Title: Honey Farm Dreaming
Author: Anna Featherstone
Themes: Australian farm life, sustainability, agriculture, animal husbandry, humour, learning
Favourite quote, p. 167: “There’s no chooks or compost within a concrete mile and I can’t believe how much I care. I wonder how tower-dwellers exist and connect, when their feet can’t touch the ground; when nothing needs attention but oneself.”
This book was sent to me for review by the author. All opinions are my own.
Honey Farm Dreaming is a memoir about Anna and Andrew, two city dwellers with three young children who decide to pack in their city life and hit the country. Over ten years they live and earn a living on their acres in New South Wales, taking in and taking on holiday-makers, backpackers, Wwoofers, sheep, cows, bees, goats, chooks, horses, and hundreds of species of plants. Their experiences are fascinating and uplifting, devastating and hopeful – no moment is boring!
With quite short chapters, each story is a little taste of the symphony that is living on a farm. One of the first stories is of their first holiday guests, complete with terrifying and uncontrollable children, and the stories of guests only get more outlandish as the years go on. There’s also the time Anna finds a snake in the veggie jungle outside the house, and the time she and one of her daughters are confronted with a bike gang in the early hours of the morning where the farmers market should be. There’s Anna’s first foray into beekeeping, to her genius plan to create a native bee habitat and harvest their incredibly rare and delicious honey. There’s the Wwoofers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) who come from around the globe to help and support the farm or eat them out of house and home. And there’s the night of the legendary cow rescue – not recommended for trying at home!
Readers can also create bits of the farm in their own home using the recipes in the back of the book. There’s itchy bite balm, so delicious-smelling it is also used as a perfume; Farm Balm and Golden Healing Paste for skin health and injuries; delicious vegetarian recipes for spinach and ricotta dumplings, French toast, zucchini fritters, and potato pancakes; and instructions for chutney, relish and cordial. The bounty of the farm brought to you in simple, bulk recipes that’ll send you to the pantry for more.
It’s clear that this work is a series of snapshots over the ten years that Anna and Andrew run the farm, the ordinary and extraordinary blended seamlessly to reveal that they can be one and the same. Featherstone writes with a light touch, giving impressions, feelings, and reflections on the moments she’s chosen to share, while her descriptions of the people, animals, and landscape give the work a strong grounding in the physical world. She also uses alliteration, puns, and onomatopoeia to excellent effect, both as a tool for humour and as a device to strengthen her voice and presence throughout the work.
I came away from this book with the feeling that I’d be on holiday in someone else’s life, and that is the purpose of a good memoir. It also reignited my faith in composting and veggie gardens! But most of all, it made me remember the importance of finding moments of peace and tranquility among the layers and layers of life that abound around us, whether it’s on a farm, in the city, or in a house full of weirdos with no boundaries – there’s always time to smell the roses and talk to the bees.
You can read more about the book on the Honey Farm Dreaming website and blog here.
This book was provided free of charge to Underground Writers by the author for the purposes of reviewing.