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A gorgeously observed chronicle about getting out of the city and living life on the land, in the tradition of Anne Dillard?s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek .When acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler started to feel unsatisfied by his Manhattan lifestyle, he opted to tackle his issues of over-consumption and live a more eco-friendly life. He and his wife moved to a seventy-five acre g A gorgeously observed chronicle about getting out of the city and living life on the land, in the tradition of Anne Dillard?s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek .When acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler started to feel unsatisfied by his Manhattan lifestyle, he opted to tackle his issues of over-consumption and live a more eco-friendly life. He and his wife moved to a seventy-five acre goat farm in a small southern Vermont town, where they planned to make a living raising goats and making cheese. They never looked back. Now Kessler adds to his numerous accomplishments (winner of the 2007 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, 2007 Whiting Award for Writers of Exceptional Promise, and a 2008 Rome Prize) an array of cheeses that have already been highly praised by Artisanal, the renowned cheese restaurant in New York City. In his transformation from staunch urbanite to countrified goat farmer, Kessler explores the rustic roots of so many aspects of Western culture, and how our diet, alphabet, reli- gions, poetry, and economy all grew out of a pastoral setting. With Goat Song, he demonstrates yet another dimension to his writing talent, showcasing his expertise as food writer, in a compelling, beautifully written account of living by nature?s rules.


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A gorgeously observed chronicle about getting out of the city and living life on the land, in the tradition of Anne Dillard?s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek .When acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler started to feel unsatisfied by his Manhattan lifestyle, he opted to tackle his issues of over-consumption and live a more eco-friendly life. He and his wife moved to a seventy-five acre g A gorgeously observed chronicle about getting out of the city and living life on the land, in the tradition of Anne Dillard?s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek .When acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler started to feel unsatisfied by his Manhattan lifestyle, he opted to tackle his issues of over-consumption and live a more eco-friendly life. He and his wife moved to a seventy-five acre goat farm in a small southern Vermont town, where they planned to make a living raising goats and making cheese. They never looked back. Now Kessler adds to his numerous accomplishments (winner of the 2007 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, 2007 Whiting Award for Writers of Exceptional Promise, and a 2008 Rome Prize) an array of cheeses that have already been highly praised by Artisanal, the renowned cheese restaurant in New York City. In his transformation from staunch urbanite to countrified goat farmer, Kessler explores the rustic roots of so many aspects of Western culture, and how our diet, alphabet, reli- gions, poetry, and economy all grew out of a pastoral setting. With Goat Song, he demonstrates yet another dimension to his writing talent, showcasing his expertise as food writer, in a compelling, beautifully written account of living by nature?s rules.

30 review for Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book came into my life in an unusual way. I recently finished a series of three IRS exams to become an Enrolled Agent. For the final one, I found a colleague who was also studying for the same test, and we became study partners. Two times a week, for 10 weeks, we met at a Panera in between our two homes and shlogged through the very difficult and boring material. One of the topics was Farm Taxation. Now, there are no farms to speak of in metro Boston, and the odds of either of us EVER doing a This book came into my life in an unusual way. I recently finished a series of three IRS exams to become an Enrolled Agent. For the final one, I found a colleague who was also studying for the same test, and we became study partners. Two times a week, for 10 weeks, we met at a Panera in between our two homes and shlogged through the very difficult and boring material. One of the topics was Farm Taxation. Now, there are no farms to speak of in metro Boston, and the odds of either of us EVER doing a farm return are slim to none. But nonetheless we were tested on the arcane rules of farm taxation. Did you know that the profit on a dairy cow is taxed differently than the profit on a cow for slaughter? Did you know that farmers have an entirely different set of rules for estimated tax payments, if they meet the definition of "qualified farmer"? Right, I didn't either. One day, during the farm chapter, my study partner told me he had read this amazing book about a guy who moves to Vermont to raise goats and make cheese. "That sounds interesting", I said (meaning, interesting that YOU read it, but I don't think I would care for it). The next session, he brought me the book. So I felt obligated to at least start it. And guess what? I liked it a lot. I thought the story would be along the lines of "yuppy spoiled Manhattanite moves to Vermont; is a farmer wanna-be and becomes a joke amongst the real Vermonters". But I was pleasantly surprised. The author and his wife go into this project with open eyes and clear heads. They work hard and do not romanticize the really difficult parts of raising animals. They pitch in and help their neighbors and don't take shortcuts. Besides the goats, the author weaves in fascinating stuff about religion, word origins, history, cheese, and poetry. He does a great job of describing the individual personalities of each of his goats, and I mourned with him when one of his best goats became seriously ill. All in all, a darn good book. I'm going to return my friend's copy, but buy another one to pass on to others. And I might even market my tax skills to goat farmers. NOT!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Skostal

