The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers
by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
c.2010, Harper; $24.99; 305 pages
Keep Manhattan, Just Give Me that Countryside
For most of your life, you’ve had a dream.
Maybe it’s something you’ve reached for since you were born, something you’ve always felt you were meant to do. Or maybe it’s just a passing what-if, the type of dream that might actually come true someday.
Maybe you don’t know what your true dream is yet—but the day will come when it’ll hit you. Case in point: Josh Kilmer-Purcell always thought he belonged in Manhattan, but his Wisconsin roots instantly, surprisingly called to him from a crumbling mansion. In the new book The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers, he tells more.
Most people chafe at getting lost, but in October, 2006, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner, Brent, didn’t mind. Their annual apple-buying trip was over and neither was in any hurry to get home. A few more minutes on the road from upstate New York only meant a delay in returning to Manhattan, and long work weeks. Kilmer-Purcell was an ad man whose job was to make you want things. Brent worked for Martha Stewart.
And then they saw the mansion.
The Beekman mansion was over 200 years old. Sitting on 60 acres, it came with a barn and a guest house, and it was on the historic registry. And it was for sale.
Kilmer-Purcell grew up in rural Wisconsin, and he thought he’d escaped that life. He thought Manhattan was the world, until he saw the mansion. It immediately became clear that owning a farm—this farm—was what he wanted more than almost anything. They made a lowball offer, which was accepted.
They put off the closing until spring, dreaming of holidays by the fireplace, and gardens. A local man asked if he could keep goats in the barn, and he knew a few things about raising vegetables. Locals embraced the couple, happy that the Beekman would once again be occupied. Kilmer-Purcell began to dream again; this time, about leaving his job to start a business.
“This,” says Kilmer-Purcell about his happiness at the Beekman, “was more than a boy from Wisconsin was ever supposed to have.”
But he didn’t have it for long. A golden opportunity from Martha Stewart started a slippery slide on goat soap, which led to longer hours and shorter fuses. Wasn’t living a dream supposed to be a good thing?
Charmed, that’s me. Just plain charmed after reading this book.
Author, TV personality, and former drag-queen Josh Kilmer-Purcell makes readers flock to his corner with gently sarcastic, Midwest-cum-New-York humor, and it’s hard not to cheer for his triumphs and feel genuinely sad at his discouragements. Kilmer-Purcell isn’t afraid to show his dream with warts, and he wears his emotions on his sleeve—both the good and the bad—which only adds to the appeal of his book.
If you’re looking for one last reading hurrah on the deck or hammock before summer slams shut, here’s an excellent choice. For every farmer, cowpoke, goat-herder, wanna-be, or dreamer, The Bucolic Plague is acres of delight.
Email Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org