Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm by Hilarie Burton Morgan


I cannot resist reading about women who move to the country and live a farming life. I guess it's because I think they're very brave. And they're so darn handy at creating something out of nothing, or using very little to create that something. Hilarie Burton Morgan joins my list of women I admire, who roll up their sleeves and jump in with a brave heart. 

The Rural Diaries is about Hilarie and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (you know, that heartthrob of a guy from Grey's Anatomy, and the nasty Negan from The Walking Dead), and their decision to move to Rhinebeck, New York and live on a farm.  After meeting in L.A. through mutual friends, their connection was pretty quick and deep. Driving through Rhinebeck, they immediately felt at home and wanted to put down roots away from the craziness of Hollywood. And so they did. 

But this story is not all fairy tale and happy ending; at least not for a few years. Hilarie recounts their beginnings, with their young son Gus, in a little cabin by the woods. Their happiness at finding home, and becoming part of the community. Hilarie is a whiz with power tools and gardening; she learned a lot of skills from her parents and had always longed for a special place to call home. Her attitude of just jumping in and doing the hard work, and the satisfaction of making a home are inspiring. 

Hilarie and Jeffrey find a farm with 70 acres nearby and move there after a few years. More hard work, with the addition of chickens, alpacas, donkeys, and dogs. Hilarie recounts her heartbreaking miscarriages, and the strain they put on her relationship with Jeffrey. Healing from that, and finding their way back to each other. Community is also huge in this memoir; the friends and family that surround the couple and their son Gus are amazing, and I'll admit to being a little bit envious of their little piece of heaven!

Hilarie is a breath of fresh air. Her openness at the ups and downs of her relationship with Jeffrey, her obsession with getting pregnant again and the strain it caused; her heartbreak at losing her pregnancies. Her willingness to get on with the work and not be afraid of failure (in gardening, especially), and her big heart make this a charming read. Her brief inside look at Hollywood and her experiences as an actress are certainly interesting, too. 

This read certainly brightened a dismal February for me. My partner's Mom passed away last week after a very long illness. It was crushing to see her slowly getting worse over the past few years, the past six months have been hard; the past few months were profoundly sad. I was blessed to spend the last few weeks with her, helping my partner to care for his Mom and spending the days with her. It was not easy, and boy oh boy I cried so many tears my face hurt and my eyes were a mess. I'm taking some time to just be home, support my partner in his grief, and yes, grieve myself. So this memoir actually reminded me that the sun will shine again, flowers will bloom, and Spring will arrive. Life keeps going, and we will keep moving forward. 

Rating: 4/6 for an utterly open and honest look at the ups and downs of creating a life together, taking a leap and deciding to live that dream. Anyone who loves farm life, homemaking, and the country life will enjoy this memoir. A reminder that family, friends, and home are most important. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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