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Thursday, November 14, 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

This is a review.

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole  sounds like it could be a post about my new place, huh?  Obviously it isn't, because I haven't exactly had time to write a book during our move or anything.

The actual title of the book is At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One:  Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders.

This is actually an interesting grown up a book....and how it came to be.  It wasn't written to be a book or as a memoir of what happened, after the fact.  It is actually "as they happen" accounts from letters Mr. Sanders wrote, once a month, over a period of 16 years.  They were written to be put into a family newsletter (yes, an actual paper and ink newsletter!) called The Moneychanger.

The author, Franklin Sanders, actually is a very interesting character and The Moneychanger is actually what one of his businesses has been over the years buying and selling gold and silver.


At Home in Dogwood Mudhole (the name of their town in Tennessee) is actually a three volume series of books that tell about the life and times of Franklin Sanders, his family, his brushes with the law, his various extracurricular activities, and their attempt at creating a multi-generational family farm. An agrarian farm.  Know what that is?  Here is a definition of "agrarianism" from Wikipedia:

Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values.[1] It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories.

Even in reading through the Preface, I found some little nuggets that I liked....and some, like this one, I loved.  "Life happens; later you figure out what it means."

There was one part of the preface that sort of stopped me in my tracks and made me think. 

You know what I thought about? 

How wimpy my kids are and how they don't know how to do much.

Actually, it started with Mr. Sanders explaining that everything they do at Dogwood Mudhole (their farm in Tennessee) looks at a 100 year horizon.  He said that he and his wife, like most people from Tennessee, were only two generations removed from farming.....and that they were rank amateurs that had to relearn everything that their ancestors knew about farming to reclaim a way of life.

That got me to thinking about how many generations removed Rainman and I were from farming.  Rainman has no memories of any of his relatives being farmers....although his grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia, and didn't talk much about the "old world" he said that he would have a hard time picturing them as farmers.  I think he is probably right.  I frequently refer to my husband as a "city boy"....and I think he really is, passed down from generation to generation.

Just like I am really a "country girl" at heart...from generation to generation.

My great grandparents were the ones who were immigrants from Norway, they were farmers.  My grandparents on both sides were farmers, and their parents before them.  Now, both of their farmsteads have housing on them (although a few of my relatives also live there too).

My parents didn't "farm" but over the years, we had a huge backyard garden (that I HATED to weed and water), and a few unlucky rounds with rabbits and chickens....before we all finally gave up.

Anyway, this one little section in Mr. Sanders book led me down the mental rabbit hole into what wimps (they don't even like to put their hand into dirty dish water to get the water to drain!) my children have become and, how many of those "life" skills they have many of those "life" skills I have many of those "life" skills Rainman has never even been around.

I have been around farming, canning, preserving, dressing a deer, and I have shot a gun.  Rainman on the other hand hasn't been around any of that stuff and shot a gun for the first time when we were dating (I am sure it was to impress me.  He didn't like it.)

It got me to thinking about all the processed and genetically modified (GMO) foods that I put on the table in front of my family, versus what I grew up with.  I mean, my mom did serve a mean Swanson's Pot Pie, and even an occasional, genuine, foil tray t.v. dinner, but for the most part, it was meat and potatoes and vegetables that they grew....or knew who grew them. 

So, those were my humbling thoughts heading into the book.....and how I was looking forward to watching the journey this family went on to get closer to the land....or whatever you want to call it. 

So, wanna know know how I felt about the actual book, and not just the preface???.

Mr. Sanders writes in sort of a no-nonsense, don't say more than is necessary, kind of way.  Honestly, he reminded me of Andy Griffith as both Andy Taylor and Matlock....if that makes any sense.  Just a straight shooter that has a sense of humor about things in life, but can get sort of cranky too, when necessary. 

This book is sort of a combination of what most people put in their yearly Christmas letter, highlighting what they have done in the past year, travel guides, restaurant and hotel recommendations, and even, history lessons (especially surrounding the Civil War). 

It is just little snippets of someone's real life, as it happened.  Almost like reading someone's diary.  Which means, some parts will be a little more boring than others.  Some parts will be funny.  Some parts will be sad.....and some parts will even be scandalous. 

Just life.

I will be honest, I found the history and re-enactment portions of the book....sort of boring.  But, my brother-in-law, Randy, would love those parts.

I enjoyed the stories of what went wrong in their lives with their kids or their pets, where they screwed up, and where they liked to eat and stay when they traveled.

Any chapter that had anything to do with chickens was funny....sad sometimes too....there were a lot of gruesome deaths.....(I think anyone who has owned chickens can relate to that).

And, let me ask you this:  How often do you read a "Christian" book where the author has been in jail...more than once?  I didn't think so.  I found it interesting to see a glimpse of what life in jail is like....since I don't plan to be there personally.....ever.

I had to laugh at the recounting of when their son broke his arm and came in and announced to the mom, "I broke my arm, and this time I really did."

 I cannot tell you the times when we have had similar announcements from my children (not necessarily around broken bones).  My children do like to recount the time when D-man broke his leg sledding in our backyard in Minnesota, and I didn't believe him.   I made him crawl up the hill to the house so I could look at it.  What they don't tell you is that I was 7 months pregnant and didn't want to try to get down the icy hill. (Plus, I didn't think he had actually broken it....ooops.)

Mr. Sanders described his wife as "having all the compassion a mother should, but after seven children, she is notorious for ferreting out hypochondriacs of every stripe."   Ha!  I am right there with you, Mrs. Sanders.

The way he talks about his wife, Susan.....ahhhh.....just so sweet.  He is honest about things that happen in their lives, but he never bad mouths her.  It made me curious about what Rainman would write about me. 

Mr. Sanders and (I am not sure who that dog is...)

This books starts in June of 1995 and this volume wraps up near the end with an entry from December 2002, that says this, "Day before yesterday we pulled the last two rolls of Y2K toilet paper out of the barrel.  I guess it's really over."

You will find interesting time stamp kind of references like that throughout the book.  Like one that jumped out for me was an entry from July 1997 that talked about how great it was that Carlisle's Fish Camp in South Carolina had a "No Smoking" section!  I love those little glimpses into history.  It is like watching an old Andy Griffith show and seeing the price of a hair cut on the wall behind Floyd's head. 

The book isn't thin, at 378 pages, but the chapters are, for the most part, short, sweet, snippets that give you a window into their lives......good and bad.  It is an easy, breezy read.  Even though, like I said, there were unexpected parts that made me really think about my own life. 

Mr. Sanders sprinkles his Christianity through the book as the "just a fact" thing that it is.  He doesn't preach.  He doesn't shove God down your throat.  He is just there along the Sanders' side.  That is how I think about my life story too....He is just there with me along the way.

All in all, this book has been a charming read.  Like I said, I didn't like the history lessons/historical re-enactment sections very much.  But, the good news is that there was lots of other stuff in the next section about the stuff I did like.  The problems in setting up a farm, or keeping livestock alive (despite the subtitle of "Nothing that Eats"!), or having babies. 

You can get a hard copy of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole for $22.95 or $16.95 for the Kindle/PDF version.  If you love this book, Volume Two:  The Best Thing We Ever Did is also available...and Volume Three will be coming soon.

See what the other TOS Reviewers thought about At Home in Dogwood Mudhole.