Read The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir Online

Authors: Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Personal Memoirs, #General, #Technology & Engineering, #Social Science, #Biography, #Goat Farmers - New York (State), #State & Local, #Josh, #Female Impersonators, #United States, #Gender Studies, #Middle Atlantic, #Female Impersonators - New York (State), #Goat Farmers, #Kilmer-Purcell, #New York (State), #Agriculture, #History

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir

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The Bucolic Plague

How Two Manhattanites

Became Gentlemen Farmers

An Unconventional Memoir

Josh Kilmer-Purcell

For the Honorable William Beekman and all of the past and present citizens of Sharon Springs, who have the old-fashioned decency not to laugh at us to our faces
The Judge built a spacious mansion west of Beekman’s Corners in 1802–’04, which is still standing, having the appearance of a “baronial hall,” in which he lived in princely style until his death, which occurred on the 26th of November, 1845, at the age of seventy-eight. His remains were deposited in the family vault, near the residence, and lying near are five of his first children, the eldest being born in the year 1789. Mrs. Beekman lies beside him, having died in December, 1835, at the age of seventy.

History of Schoharie County, New York
William E. Roscoe, 1882



Author’s Caution


The last time I saw 4 a.m., I was tottering…

Book 1

Chapter One

“Don’t panic,” Brent said, “but there’s a huge spider on…

Chapter Two

“They were nice,” Brent said once we’d settled into the…

Chapter Three

We delayed the closing until spring—partially to enjoy one last…

Chapter Four

“You first.”

Chapter Five

We’re woken up by what sounds like someone performing Wagner’s…

Chapter Six

The rest of our first weekend in our new country…

Chapter Seven

Brent looked over my shoulder at the letter and two…

Chapter Eight

“What was that?” Brent asked as he pulled his heavy…

Chapter Nine

In the course of only a month we’d turned the…

Chapter Ten

“What do I do with this?” Jason, one of the…

Chapter Eleven

By the end of summer it seemed as if we…

Chapter Twelve

The first frost fell like a guillotine at the Beekman.

Chapter Thirteen

In the advertising world, Thanksgiving no longer exists. If you…

Chapter Fourteen

I’d been dreading the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas ever…

Chapter Fifteen

For true Martha-philes, the real spirit of Christmas is giving…

Chapter Sixteen

“Guess what?” Brent asked, calling me in my office from…

Book 2

Chapter Seventeen

“And welcome back.”

Chapter Eighteen

Before the show had finished airing on the West Coast,…

Chapter Nineteen

A rusty light brown sedan of early-1990s origin pulled into…

Chapter Twenty

“Where are all these orders coming from?” I finally reached…

Chapter Twenty-One

“You’re cute. Take this train often?”

Chapter Twenty-Two

Brent and I began arguing about every little aspect of…

Chapter Twenty-Three

The following weekend:

Chapter Twenty-Four


Chapter Twenty-Five

“Okay, great,” the director said. “Now do the same thing…

Chapter Twenty-Six

“Ha…ee…urth…ay.” The voice was crackly and broken on the other…

Book 3

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Rather than return to the city on Labor Day evening,…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

September 18: The Dow loses one-third of its value.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

The day before Thanksgiving is the first time Brent and…

Chapter Thirty

Brent and I are lying in bed watching the annual…

Chapter Thirty-One

Heading into the office every day leading up to Christmas…

Chapter Thirty-Two

Sometimes we wonder whether Bubby sits on the porch steps…

Chapter Thirty-Three

“Check out this e-mail,” Brent says to me the morning…

Chapter Thirty-Four


Chapter Thirty-Five

It’s amazing how quickly the house reverts to complete emptiness.


“We noticed that when you enter the canned goods aisle,…


About the Author

Other Books by Josh Kilmer-Purcell



About the Publisher

This is a memoir of a certain time in my life. The names of some characters have been changed, and some are composites of various people, experiences, and conversations I had then. If you think that’s unfair, you’ve obviously never lived in a small town and written a memoir about your neighbors.

Author’s Caution

This book is not about living your dream. It will not inspire you. You will not be emboldened to attempt anything more than making a fresh pot of coffee.