    This is a sweet book in the genre of "over-educated urbanites, usually writers, who move to Europe or to the country, preferably Vermont, to escape mid-life responsibilities and find their souls via artisanal foods." Snarkiness aside, I liked this book, especially Kessler's admirable musings on the life and spirituality of a shepherd. It is a great lesson on the food chain and circle of life. When he describes recalling the heat of the summer when he feeds his goats, in the midst of winter, the This is a sweet book in the genre of "over-educated urbanites, usually writers, who move to Europe or to the country, preferably Vermont, to escape mid-life responsibilities and find their souls via artisanal foods." Snarkiness aside, I liked this book, especially Kessler's admirable musings on the life and spirituality of a shepherd. It is a great lesson on the food chain and circle of life. When he describes recalling the heat of the summer when he feeds his goats, in the midst of winter, the hay he has harvested, and then writes of tasting the green grass and stored energy in his cheeses, it rings right and true. The energy (human and otherwise) it takes to produce a gallon of goat milk, and then a wheel of cheese, is worth any Michael Pollan essay. While it does contain the by-now nearly satirical trip to France to discover the true roots of (fill in the blank: wine, cheese, olives, bread, etc.), he plays this in a minor key, and with only mild aplomb (his cheeses pass muster at a fancy-pants restaurant in NY). Yes, only someone from Berkeley or Brooklyn would do the research he did to find the locale in France most like his in Vermont, all in an effort to more fully exploit its terroir, but he keeps it from being too precious. Instead, with his light, laconic hand (which leaves room for our imagination), it feels right. And besides, who is going to pass up an opportunity to write-off a trip to France?!?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dina

