Poodles and Oranges – Out of Their Elements

Fifty Acres and a Poodle and Snowball Oranges

Fifty Acres and a Poodle
For some of us, realizing that we want to move to the country, or admitting to ourselves that we’ve always wanted it, is a process. For Jeanne Marie Laskas, a born-and-raised city girl, this is true. In Fifty Acres and a Poodle, she weaves a memoir out of a series of columns that first appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, that documents her move from suburban Pittsburgh to Scenery Hill, Penn., with her boyfriend-turned-husband, Alex, and their two dogs, one of which is a Poodle—Standard, that is, not Toy.

As a child, Jeanne remembers a small farm that sat behind her parents’ home where she would watch the sheep and sneak into the barn to just sit and listen to her own thoughts. From those early times she believes the spirit of country living was born in her and finally made it to the surface as she was approaching the age of 40.

Through a series of negotiations, Jeanne and Alex finally obtain their 50 acres in the country and embark on a hilarious, yet heartwarming and familiar, tale of life-altering experiences. From the beginning, the couple discovers (particularly as they’re moving in on the opening day of buck-hunting season) that folks in the country are different, and that different standards apply. Jeanne notes that when city people get ready to head to the country, they put on their best Lands End and Eddie Bauer gear, whereas tried-and-true country dwellers may not even know who Eddie Bauer is!

The issues of solitude, life and death, animal husbandry, friendship and family, and city vs. country mores are all examined by the author’s “thinking out loud” writing style. With the progression of each chapter, the author becomes more and more comfortable in her new surroundings and becomes more entrenched in her new world—the world of tractors, hunters, multiflora nuisance, and the sheer excitement of the FedEx truck coming up the driveway. You get the feeling that the author has finally come to know herself—and like herself—during this transformational process.

I laughed, I cried… what can I say… two thumbs up!  I recommend this book for anyone looking for a lighthearted, entertaining tale of true hobby farming.

Snowball Oranges
Instead of flowery prose about a brave adventure in a new land, in his book, Snowball Oranges, A Winter’s Tale on a Spanish Isle, Peter Kerr humorously serves up the good, the bad and the ugly about uprooting one’s family and moving to a beautiful Spanish island to pursue a seemingly utopian hobby-farming lifestyle. In Snowball Oranges, Kerr tells how a family leaves their home in Scotland to grow oranges on the Mediterranean island of Majorca. But instead of a happy-ever-after fairytale, Snowball Oranges is about foreign transplants who sometimes endure less than ideal experiences: a freak snowstorm (hence the book’s title), buying property from a somewhat unscrupulous seller and the not-so-simple life in rural Spain.

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The Scottish quips (“bloody tight-fisted,” “there’s no telly to watch”) and the local tongue shape the book’s dialogue in a delightful way, even though it’s exactly these language differences that make the family’s transition so difficult.

But with every tragicomedy, however, comes epiphany. A Majorcan backdrop sets the mood for what is one family’s odyssey—migration, culture clash, and hardship—experienced together. Snowball Oranges is a fun read for anyone considering a move to a hobby-farming lifestyle.

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