A GARLIC TESTAMENT: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley Crawford

A GARLIC TESTAMENT: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm

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A contemplative, ""overeducated"" writer turned small-time farmer tells of his adventures planting and harvesting garlic on a semi-arid plot of land in New Mexico. This fine memoir takes up where Crawford's superb ode to farming, Mayordomo (1988), left off. Crawford divides his narrative according to the seasons: autumn is for planting; winter is for waiting; spring is for hoeing; and summer is for the hectic harvesting of garlic, basil, flowers, and vegetables. In chapters with such cryptic headings as ""Uprightness is Ail,"" ""Garlic Ghettos,"" ""The Flying Clove,"" and ""Pyrotechnics,"" he delineates different aspects of living on the land, interspersing lucid descriptions of apparently mundane chores with meditations on the mysteries of life. Crawford's prose is always deliciously spare and understated: ""Winds arriving late in the day...the vultures are circling closer and closer to their roost and readying themselves to drop, with darkness itself, into their dead trees at the very last moment of light."" At times his musings seem a bit precious (""[farming] does not wash me clean of my share of privilege as a citizen of the wealthiest and most consumingly rapacious country in the world, but through this labor I know...what it is to live that life with windows on no other""), and his descriptions of certain aspects of farming--such as his decision to switch from cottonmeal-seed fertilizer to synthetic fertilizer to animal manure--go on and on. It would have been nice, too, if Craw-ford had included more on the history and culture of garlic. Somewhat self-conscious and static in spots, but, still, an evocative book written in clean, often startlingly beautiful prose.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins