Fifty Acres and a Poodle : A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm

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9780553109047: Fifty Acres and a Poodle : A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm

Jeanne Marie Laskas had dreams of life on a farm that she couldn't get out of her head. A dream of fleeing her otherwise happy urban life for fresh air and open space. A dream she would discover was about something more profound than that. A dream she never ever expected to come true. Until a hot summer afternoon led to a drive in the country, where a place that had existed only in her fantasies turned out to be real--and for sale.

Fifty Acres And A Poodle

The place is almost too perfect to be believed, but there it is: a pretty-as-a-picture-postcard farm, with an Amish barn, a chestnut grove, and vistas so beautiful, they take her breath away. And in that moment she knows that this is the spot where her future begins. So she drags her boyfriend Alex, a committed urban dweller with zero agricultural awareness who owns a poodle, into her scheme, hoping that love will somehow conquer all.

But buying a postcard--fifty acres of scenery--and living on it are two entirely different matters. The questions seem endless: How long before the barn roof collapses? Should they buy sheep? Will the place be good for her writing, and for her relationship with Alex? And is there any way to keep Betty the mutt and Marley the poodle from rolling in mud, leaves, and unidentified smelly remains?

In this funny yet tender tale, Laskas shares what happens when you follow your dream--and what happens when it's almost snatched away.

Fifty Acres and a Poodle is a charming and surprisingly poignant memoir of Jeanne Marie Laskas's first year on Sweetwater Farm. It is a journey peopled by unforgettable characters: Billy, the local contractor who bulldozes her briars, takes her shopping for tractors, and advises her on buying a mule; Tim, the FedEx driver whose truck becomes Marley's obsession and nearly his downfall; the local hunters who present her with an entire wardrobe of blaze-orange hats; and Bob the cat, whose valiant fight for life gives her the courage to love.

Jeanne Marie Laskas writes with exhilarating wit and extraordinary wisdom about life, love, and finding your true self on a farm.

It's hard to say how a dream forms. Especially one like mine, which at first seemed so utterly random. It could have been a sailing-a-boat-to-Tahiti dream, a quit-your-job-and-hitchhike-to-Alaska dream. It was a fill-in-the-blank dream, born of an urge, not content. An urge for something new.

I was thirty-seven years old. I lived on Eleventh Street, the last house on the right,in South Side, a gentrified old mill town on the banks of the Monongahela River. I rented an office in downtown Pittsburgh, a fifteen-minute bike ride away, which is where I spent my days writing stories and magazine articles. I had a garden.
I had a cat. I had a dog.

And I had a farm dream, a fantasy swirling around in my head about moving to the country. Where in the world was this coming from? That's what I wondered. It might have made sense if I was a miserable person, sick of my life. But I was not.I had a good life; it had taken me a long time to get it that way.

A farm dream would have made sense, I supposed, if I was at least the farm dream type. A person with some deep personal longing to churn butter. A person who had had city life forced upon her and now was determined to go be true to herself and live among the haystacks. A person who wore her hair in long braids, used Ivory soap, and liked to stencil her walls with pictures of little chickens and cows. A person who, at minimum, had a compost pile in her yard where she diligently threw lawn clippings and coffee grounds and eggshells and earned the right to use the word organic a lot.

But I was not that person. I was not even sure what hay was, or why anyone would stack it. And if I composted anything, it was only by mistake.

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Review:

Jeanne Marie Laskas is 37, with a house, garden, dog, cat, flourishing writing career--all of the perfect ingredients, in fact, of a happy city-person's life--when a childhood dream resurfaces. It is a farm dream, this "song I couldn't get out of my head," and it would make more sense, she ruefully admits, if she were "at least the farm dream type. A person with some deep personal longing to churn butter." But not Laskas. She likes malls. She eats Lean Cuisine. She believes "very deeply in the power of air conditioning, microwave ovens, and very many things you plug in." Nonetheless, she spends weekends on make-believe "farm shopping" excursions with her boyfriend, Alex, who is another city person, a shrink and the owner of an honest-to-goodness poodle--a farm dream disqualifier, if ever there were one. Then, one summer afternoon, the perfect place appears, and it's very real: fifty acres, a pond, an Amish barn, and a magnificent view out over the rolling hills of Pennsylvania's Washington County. They fall in love. They buy the farm. Goodbye, city-person life.

But the scenery with which they fell in love is not quite like the scenery in postcards. Things need to be done to it, and all of these things involve buying and learning how to use different kinds of tractor attachments. And then there are the neighbors: the sheep farmer who shoots dogs, the curious proliferation of Joe Crowleys, everywhere the hunters. ("Congratulations on your ... dead deer," is all Alex can think to say to them.) Over the year that follows, the two city slickers find out a great deal about livestock, tractor attachments, and themselves; all of which is related in Laskas's funny, warm, conversational style. As she leaves behind her ordered, interior world for one that's gorgeously, chaotically exterior, Fifty Acres and a Poodle becomes much more than just a book about learning to live in the country; it is, in fact, a book about learning to live--dead groundhogs, emotional messes, and all. You don't need your own farm dream to fall in love with this witty and winning memoir, but it wouldn't hurt to look through the real estate pages, just in case. --Mary Park

From the Publisher:

7 1.5-hour cassettes

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