    I know when I really love a book, I tell everyone that they need to read it. I also know that it rarely happens, and that it's even less likely to happen when the book in question is on goat farming. But Goat Song is about so much more than just goat farming. Sure, Kessler walks you through his process of buying, raising and milking goats, but don't expect this to be some utopian 'back to our roots' foodie lit. This is the real deal, right from the goat vulva to the spinal parasites that threate I know when I really love a book, I tell everyone that they need to read it. I also know that it rarely happens, and that it's even less likely to happen when the book in question is on goat farming. But Goat Song is about so much more than just goat farming. Sure, Kessler walks you through his process of buying, raising and milking goats, but don't expect this to be some utopian 'back to our roots' foodie lit. This is the real deal, right from the goat vulva to the spinal parasites that threaten one goat's life. This is a book that's graphic in it's description of goat raising; idealists beware. That's not to say there isn't beauty here. It's exactly where you would expect it to be - a baby goat's first steps, it's crying for milk from it's mother, the herd grazing calmly beneath blue Vermont skies. And there's sadness too - the aforementioned goat falling ill to a spinal parasite, real recognition of separation as kids are taken away from their mothers. A real emotional roller coaster, this one. Kessler also does an amazing job of making goat herding seem ancient and universal, bringing in examples from across languages and around the world. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in etymology - agricultural etymology, sure, but the examples are so far reaching and permeating that I think they would be of interest to anyone. There's also a lengthy and interesting discussion of goat imagery in religion, from the ancient Greeks to modern Christianity. Hardly surprising as goats are one of the first domesticated animals, another interesting tid-bit as they obviously didn't end up the way their similarly domesticatied counterparts (cows, pigs, chickens) did, confined to factory farms and essentially a mass produced meat commodity. There is a fair amount of religious musing here too, but handled in the least imposing way. Kessler brings his love of goats and cheese to an almost spiritual level and while that might sound laughable at face value, there is a true beauty in the interconnectedness of his thinkings that I guess you'd just have to read to understand where I'm coming from, as I don't have the vocabulary to describe it other than effortless, I guess. His sentences flow casually and slowly, slowly, you too will see the process of raising goats and creating cheese as Kessler does, a timeless connection between man and nature that skirts on transcendent. There's really so much to love about this book, whether you're into agriculture, anthropology, history, religion, biology and on and on. It seems as though it would be nearly impossible to tie all of these themes together without sounding rambling or preachy or muddled, but Kessler handles it with first rate flying colors, letting each unfold and interweave at its own pace, only when appropriate. Hands down one of the best books l've read in a long while.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    If the joy of escaping with a book is one of life's pleasures, then the rapture at being utterly engaged by a book is inestimable. Enraptured was I today with Kessler's Goat Song. From his invitation to follow where his goats lead, to his introspective and spiritual conclusion in which he reads an anagogic parable within cheesemaking, his affinage of milk and spirit, Kessler crafts his sentences, story, and references with the grace and reverence he displays in his relation of raising, herding, If the joy of escaping with a book is one of life's pleasures, then the rapture at being utterly engaged by a book is inestimable. Enraptured was I today with Kessler's Goat Song. From his invitation to follow where his goats lead, to his introspective and spiritual conclusion in which he reads an anagogic parable within cheesemaking, his affinage of milk and spirit, Kessler crafts his sentences, story, and references with the grace and reverence he displays in his relation of raising, herding, and caring for his goats. Absolutely a peer to the agricultural sociologic works of Pollan and Kingsolver, Goat Song bespeaks the need to rediscover an American terroir, tapping into the zeitgeist of eating locally, of relearning what processes and connections exist within a sustainable and harmonious food system, of becoming engaged individually in the joy and profound rightness of cultivating one's own sustenance. Kessler's peripatetic, caprine-led story meanders from history of language to history of place to history of religion, discovering in each the pastoral underpinnings of human nomadism that reverberate to this day, even if largely unnoticed and forgotten. Though his human mind draws intriguing comparisons and conclusions from the act of herding, Kessler complements his circumlocutions with a plain-spoken assortment of very basic tasks and explanations - dovetailing his pedagogic tangents with the mucking of stalls, the epicurean bliss of making faisselle, the harvesting of the summer hay with neighbors. These history lessons are penned alongside the dramatic - a goat's debilitating illness and coyote predation - and the comedic, epitomized by the trope of animal observation and the life cycle: the copulation scene; providing a literal and figurative sense of the word "horny" and a visual enjoinder to the caprine roots of the word "capricious," Kessler's estrous does are mated to a nearby farm's buck who caprioles and charges and humps any nearby creature to satiate his lust, and, after several attempts, finally inseminates the desired target (but not before achieving a masturbatory feat of auto-fellatio). Like the bellwether goat guiding the herd, Kessler builds his story to the culmination of raising goats - the cheesemaking - while drawing this act in whorls of meditative and spiritual discovery. He avoids a doctrinate overemphasis, drawing liberally from Jewish, Catholic, and Buddhist sources to examine the threads of land, goat, milk, bacteria, and human that culminate in a wheel of cheese, his tomme, which stands in for and beside the tome that he writes. Both exercises take on the notes of the spiritual quest, the quest around the wheel of time, leading to the never-ending and "imperfectible" state of affinage, French for the final stage of aging and refining a cheese, which Kessler aptly carries to the personal quest he travels. Shriven of the urban disassociation from nature by the character and caretaking of his goats, Kessler has crafted a piquant pastoral autobiography, attesting to his reacclimation to the rhythms of nature through the goat-eyed perspective that takes bliss as it comes, whether in the form of rich provender or still-cooling chèvre.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Henderson

    I just couldn't finish this book. Sure... there are some interesting facts about goats that I didn't know. But the author's writing style is extremely forced. He uses big words to make himself sound smarter and tries to tell stories in a way that makes his life sound dreamy, but it ends up just not flowing. And all the talk of pastoralism and ancient practices is starting to sound snobbish... and I can't stand it. So the end. "A goat's anus would open like the aperture of a camera and produce pe I just couldn't finish this book. Sure... there are some interesting facts about goats that I didn't know. But the author's writing style is extremely forced. He uses big words to make himself sound smarter and tries to tell stories in a way that makes his life sound dreamy, but it ends up just not flowing. And all the talk of pastoralism and ancient practices is starting to sound snobbish... and I can't stand it. So the end. "A goat's anus would open like the aperture of a camera and produce perfectly round pellets, one by one." Followed by the longest eye roll of all time. Enough said.

