A little background on 'why' I wanted to read this. I grew up in the country. While we did not farm (other than that monstrous garden we tended every summer) many of our neighbors did. We currently have friends that farm (both organically and commercially) and I love hearing their stories. At heart, I am a country girl . . . which at times vexes my husband. I think he is coming to terms with it though . . . he bought me new ratcheting pruners for my birthday! :)
Franklin Sanders has been writing 'The Moneychanger' newsletter for more than sixteen years. The book, At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One: Nothing That Eats, is a collection of selections from those newsletters. They tell the reality of life, as Franklin and his wife and children (and eventually grandchildren) move from city dwellers to living an agrarian lifestyle in south middle Tennessee. These stories are both hilarious and humbling, grand and gracious. How may farmers will admit to their mistakes? Most of them, but it takes a great storyteller for the stories to have impact on the lives of others. How their horses trained them will have many of you laughing and crying at the same time!
I know there has been a movement for many years to get back to an agrarian lifestyle, or to at least know where our food comes from and who raises it. I get that. I have never had the personal desire to raise chickens ... but some of our friends do, and I'm thankful for the fresh eggs! I still garden, some years are grand, others deplorable, yet I carry on.
There are stories in here of planning for Y2K. Remember those days? The way they use their 'extra' supplies will leave you rolling in laughter. I remember those days. We were the beneficiaries of some of our friends' extra supplies, and this reminded my of that. Remember, this is a collection of stories from 'The Moneychanger' newsletters, not a re-editing of life. He tells the good and the bad.
In his stories Franklin shares the joys and struggles of farming. The subtitle "Nothing That Eats" is the Sanders family code for 'we're NOT buying anymore animals!' This fails time and time again as they encounter all sorts of challenges raising chickens. Yet, they continue to dust themselves off and try again. Franklin shares his faith in an honest, often gut-wrenching way. Animals die, people get sick, yet the Sanders family continues to turn to God for comfort and strength. Oh, that all of us Christians would come face to face with the reality that ALL we have is a gift from God.
Whether you grew up on a farm, or have lived in the city your whole life, I highly recommend you get this book! The stories of life, day by day, the good, the bad, the ugly, the dirty, and the holy will have you laughing and crying alongside the ever expanding Sanders family.
This 380+ page book is available in paperback for $22.95 or various E-book formats for $16.95. I found myself reveling in daily life, knowing that some of the same pitfalls had befallen our friends as had the Sanders family. My all-time favorite laugh came from the section "Kroger-Backed Currency" on page 90! (I'm not going to tell you . . . you'll have to read it yourself!)
Franklin Sanders humbly shares life lessons. On page 110, he shares his thoughts about motherhood. "...of course, a single woman or a woman without children can just as well serve God fruitfully, but motherhood gives us a unique example of Christian service. By submitting to motherhood completely, a woman is completed. She faces the terrors of death itself in childbirth, and afterward demands so great they seem utterly impossible, but God gives her grace upon grace as she needs it. The greater her burdens, the greater his grace, and the greater her completion."
While this book was written for adults, some of your High School aged children may enjoy it too. Franklin Sanders is Southerner, a Father, a Grandfather, and a thinker. He challenged some of my notions (being from the north) when he shared how his family participates in 'War between the States' reenactments. Up here we call it the Civil War, although I know there was nothing 'civil' - 'civil' meaning polite, not 'civil' meaning between people - about it. He has taught his sons about local heroes, many who gave their lives in support of the life they wanted for their families. That alternative perspective gave me pause to consider how I teach. Am I being honest with our girls about the causes of the war? Can we accurately portray the thoughts and ideals of others even when we don't agree with them? I talked about this with one of our family friends who has been a Civil War reenactor for some time. We agreed that learning history includes learning from both perspectives. Knowledge does not need to lead to prejudice. Grace abounds, give it freely.
I really, really enjoyed this book. At the end, I was only reading one small section at a time to stretch it out. As I turned the last page, I sighed. But then, I checked online....huzzah! Volume Two will be available this Friday!!! I think I'll put it on my Christmas list!
What has living on the farm taught Franklin and his family? A lot! I'll end this review with a couple excerpts from the Chapter One Disaster At A Time. 'My friend Charlie Ritch called Monday after that terrible Saturday. "On a farm," he said, "you are around life and death daily." Death is not sanitized, not clinical, but personal. When something dies, you must dig the hole and put it away, just as our forbears did with their own family, on their own property. On a farm, you can't hide from death. And to say that you can't hide from death is to say you can't hide from God, for every time you face death, you face God.' . . . 'So you climb out of the bubble. You open yourself to love. And with love comes not only the possibility of pain, but also the certainty. You open yourself to the unrestrained mercy of God - for unrestrained blessing.'
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
-Psalm 116:7-8 (NASB)
That, my friends, is a life worth living!