The author reminds you that there are plenty of other memoirs out there written by courageous souls who have broken with their past, poetically leaving behind things such as:

  1. Drugs and/or Drinking
  2. Career Ennui
  3. Bad Relationships

…and have successfully achieved goals such as:

  1. Creative Fulfillment
  2. The Simple Life
  3. Jesus’s Approval

The author notes that those memoirs are generally full of more shit than a barn at the end of a long winter.


The last time I saw 4
, I was tottering home in high heels and a matted wig sipping from the tiny bottles of Absolut I always kept in my bag for emergencies. Emergencies like “last call.”

Now, a little more than a decade later, I’m digging through the backpack I’ve propped up on the front fender of my pickup truck, counting baby bottles of fresh milk.

“Thirteen…fourteen…fifteen. I’ve got fifteen bottles,” I report to Farmer John, who, as a lifelong farmer, has seen every single 4
of his life with considerably more dignity than I ever had. I wonder if farm parents start to panic when their infants first attempt to sleep through the night. “What’s wrong with our child?! It just lays there not working for eight hours at a time!”

“That should be enough. Just ration it out,” John advises. “They don’t know when to stop. They’ll drink whatever you give them, and you don’t want them to have upset stomachs.”

“How do I know if they have upset stomachs?”

“You’ll know.”

“Now you’re sure I don’t need any permits or anything?” I ask John. “What if I get pulled over?”

“I looked online,” John answers, wedging the oversize dog cage containing five three-week-old baby goats farther into the pickup’s backseat. “I didn’t see any laws about transporting livestock. You’re not crossing state lines or anything.”

It’s not the state lines I’m worried about. It’s the city one. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be the only commuter hauling five baby goats across the George Washington Bridge into New York City this morning for their daytime television debut.

As I pull out of the driveway of the farm, I adjust the rearview mirror to check on the five tiny napping goats. They inhale and exhale in unison in a tight pile in their cage on the backseat. The windshield begins to fog over as their breaths warm up the chilly April morning interior of the truck.

In the mirror I also see Farmer John still standing outside the barn watching me drive over the hill with his most precious possessions—the first five kids born in 2008. As with most of the adventures my partner, Brent, and I cook up, the reticent and gentle John is dubious. As our “co-farmer” (liberal guilt keeps me from calling him our “caretaker”), John is often rightfully wary of our big-city ways. It’s risky to transport livestock this young. Everything from feeding to exposure to drafts and jostling must be monitored. All of the savings of John’s forty-plus-year life have been invested in his eighty-head goat herd. And here I am, chief city slicker, driving off with this year’s potential profits.

I flick on the truck’s heat to dissipate the condensation on the windshield. With all of the milk tankers that speed along our country road during the wee hours of the morning, I need to be able to see the hilly road clearly. It’s been a lifelong goal of mine never to die ironically. I need to be alert, even though it’s a struggle. It’s Wednesday morning, and I’d made the three-and-a-half-hour trip to our weekend farm from the city last night after work, arriving around midnight. And now, after only three hours of sleep, I’m on my way back into the city. Destination:
The Martha Stewart Show
studio. And then, after the taping, I have to head straight to the advertising agency where I work for a meeting with our most important client.

For weeks I’d been dreading the logistics of this trip as much as I’d been excited about it. But in the end, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Brent, who as “Dr. Brent” works with Martha as her resident health and wellness expert, had given Martha several bars of our handmade goat milk soap for Christmas. She enjoyed it so much that she suggested that Brent and she do a segment together on her television show teaching viewers how to make their own soap at home.

Brent, with his MBA background, and me, with my advertising résumé, realized what an amazing opportunity had fallen into our laps. Companies like GE and Procter & Gamble pay fortunes for a mere mention on Martha’s popular daytime show. Here we had two entire segments to promote a product. Sure, it wasn’t a product we’d actually begun manufacturing yet, but we had three weeks from the day Martha extended the invitation until the day of the filming. With our combined expertise, we could launch a company in that short time, couldn’t we? Over-achievers that we are, we jumped into it without question. But secretly I had another motivation. Maybe, just maybe, it could be successful enough for me to finally slow down my life a little. Running a farm on the weekends, in addition to being a partner in a booming ad agency as well as writing books and magazine columns, was beginning to tally up to a colossal midlife crisis.

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