Imagine a large family gathering. There are a couple of cousins who have never met before, a teacher from New York and a lifetime Vermonter. Over yonder are four bearded brothers talking to Uncle Philip, who sells life insurance. Sitting in the corner is Aunt Sarah who, raises hens.
This book is a bit like such a gathering. The essays in it, all concerned with countryish things, range from intensely practical to mildly literary. Transplanted from New York fifteen years ago and now a real life Vermont farmer, Noel Perrin candidly admits to hilarious early mistakes ('In Search of the Perfect Fence Post') while presenting down-to-earth advice on such rural necessities as 'Sugaring on $15 a Year,' 'Raising Sheep,' and 'Making Butter in the Kitchen.'
But as everyone who has read his essay in The New Yorker, Country Journal, and Vermont Life will confirm, not everything Perrin writes is strictly about the exigencies of country life. While one essay seems to discuss the use of wooden sap buckets, it really addresses the nature of illusion and reality as they co-exist in rural places. Another forewarns those who consider the country of idyllic retreat. This is a delightful book, and twelve marvelous vignettes by Stephen Harvard accompany the text.