24.2 C
Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Sex, death, cheese and chickens: a rural memoir

Latest News

SCU named as partner in two national drought hubs

Southern Cross University has been announced as playing a crucial partnership role in two new Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs.

Other News

Waking up with a sick feeling in my gut

Horst Tietze, Mullumbimby Thank you to Mandy Nolan for publishing her courageous account of growing up as a young woman...

My own pandemic imaginations

Robert Podhajsky, Ocean Shores Imagination is a powerful mechanism; I must admit I get unsettled with my own pandemic imaginations...

Council crews working hard to repair potholes

Tweed Shire Council road maintenance crews are out across the Tweed's road network repairing potholes and other damage caused by the recent prolonged rainfall and previous flood events.

The return of the prodigal son

Gallery DownTown, the annexe of Tweed Regional Gallery, is presenting a new exhibition by regional artists.

Essential businesses recognised

A sticker initiative, to say ‘Thank you’ and support local retailers’ doing it tough is adorning Mullum shops, owing in part to efforts by resident Angela Bambach.

Inspector condemns prisoner health services

In the forward to the Inspector of Custodial Services Report published last month, Fiona Rafter Inspector of Custodial Services says that the provision of health services to inmates in New South Wales custodial facilities is a complex and challenging responsibility.

Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy
Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy

Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy
(Text Publishing, $32.99).

Review by Mandy Nolan

Moving to the country to run a twee little farm is the dream of many a city slicker tired of the meaningless commute to work and a life marked by the lost hours on screens answering endless emails from people you will never meet.

When born and bred San Franciscan Antonia Murphy and her husband flee the city for life as artisanal farmers on the other side of the world, she quickly finds the life where one tends sweet fluffy ducks, gathers fresh eggs from quaint chickens and milk from the darling cow for one’s breakfast to be the stuff of farm porn. It’s not real. Anyone who has spent any time living on the land knows it’s a visceral experience and certainly not one for the faint-hearted.

In her debut memoir Dirty Chick, while Antonia Murphy satirises artisanal farming, ridiculing her naivety and inadequacy, the reader knows from the outset that this woman is no shrinking violet. For a start, she and her husband sail from the US to New Zealand. I figure anyone who can face a raging sea in a tiny boat is going to master sticking their arm deep into a cow.

I read this book with amusement and at times disgust. Not because the book wasn’t enjoyable – Murphy is a very funny woman and her writing style is a perfect blend of self deprecation, raunch and wry wit – but because the reality of country life is brutal. This discovery is key to Murphy’s journey and her eventual initiation into life as a boutique farmer.

…By now I’d learned that country life is not a pastoral painting. Sure, at various times during the year you might see fluffy white lambs prancing in the tall grass, but those moments were rare. Real country life it turns out involves blood, shit and worms. Also goat abortions.

I grew up in the country. I’ve had my arm up a cow and pulled out a calf. I’ve drunk water full of wrigglers, I’ve mustered cattle and eaten a noisy rooster who once had a name. I don’t fantasise about farm life. I know what it smells like. I know how hard it is. It’s dirty work.

Murphy is clearly in love with the dream. She has a toughness that belies her soft middle-class American city-girl breeding.

Her courage for tackling the unknown with a cracking insight and intelligence is perhaps the secret to her eventual success.

Farm life bloods Murphy and her husband quickly. When they move to the small community of Purua to house-sit for friends who own a small farm it’s not long before they experience the joy of animal predators like ‘the duck rapist’, the thrill of goat impregnation, cattle diarrhoea and shaving a sheep arse.

There is something of the pioneer in Murphy, as she and her family not only struggle with navigating farm life, but also the health problems of her son, Silas, who is diagnosed with a developmental delay.

One of the most charming aspects of the book is the way the small community of Purua embrace the family. When she recounts the drunken nights on strawberry wine watching the kids run wild, talking about goats and eating pig on a spit, I feel a kind of warm nostalgia for a life I could have had.

Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer is a must-read for any initiate embarking on country life. It’s a rollicking, in-your-face rural-based riot of sex, birth and death where the hero comes to grips with her inadequacies and learns to make a bloody good cheese. Now that’s a happy ending.

• Antonia Murphy is one of the featured writers at this year’s Byron Writers Festival.

BBWF 2015 Articles & Reviews


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

ALP puts war power reform on the agenda

The Australian Labor Party will hold a public inquiry into how Australia goes to war if elected to government next year.

Help from Red Cross for flood-affected communities in NSW

With disasters coming thick and fast as the climate emergency worsens, Australian Red Cross this morning launched financial help for flood-affected communities in NSW.

Rocky Creek Field Day coming in July

As part of the Rural Landholder Initiative, rural landholders in the Rocky Creek area are invited to an Off-stream Watering and Riparian Habitat Field Day.

Professor Graham Samuel says dementia care is personal

In a moving address to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Dementia Australia Chair Professor Graham Samuel AC shared his personal experience of dementia – the anguish, bewilderment, frustration and torment experienced by his mother as she descended into the abyss of the disease.