  6. 4 out of 5

    G.K. Hansen

    I hated everything about this narrator but I loved his goats.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aspen Junge

    Yet another memoir of an arty Manhattanite with a substantial off-farm income who moved to the boonies and discovered the meaning of life by tilling the soil and eating the produce of his farm. His book is contemplative, historical, and literary as he extolls the joys of herding his goats through the countryside. Read it, and realize that this story has been told eleventy-bajillion times before in just the last decade, not to mention during the back-to-the-land period of the 60's and 70's, and p Yet another memoir of an arty Manhattanite with a substantial off-farm income who moved to the boonies and discovered the meaning of life by tilling the soil and eating the produce of his farm. His book is contemplative, historical, and literary as he extolls the joys of herding his goats through the countryside. Read it, and realize that this story has been told eleventy-bajillion times before in just the last decade, not to mention during the back-to-the-land period of the 60's and 70's, and perhaps once a generation going back to the founding of the country. It's a pleasant read, which is why I rated it as high as possible. It's a love letter to goats and the pastoral lifestyle, and if by reading it you discover an urgent desire to buy a 20-acre tract in New England, I completely understand. If you can afford it, buy a hobby farm, but don't quit your day job until you've written a business plan and figured out how to make and market your artisinal cheese.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Louisa

    If there was any question about whether I had drunk the pastoralism kool-aid, my having digested Brad Kessler's "Goat Song" in less than twenty-four hours should prove it. While on the F train yesterday: Lou: I want a goat. Jeremy: No. Lou: I want a pair of goats so they don't get lonely. Jeremy: No. Lou: You can feed six goats on $745 dollars a year. Jeremy: Finish a book and then we can talk about it. Lou: In five years? Then we can have a farm in commuting distance to the city and goats and one horse If there was any question about whether I had drunk the pastoralism kool-aid, my having digested Brad Kessler's "Goat Song" in less than twenty-four hours should prove it. While on the F train yesterday: Lou: I want a goat. Jeremy: No. Lou: I want a pair of goats so they don't get lonely. Jeremy: No. Lou: You can feed six goats on $745 dollars a year. Jeremy: Finish a book and then we can talk about it. Lou: In five years? Then we can have a farm in commuting distance to the city and goats and one horse. Jeremy: Maybe. You heard it here first. In five years, I will have a bucolic existence replete with livestock. Emily Giardina: our dreams are coming true.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Beautifully written story of a couple who left life in the city to raise goats in Vermont. Really liked the ancillary lessons on word origins. TMI on goat sex in the breeding chapter, but all was forgiven when (actually long before) I read this part: "A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then --click-- a world opens."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I loved this book because in addition to talking a lot about making cheese, the dude takes a lot of random trips off to talk about goats in history and literature and stuff...he's always shooting off on tangents, and they happen to be tangents that work for me. Your mileage may vary. My wife loved it too though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Beautiful book. Kessler, a writer, and his wife moved to Vermont and bought a small, rural place. The book is the account of purchasing, raising, tending, and milking Nubian goats. Kessler is a Jew who lived in Dharamsala for a year, conversant about Christianity and mythology, observant of nature and a maker of cheese and philosophy. Plus, poetic!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This book was everything I needed it to be. It covers all the vital topics: cheesemaking, goat sex, monks, etymology, mythology, philosophy, and the perfection of the human soul.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    My friend Maryellen recommended this (she read it with our friend Linda on one of their 2-person retreats; they get together for marathon reading sessions), and accurately characterized it as enjoyable and worthwhile because of what the author brings in alongside the story of raising goats. This is really a good read, I'm sure I only gave it four stars because I am envious of someone who has goats AND wins literary prizes so he can write books about them, too. Talk about having it all! Seriously, My friend Maryellen recommended this (she read it with our friend Linda on one of their 2-person retreats; they get together for marathon reading sessions), and accurately characterized it as enjoyable and worthwhile because of what the author brings in alongside the story of raising goats. This is really a good read, I'm sure I only gave it four stars because I am envious of someone who has goats AND wins literary prizes so he can write books about them, too. Talk about having it all! Seriously, I am way too lazy to care for a dairy animal, but I do think it could be fun to have a pet goat around to cause trouble: Sort of a turbo-charged version of the ornery little dog we used to live with. Maybe it could be a companion animal to Tom's (future) donkey, and then our lives would be completely blissful. Bonus item, he quotes Virgil's Eclogue IX: Let's stop here and sing our songs. Put down the baby goats; we'll make it to town: Or if you're afraid it's going to rain tonight, Let's keep on going, but singing as we go. Singing makes the journey easier. I'll carry the basket awhile, so you can sing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kimber

