Review: Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy

Review by Angela L. Eckhart

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cover of dirty chick chicken on frontIn the audiobook version of Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer (Audible), author Antonia Murphy lends her pleasant voice (complete with a disclaimer on her renditions of a New Zealand accent) to deliver a unique and hilarious story of a city girl becoming a farm girl. Murphy, a native of San Francisco, and her husband succumb to their shared passion for sailing and spend their days on a boat. However, when she becomes pregnant, they choose to settle in New Zealand where they feel their developmentally-delayed son, Silas, can receive proper care, and because they don’t desire to move back to the U.S. Eventually they end up living temporarily on a rented farm where Murphy raises her son and daughter and discovers her ability to care for livestock.

This hands-on education in farm life envelops her senses and broadens her world, from the downright dirty and disgusting tasks (embracing live maggots while making cheese) to cradling and nurturing baby lambs as if they were human babies. Finally, when it comes time to leave their rental, the family realizes that they belong in New Zealand, and they purchase a twelve-acre farm for their permanent home.

Murphy’s details of farm life paint the reader a vibrant picture, so real that one may question whether or not to buy a goat, or even an alpaca. She learned how to butcher a turkey and likened the process of pulling out its guts to sticking your hand in warm cherry pie, only with internal organs replacing the cherries. Her curiosity for the animals extends beyond the mere care of them; she wants to make her own cheese from the goat’s milk and discovers her talent for making fruity wines that never end in hangovers. Her addiction to baby lambs becomes all consuming, but as they grow, the cuteness subsides a little when she needs to shear their backsides to prevent maggots.

She realizes that knowing how to actually butcher your own food is a better skill to possess than conjugating French verbs, and when she is spit on while shearing alpacas for the fleece, her husband said he would just buy her a pashmina rather than her attempting to make one. Her trials and tribulations of farm life render hilarious and heartwarming scenes, and she carefully weaves in the story about her son’s needs and his mysterious seizures that worsen, for Silas is part of why they settled in New Zealand in the first place.

While nobody (not even the doctors) know why Silas is seizing, it remains a question in this reader’s mind how he is doing well after the book ended, and also how their daughter is faring. While Murphy’s stories of amateur farm life seemed to be haphazard at times (the animals lacked proper fencing, so they roamed about freely; the goats Moxie and Stripe consistently used her car as a jungle gym), by the end of the memoir, their lives gave the impression of more order and stability. This book is perfect for anyone seeking a humorous and educational story about the details of farming animals with an inner story of family and friends and a love for all kinds of animals, even the nastier ones.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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