Early on in The Wisdom of the Radish, Lynda Hopkins admits that she’s not a farmer. She’s not even a farmer’s wife. She’s a farmer’s girlfriend. With that tentative start, she and her boyfriend, Emmet, become the country’s newest sodbusters. The goal is to actually make a living at growing crops, raising some chickens, and selling produce and eggs at the local farmers market. What at first sounded pastoral and idyllic soon devolves into crop mold, worm-friendly corn, an episode involving a fox and some chickens that’s right out of Aesop. But perseverance, the strong inclination that mother nature has for plants to grow, and the sage counsel from experts at places like backyardchickens.com, a working farm does rise from humble soil. They pronounce their two acres in Healdsburg, California, Foggy River Farm.
Lynda Hopkins is a winning storyteller, and her agricultural account of seedlings and harvests, chickens and goats is engaging--even gripping at times. She ruminates on the value of radishes, calculating the effort and cost of seed and water, then runs through the resulting economic and emotional profit and loss spreadsheet. She makes the classic neophyte agronomist error of getting emotionally involved with her chickens. And she comes to the shocking realization that her roosters are serial rapists, even mother****ers!
The transformation that the author undergoes is not so much related to the long hours, the complete and total removal of the word “vacation” from her vocabulary, the fact that farm materials come in 50-lb bags that require moving from one place to another. No, it really came down to a matter of cultivating a sense of belonging to the farm, enough that the farm becomes home not just a location with an endless set of chores. Oh, and you can become a bit more than just a farmer’s girlfriend.