    Novelist Brad Kessler and his partner, photographer Dona McAdams, leave behind their Manhattan lifestyle and purchase a 75-acre farm in Vermont to fulfill a dream of raising goats. Brad documents their journey from the purchase of the land, through the acquisition of their first two goats, the grueling hours of raising and milking, the help given and received from their country neighbors, and through the process of learning to make cheese from goat milk. The accounting is filled with lively and Novelist Brad Kessler and his partner, photographer Dona McAdams, leave behind their Manhattan lifestyle and purchase a 75-acre farm in Vermont to fulfill a dream of raising goats. Brad documents their journey from the purchase of the land, through the acquisition of their first two goats, the grueling hours of raising and milking, the help given and received from their country neighbors, and through the process of learning to make cheese from goat milk. The accounting is filled with lively and sometimes gross details. It's a fascinating memoir that I enjoyed very much, even though it caused the death of my own goat-herding dream (more of a retirement fantasy, really). I cannot imagine myself doing the things Brad and his wife did to get to the end result of delicious fresh goat cheese. Looks like my cheese will continue to be the less tasty version I can purchase at the grocery store or from the fancier The Cheese Lady in the nearest larger city.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    People laughed when they heard I was reading a book on goats, and while many will refused to believe me, this is an excellent and fascinating book, even for those who have never given a thought to goats or farming. In Goat Song, Brad Kessler calls us to consider the value of a pastoral life tuned to the rhythms of ruminants. The book is part memoir of Kessler and his wife Dona’s establishment of their farm – from purchasing, befriending, breeding, milking, making cheese, and caring for their smal People laughed when they heard I was reading a book on goats, and while many will refused to believe me, this is an excellent and fascinating book, even for those who have never given a thought to goats or farming. In Goat Song, Brad Kessler calls us to consider the value of a pastoral life tuned to the rhythms of ruminants. The book is part memoir of Kessler and his wife Dona’s establishment of their farm – from purchasing, befriending, breeding, milking, making cheese, and caring for their small herd – part history of myriad subjects related to goats, milk, cheese, belief, and even monasticism, and part philosophical rumination on the nature of farming, life, and our relationship to the natural world. You’ll also want to find the nearest goat farm to beg for a dome of raw milk chèvre.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

    This is one of my favorite writer-turned-farmer stories. Kessler's chronicles the story of how he and he wife Dona buy a farm in Vermont, raise some goats, all to get raw milk and make cheese. In between the experiences of building fences, evaluating does to determine if they're in heat, milking the goats, and learning to make cheese, Kessler explores the history of pastoralism - and the history of the goat. How the goat was enshrined in ancient religions, how it was tossed out by Christianity, This is one of my favorite writer-turned-farmer stories. Kessler's chronicles the story of how he and he wife Dona buy a farm in Vermont, raise some goats, all to get raw milk and make cheese. In between the experiences of building fences, evaluating does to determine if they're in heat, milking the goats, and learning to make cheese, Kessler explores the history of pastoralism - and the history of the goat. How the goat was enshrined in ancient religions, how it was tossed out by Christianity, etc.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    A friend recommended this book to me. Wasn't sure what I was getting in to, but I loved it! A delightful book of raising goats, making cheese, & pure and simply living life. A friend recommended this book to me. Wasn't sure what I was getting in to, but I loved it! A delightful book of raising goats, making cheese, & pure and simply living life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lukie

