal trader whom Barnes once outwitted through the use of talcum powder--for identification--on bovine rear ends. Also: some nice kids and good-hearted, giving neighbors. And, for a touch of Norman Rockwell nostalgia, a snowy Christmas eve with carols and an outdoor manger (featuring Dooma Lee). Lightly entertaining--the animals are marvelous--and even a bit informative.