Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Review: Over the Rainbow

Over the Rainbeau
by Lisa Schwartz

(Item B37, Hardback, 272 pages)

Lisa Schwartz is still not sure why she became a farmer. She had a good life as a suburban mother in Bedford Hills, NY. But, she understood the importance of sustainability and one day, when she was 45, she just decided to do it.

She began shopping for goats. When she finally found a goat farmer(Carol Bunnell) willing to sell her an Alpine doe, she had to ask for a lesson in how to milk her:

After she demonstrated her technique with several goats, she sized me up and barked, "Sit down." I reached for the udder, grabbed the teats and squeezed: no milk. I adjusted my grip, took a calming breath and watched Carol again. I couldn't figure out why no milk emerged from the engorged, pink goat udder in my hands. 

Carol laughed and coached me briskly: still nothing. I wasn't laughing. How could I have thought I could do this on my own when I returned home? My manicured nails that I had tried to hide from Carol were digging into my palms, the sweat was dripping down my back and the goat was losing patience in the stanchion, looking for relief. Finally I found the right grip and after a first quick spurt from the udder, milk began to fill the pail.

After that, there was no turning back for Lisa. She had made the plunge and soon she was delivering her first newborn, expanding her herd and making her own prize-winning cheese.

All of this is so well written that the question isn't how she could change her life so dramatically, but how she could be such a great writer as well? Here is her description of the day she took Ricki's Cheesemaking 101 Workshop:

We cheesemaker wannabees watched the creamy, yellow-white cow milk flow into each of our five-gallon pots and subtly change as the cheese cultures acidified the milk and the enzyme rennet coagulated the milk solids into curd, separating the yellowy whey. The sweet grass and newborn baby smells rising from the pots drew me into fantasies of early mornings in my own cheese house and of showing off my own beautiful farmstead products. I closed my eyes to lock in those aromas as reference points for the future. These sensuous, almost atavistic, cues meant more to me than the chemistry Ricki was telling us about.

This is the perfect book to read while you are cuddled up next to the wood stove this winter. If you already have goats, you will relate to Lisa's story. If you do not have goats, you may find yourself inspired to get some. In either case, you will get 64 recipes and how-to information about growing herbs, making cheese, composting, making honey and tapping your backyard maple trees. All of this is illustrated by 100 beautiful photographs taken by Lisa's sister, Karen Sabath.

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