    Brad Kessler, an award-winning novelist with leanings towards the monastic life, and his doula wife, were already well-suited to an agrarian lifestyle when they left Manhattan to become goat farmers. Unlike other tales of expat city dwellers floundering about in field and barn, Kessler and his wife calmly began breeding, birthing and milking goats, eventually making restaurant-quality artisanal cheese. Other than a few alarming events—prowling coyotes, the frat house atmosphere of lusty bucks, a Brad Kessler, an award-winning novelist with leanings towards the monastic life, and his doula wife, were already well-suited to an agrarian lifestyle when they left Manhattan to become goat farmers. Unlike other tales of expat city dwellers floundering about in field and barn, Kessler and his wife calmly began breeding, birthing and milking goats, eventually making restaurant-quality artisanal cheese. Other than a few alarming events—prowling coyotes, the frat house atmosphere of lusty bucks, and the near-fatal illness of one doe—the contemplative tone persists. Kessler whiles away the hours herding his goats up the mountain for nutritional-rich wild greens, where he reads and muses on the pastoral roots of modern culture. Why, he wonders, has shepherding typically been the job of the most impoverished, lowest members of society, but also of those with a divine connection (Moses, Krishna)? To wander is Taoist code for reaching ecstasy, he writes, and yet the practice of transhumance—shepherding a flock across land—has largely died out. By pursuing the age-old lifestyle, by patiently attending and turning his tommes of cheese, Kessler himself finds spiritual satisfaction. He likens the goats’ bells to the bells of the Carthusian monastery further up the mountain, and the tommes of cheese to tomes of wisdom. He writes: “How is a soul like a cheese? It starts out raw and unformed and tries to refine itself over time.” In the Epilogue, Kessler worries that in pursuing a license to sell his cheese, they have grown too big: Too many goats, which will require a milking machine, when all they ever wanted was to milk a few goats. “Largeness curses everything,” he says. “Could we keep the balance and trade a few wheels of cheese? We have yet to find that out.” I’m sure he’ll find a way. As for my own attraction to a simpler, more pastoral life, I gained a great deal of respect and appreciation for goats reading this book, but also a more realistic picture of what keeping goats would mean. Rising in the first light of day to milk in a frigid barn is not that appealing! But I will always remember his description of a shepherd in India bringing the goats in from pasture. Each goat recognized, and turned in, at her own gate along the way. This conjures up the idea of a community in which everyone has a valued place and purpose, as well as a direct connection to the natural world that is largely lost to us today and that’s really too bad.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Louis

    I'm moving again. Well, technically, I'm always moving. Whether to a new apartment, home, city or region, it seems I can't keep myself still. Maybe that's why I continually return to the Midwest: a place that--in the public mindset anyway--looks to be immutable; still. I love the romantic view of a land so broad and uninterrupted that a sunset is not just an event, it's a spectacle. Yet, if you know anything about Kansas, you know it's anything BUT still: otherworldly winds, cyclones, torrential I'm moving again. Well, technically, I'm always moving. Whether to a new apartment, home, city or region, it seems I can't keep myself still. Maybe that's why I continually return to the Midwest: a place that--in the public mindset anyway--looks to be immutable; still. I love the romantic view of a land so broad and uninterrupted that a sunset is not just an event, it's a spectacle. Yet, if you know anything about Kansas, you know it's anything BUT still: otherworldly winds, cyclones, torrential weather abound. Sometimes I sense the frontiersman in me--clawing his way out, craving open spaces that can be, in turn, filled with adventure. And I appreciate the desire inherent in that sensuality...while, truthfully, having no goddamned idea how to attain it. I know nothing of mechanics, nothing of survival techniques. I quit the Boy Scouts while still a cub...and most of the time I still feel like a mancub (you can infer homoeroticism in this metaphor, if you'd like). All of this is why I'm drawn to stories of people giving up cities in order to commune with nature; that express a dream to commune with the primordial pastoralist within us all. I could comment about the beauty of Kessler's prose; I could rejoice in the way he lyrically describes the disgusting mating rituals of his goats; I could go on and on about the fist-sucking cuteness of his relationship with each pet; rather, I choose to envy the simple bucolic life he ventured into. After growing up in NYC, he chose a life completely void of noise and desperation. Simplicity, Emerson tells me, is the answer. I want it so bad it hurts. Everytime he describes a sunset, the howls of coyotes, the truly glorious workings of evolution, the spirituality of connecting yourself to the land, the satisfaction of laboring with your hands, the way histories as disparate as linguistics and cheesemaking intertwine...encourages me to see that there's something out there I still should be seeking. The frontier, I think, doesn't have to be Kansas (or Wyoming or Alaska)--or any open space, for that matter. What this book proved to me is that the frontier we should all be searching for is peacefulness.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    The primary thing I learned from this book is that raising goats is a messy business. I also learned more -- much more -- about the sex lives of goats than I wanted to know. And I learned enough about the art of making cheese to decide that I'll never again complain about the price of cheese. The author and his wife buy a farm in Vermont so they can raise goats and make cheese. My interest in goats and in cheese is marginal at best. Yet I liked this book a great deal, primarily because Brad Kessler The primary thing I learned from this book is that raising goats is a messy business. I also learned more -- much more -- about the sex lives of goats than I wanted to know. And I learned enough about the art of making cheese to decide that I'll never again complain about the price of cheese. The author and his wife buy a farm in Vermont so they can raise goats and make cheese. My interest in goats and in cheese is marginal at best. Yet I liked this book a great deal, primarily because Brad Kessler is a fine writer. He crafts mostly short sentences, and they are so beautifully written that most of the time you don't think about how beautifully written they are. And he manages to write about much more than goats and cheese without ever appearing to be lecturing. I don't know how he managed to work so many fascinating things about words and language into this book, but he did. Several chapters near the end focus on the making of cheese while following a parallel narrative on monastery life. Somehow, this improbable combination works so well that reading those chapters was almost a spiritual experience. Those chapters also made me hungry for cheese.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth Lequeuvre

