Monday, August 16, 2010

Reading a Book Written by Someone You Know--The Ladies of Low Arvie: living the farming dream

It was a joy to read The Ladies of Low Arvie: living the farming dream.

A significant amount of  that pleasure had to do with the fact that I know Linda Watson, the author--at least we are "virtual" acquaintances through the professional LinkedIn website and through Facebook.

Linda Watson and her husband have bought a farm in rural Galloway, Scotland, and her book chronicles their journey of finding and developing their farm into a small cattle operation and bed and breakfast business. 

There is a thrill when reading a book to be able afterward to email the author and tell her what you liked, to be able to ask follow-up questions, to go to the author's website and read more, to see photos.

"Have you ever had a dream? A dream of living life to its fullest extent. A dream where life is varied, exciting, perhaps not always carefree but where there are no problems, just challenges which you meet head on, with joy in your heart and the determination to succeed in your head...where there is no one standing over you ready to criticise or harass...where you wake every morning happy to greet the day, whatever the weather...where you know that there may be hard work ahead, but that when you reach your bed again at night, the chances are much better than even that you will be looking back upon a day of fulfilment and satisfaction."

Compare that passage with American Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, from his book Walden (1854):

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living life is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary."

Both The Ladies of Low Arvie and Walden are memoirs. Both books were self-published. (Thoreau once mentioned that he possessed a fine bookshelf full of books--most of them his own book.)

For me, the joy of reading Linda Watson's memoir is the shared link of the common dream. Even if I do not wish to own a farm, I do garden and wish I had more land and time to grow crops and put them away for the winter. Also, living in rural southeast Iowa, Watson's description of the farmer's of her area in Scotland displayed the beneficial effects of living close to the earth, no matter where on the planet one resides.

This window into the life and mind of someone else--through the words of the author--has a long tradition, and in Britain is especially present that wonderful coupling of the ability to write and of the love of the land.

"...and the lawn, though made up of moss and sedge, buttercup and dandelion, lady's smock and daisy and very little actual grass, is green and short. We were pleased to find a huge patch of snowdrop and daffodil on the slope this spring, and they last much longer here than down in Yorkshire, as the spring is much slower to get going and the summer much shorter."

As a writer, I would have suggested some small revisions and editing changes; as a gardener, I would have suggested somewhat less of the first birthing of all the baby Galloway cattle, which are their farm's specialty--yet as a reader, I was captured by the open-hearted prose with which Linda Watson describes her life as she and her husband continue to bravely and happily follow their dream.

Linda has written a sequel to her book--Life with the Ladies of Low Arvie: Continuing the Farming Dream. Both her books are also available in ebook format through Kindle, Smashwords, and

With the new technologies in publication, it is becoming easier and easier to document our progress toward the life of our dreams. For all who are brave enough to do so, such as Richard and Linda Watson, I am thankful for the opportunity of a pleasant and inspiring read.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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