When life gets your goat, bring in the herd
Jennifer McGaha never expected to own a goat named Merle. Or to be setting Merle up on dates and naming his doeling Merlene. She didn’t expect to be buying organic yogurt for her chickens. She never thought she would be pulling camouflage carpet off her ceiling or rescuing opossums from her barn and calling it “date night.” Most importantly, Jennifer never thought she would only have $4.57 in her bank account.
When Jennifer discovered that she and her husband owed back taxes—a lot of back taxes—her world changed. Now desperate to save money, they foreclosed on their beloved suburban home and moved their family to a one-hundred-year-old cabin in a North Carolina holler. Soon enough, Jennifer’s life began to more closely resemble her Appalachian ancestors than her upper-middle-class upbringing. But what started as a last-ditch effort to settle debts became a journey that revealed both the joys and challenges of living close to the land.
Told with bold wit, unflinching honesty, and a firm foot in the traditions of Appalachia, Flat Broke with Two Goats blends stories of homesteading with the journey of two people rediscovering the true meaning of home.
OMG, so many reviewers disliked this memoir! And I must admit I had to agree with most of the arguments presented. I can’t even imagine not knowing you haven’t filed with the IRS in years. Robbing Peter to pay Paul until Peter drops a foreclosure on you.
From living well above your means and having your children in private schools to eating gourmet and drinking expensive craft beers. You can’t tell me there wasn’t a hint.
Well educated, this couple made every stupid financial decision you could make. And he was an accountant? Thinking he was handling the finances, she works part-time and plays homemaker, rearing the children, and caring for multiple animals.
Sounds nice—few women get to do that (or even want to) anymore. She tends to blame him for all their financial woes—but how did she miss all the dun letters or calls? Creditors can drive you crazy.
When they make the decision to let foreclosure happen as well as default on the second with their close friends, they flee to the Appalachians to live in an abandoned cabin in a North Carolina holler.
I’ve lived in tar paper shacks—they can be populated (depending on where you live) by spiders (especially black widows), snakes, and every manner of bug or mammal that can find a hole from the size of a pin to a dime. And their old cabin is no better. It takes a while, doing what little they can with what they saved by not paying their last several mortgage payments. UGH! I see a lot of beans in their future.
Gradually, however, she begins to think about chickens. She could raise them, gather and/or sell eggs. Then goats. GOATS! Not an animal I would have considered—remembering how well they perform head butts. And BTW, chickens do have personalities.
Here is what I don’t understand, however; where did they get the money to be buying chickens and build their coop, much less the appropriate provisions and feed for goats? For that matter, chicken feed isn’t cheap and chickens can waste almost as much as they eat. Descriptions of breeding the goats were penned in detail and don’t get me started on the vet bills.
You have to say that listening to this audiobook is like listening to an impending train wreck. They learn the hard way, not having had experience with animals other than canines, and make some big mistakes along the way. There are regrets, embarrassment, shame, loss, recriminations, and a lot of soul-searching. Plus, you gotta love the title.
Sometimes the decisions become outrageous. It’s easy to castigate others’ actions, particularly when so many people have experienced extreme financial conditions and similar hardships and found a way to work through them honorably. Still, the narration is excellent and the author’s wit and sense of humor shine through. As maddening as it can be, it’s also engaging, entertaining, at times enlightening. For one thing, I’ll never try to breed a goat.
The conclusion comes rather abruptly; guess there was nowhere else to go, but pretty much sums up the journey to living happily off the land.
I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from my local lovely library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Agricultural & Food Sciences, Biographies of Women, Agricultural Science
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Listening Length: 9 hrs 19 mins
Narrator: Pam Ward
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Flat Broke with Two Goats [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four stars
The Author: A native of Appalachia, Jennifer McGaha lives with her husband, five dogs, twenty-three chickens, and one high-maintenance cat in a tin-roofed cabin bordering the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. Her creative nonfiction work has appeared in Brooklyner, Toad Suck Review, Switchback, Still, Portland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Lumina, Literary Mama, Mason’s Road, Now and Then, and others. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, running, mountain biking, sampling local beers, and playing with dogs.
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