    I enjoyed this one. Brad Kessler doesn't hold back on his descriptions with the goats. It was exactly the kind of realism I was looking for. I loved the rhythm of his writing, you could almost feel the pace of the lifestyle from the slower pace of the consistent long daily routine, one task to the next and the moments of musing and introspection in between. I really enjoyed the etymology & historical information he interspersed through the whole book. One thing I would have liked to have seen mor I enjoyed this one. Brad Kessler doesn't hold back on his descriptions with the goats. It was exactly the kind of realism I was looking for. I loved the rhythm of his writing, you could almost feel the pace of the lifestyle from the slower pace of the consistent long daily routine, one task to the next and the moments of musing and introspection in between. I really enjoyed the etymology & historical information he interspersed through the whole book. One thing I would have liked to have seen more of was the cost of this new life. At one point he mentioned how much it would cost to feed 6 goats over the winter. That was helpful. I would have liked to have read more of that. I seem to keep reading about these urbanites who chuck it all and move to a farm, but all of them are successful writers. They live off of their writing, or they had money to live off of in the first place, or some family member left them property and a house. No one seems to have a book about having to suck it up and get a job at the local WalMart to make this dream a reality or how they fit in income earning into the farmer lifestyle. I'd love to see more about the financial side of it...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    The full title of Brad Kessler's book is Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. I LOVED this book. Brad and his wife decided to leave the life of the city behind and move to the country. One of their neighbors owns goats and they decide they would love to raise a few and start making their own cheese. Kessler tells the history of both goat herding and the making of cheese while telling his own story of the first year or so of owning goats and making The full title of Brad Kessler's book is Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. I LOVED this book. Brad and his wife decided to leave the life of the city behind and move to the country. One of their neighbors owns goats and they decide they would love to raise a few and start making their own cheese. Kessler tells the history of both goat herding and the making of cheese while telling his own story of the first year or so of owning goats and making cheese. His prose is beautiful, the way he talks about walking with the goats, listening to their voices (they each have a different voice and their distinct personality) while enjoying being out in nature. His descriptions of the cheeses are also gorgeous. He talks about how when he eats a goat cheese in the winter, he can taste the summer day from the day he milked the goats to make that cheese. It's a quiet book, so calm and meditative. Loved it, totally fed my desire for my own goats!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    "A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then-click-a world opens." I have not loved a book this much since Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author has such a beautiful writing style that I found myself re-reading phrases a few times just to let them soak in. This book is about so many things and like a good cheese, it has layers and terroir. I loved all of the information that I got through his stor "A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then-click-a world opens." I have not loved a book this much since Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author has such a beautiful writing style that I found myself re-reading phrases a few times just to let them soak in. This book is about so many things and like a good cheese, it has layers and terroir. I loved all of the information that I got through his storytelling relating to the goats, herding, milking, American culture, cheese, monks, coyotes, and France (to name a few). I couldn't find enough minutes in the day to devour this book. It made me laugh, learn, cry, and mostly it nourished my soul.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This was my surprise read of the year - absolutely delightful. Kessler is a lyrical writer so much so that he almost made this city girl want to move to Vermont. He didn't romanize the work or the time that are involved in the care, sexual habits and milking of the goats and the intricate and exacting effort it takes to make cheese. But the grinding reality of the enterprise was countered with endearing descriptions of the personalities of the individual Nubian goats, the magnificent mountains a This was my surprise read of the year - absolutely delightful. Kessler is a lyrical writer so much so that he almost made this city girl want to move to Vermont. He didn't romanize the work or the time that are involved in the care, sexual habits and milking of the goats and the intricate and exacting effort it takes to make cheese. But the grinding reality of the enterprise was countered with endearing descriptions of the personalities of the individual Nubian goats, the magnificent mountains and woods in Vermont and history of goats in literature and culture. He ended the book on a philosophical note about the disconnect we have with food and the animal that provides us with meat, cheese or milk. A lesson I know but don't think about very often.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Phil Meyer

