I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.
I.T. Geek is a short memoir about escaping the never ending rat race of the corporate world, for an idyllic life on the farm. Or so that’s what the author originally thought. Although it is a quick read, Molteni manages to pack in a dozen life lessons gained through this experience. She starts off with an overview of how she went from a computer IT geek, to retiring early and buying a 15 acre farm for cows, pigs, goats and poultry.
She touches on many fundamental ideas central to human life and happiness. Pursuing money versus happiness. Setting priorities and what comes first, career, family or your dreams? Each chapter ends with a 1 sentence summary of the lesson she learned.
Here is a quick synopsis that was sent to me along with this book to review from After Dark Reading Nook.
Have you ever wanted to ditch the nine-to-five job and move as far away as possible from the rat race? Have you ever just wanted peace and quiet in a rural setting away from the sprawl of suburbia? Have you found yourself daydreaming about pasture lands and farm animals on a daily basis?
That’s exactly what the author found herself contemplating – more often then not – while working at a high tech job in Seattle.
With her husband 3,000 miles away in Florida and the passing of her father, she knew it was time to make some serious changes in her life. She was ready for an adventure, but little did she know what lay in store for her at the ‘fixer upper’ farmhouse she and her husband would soon become the owners of.
S.A. Molteni has spent over thirty years in the Information Technology field working for various Fortune 500 companies. During those years, she and her husband had always dreamed of living on a farm once they became retired from the rat race.
This collection of essays follows the author in her sometimes humorous transition from “I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak” and depicts the lessons that are learned along the way once farm animals become a large part of her life.
I am sure many Americans have had these exact thoughts. Too many of us are going to a job we hate and dreaming of what we would do if we had the chance to start all over again. This book resounded with me personally as I am currently going through a bit of a crisis like this. I just about loathe going to my job every week and we recently bought a 25 acre farm. Along with the land and the animals comes a big learning curve and many responsibilities. I am hoping to somehow turn the farm into my full time job at some point. So I was very excited to read this memoir and see what tips I could gain, and see how a fellow hobby farmer made the transition.
I had a difficult time putting together my thoughts for this. There were two ways I could go about reviewing it, as just a reader looking for a short, interesting read. Or, I could look at it through the lends of a fellow animal lover and hobby farmer. I chose the animal lover/farmer perspective, but will include some short thoughts as just a reader at the end.
In my opinion, if you are reaching for this book, then you already have some interest in buying a farm or farm animals. People may use this as a reference and starting point, and looking for tips on how to get started. From that perspective, I was left disappointed.
I was hoping Molteni would go into greater detail about the particulars of animal husbandry and the day to day workings of the farm. The first half of the book glossed over a lot of this, and made it almost seem too easy of a transition from corporate Seattle to rural Florida. Eventually the second half of the book picked up. At one point the author hits her stride and really describes the gory details involved in this lifestyle (using chains and a winch to help birth a calf). But the first half just seemed…cobbled together and all about how cute the animals were.
A few things stood out to me that I really can’t let go. The lay person with little to no animal husbandry knowledge wouldn’t even notice, but if people are reading this looking to follow in the author’s footsteps, then I have to mention the following events that bothered me.
Molteni explains in one chapter that they got two different types of cows hoping to breed them and milk them. Unfortunately she got one breed, the Angus, that is meant for beef and not dairy. I am confused why she didn’t research what types of breeds are best for milking versus beef.
Next she has a chapter about getting baby chickens. We got our chicks from the same hatchery, and they actually do come in the mail! I wish she had gone in to more detail about the brooder box, managing temperature, socializing the birds etc. Also, I’m not sure why she got bantams for eggs. Bantams are small chickens that lay very small eggs.
Next, they tried to add a farm dog to their menagerie. Molteni and her husband rescued a Border Collie named Jasmine. I’m not sure if they wanted a dog for a general companion, herding or livestock protection. She never really explains. Different breeds are used for different purposes. We have a Great Pyrenees for a livestock guardian, but would never use a herding breed for this purpose. Again this seemed like a lack of research. Border Collies must be brought up with the animals from a young age, something you can easily read about online. At one point the dog scared the cows into a dangerous stampede. Jasmine did not work out and eventually had to be re-homed.
The biggest concern I had with this book was the chapter about the goat Sweet Pea. Now, if you do any research into preparing your farm for goats, the #1 thing you will find is the importance of proper fencing. Sweet Pea had a knack for getting out of the improper fencing, as goats will do. They are notorious for this. The problem got so bad for them, the author taped pvc pipe to the goats horns so she couldn’t stick her head through the fencing. This made me so mad. Just get proper fencing, or don’t get goats if you aren’t set up for them. Instead they tape pvc pipe to the animal and make light about her escaping and leading a rogue band of goats down the road. I don’t find it funny when animals escape into the road. I just don’t get it.
I don’t mean to be too harsh. I don’t doubt she loves and cares for these animals. Other parts of the book she goes into lots of detail about researching and preparing for the animals. So maybe in these chapters she forgot to mention it? I wish she would have at least acknowledged the mistakes she made with the goat and the dog, so that people reading this book don’t try the same thing.
I loved the later chapters with the explanation of bottle feeding the calves and having to medicate and tube feed them. That must be the aspiring vet in me. I just wish all the chapters had been written in the same vein.
Now, when looking at this book from just the average reader perspective, I was still a tad disappointed. It just seemed like the first and second half were disjointed. The first half of the stories really didn’t have much detail. I kept thinking I would get to the good stuff, but before I knew it, the book was almost over. The whole time I was just thinking “where’s the meat?” Where’s the substance? Instead it just kind of seemed like she took a handful of tidbits about her animals and tried to turn them into poignant moments. And some of them really were. The sad circumstances of Half-Calf’s death most certainly deserved it’s own chapter. But the same cannot be said for the first half of the memoir.
Overall, this was a quick (less than 1 Hour) read about a topic near and dear to my heart. I wish there had been more detail and lessons learned specific to mistakes made with the animals. The anecdotes themselves are entertaining, but I’m not sure these stories were best suited for a book, maybe for a blog series. If you are looking for a light, short read about hobby farming then check this out. If you are wanting a more in-depth look at transitioning from corporate to farm life, look elsewhere. S.A. Molteni seems like somebody I would like to get to know and discuss the foibles of starting a hobby farm, but the book unfortunately fell flat in my opinion.