    This book is a real charmer. It's "A Year in Provence" with goats, sort of. A couple gives up the big city life to become goat farmers. While it may be a somewhat a romanticized view of the farmer's life, it captures both the travails of raising goats on a rural farm and the real joy that these animals give their lives.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Hawley

    Loved this book! Went right out to the local Food Coop and bought a nice herbed Chevre. Now I want a goat farm.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    A well written book, but I guess I'm just not that interested in raising goats or making cheese.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carissa

    We had Nubian goats when I was growing up and this book makes me sure that I need goats again. This book reads like poetry and causes me to crave pasture land and cheese.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    On one hand, the story of city-dwellers moving out to the country for a beautiful new life is as ancient as Theocritus, Virgil, and Horace, which is to say that the outlines of this story have been established in some way for thousands of years and is thus well-familiar. On the other hand, of course, that heritage is less a weight than a guideline and Kessler's take on the genre is moving, informative, and enormously passionate. His decision to move to Vermont, raise Nubian goats, and take up da On one hand, the story of city-dwellers moving out to the country for a beautiful new life is as ancient as Theocritus, Virgil, and Horace, which is to say that the outlines of this story have been established in some way for thousands of years and is thus well-familiar. On the other hand, of course, that heritage is less a weight than a guideline and Kessler's take on the genre is moving, informative, and enormously passionate. His decision to move to Vermont, raise Nubian goats, and take up dairy duties and cheesemaking is told as a series of relationships with the neighbours, the dairy operation, history, myth, and the goats themselves, whose lives take central stage. Over the course of the book, Kessler's fascination with the deep roots of pastoralism enrich his ability to recognize the shepherd's tracks as well-established features of human life and activities, and his alternating chapters from the Vermont farm to historical musings proves an able narrative technique. While the immediate effect for many cityfolk will be a stunting wish to follow in Kessler's path and a reminder of the parts of life that have been cut from their experience with the violence of corporate agribusiness techniques, the longer burn of this book is to feel the weight and depth of experience that goes into rural living and to remember it with admiration and, yes, maybe even yearning. In the best hands, such as Kessler's, a pastoral is barely idyllic, but maybe a little nostalgic and certainly leavened with wisdom and naïveté in equal measures. Give it a try!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kat Heatherington

    A lovely poetic meditation on farming in the late 20th century. As a poet who farms, myself, I appreciate both Kessler's sensitivity to language, and his inclusion of very specific cheese-making recipes and milking advice. I picked this book up because I've had it on my shelf for years, but this summer, our farm is getting our own goats for the first time, and I thought I would start my goat-related reading with a memoir and then branch into technical manuals like Storey's Guide To Raising Dairy A lovely poetic meditation on farming in the late 20th century. As a poet who farms, myself, I appreciate both Kessler's sensitivity to language, and his inclusion of very specific cheese-making recipes and milking advice. I picked this book up because I've had it on my shelf for years, but this summer, our farm is getting our own goats for the first time, and I thought I would start my goat-related reading with a memoir and then branch into technical manuals like Storey's Guide To Raising Dairy Goats and more specific texts. It has been a very pleasant experience. I got a little impatient with the philosophy towards the end (more narrative, less maundering!) but then I never do read non-fiction without being impatient for narrative. And he turned it around in a cheese-making narrative, so it all worked out in the end. Kessler's regular digressions into word origins and the relationship of herding to literature, history, music and the arts were largely very informative and interesting, as well as elegantly written. Definitely a worthwhile read, especially if you own or ever plan to own goats!

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