Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Never Kiss a Goat on the Lips by Vic Sussman

A witty and informative look at suburban homesteading, Never Kiss a Goat on the Lips will delight you whether you live in the country, the suburbs, or the city. Vic Sussman tells the story of how he and his ever-increasing family finally made the decision to leave the city and, well, almost move to the country. They took one small leap and ended up in a suburb just 20 miles from Washington, D.C.

Once there, they began the task of learning homesteading skills - gardening, caring for animals, chopping wood, and canning and freezing. They worked on revitalizing their old house, switched from oil to wood heat, and started to understand how to live off the land.

But it wasn't easy. Just keeping their sense of humor was difficult but Vic Sussman and his family managed to keep laughing through it all. The joys of doing-it-yourself become apparent in this appealing look at the life of a suburban homesteader.

Although there are many anecdotes about how the author's wife, Betsy, left her rich bitch WASPy life to live "The Good Life" with the author in the "country" (i.e. barely suburbia), the impression I got was that the couple is really just another upper middle class couple who decided that they simply couldn't live without being in "the country" and so moved to suburbia (a very rich suburban area outside Washington, DC as the author constantly reminds us) and pretended that that was "country living". There were several amusing points at which I thought "Well, duh, you idiots!" when they did something that common sense would tell you is wrong.

In any case, the reason for the title's advice? The author's wife experienced a severe mystery facial rash after just such an incident. Another, "well, duh!" moment.

The author does rescue snakes (yes, snakes) and even cared for ("godfathered" as he said), a nest of 16 that he found in a manure pile. I can't help but like him a wee bit less for that. As my aunt says, "The only good snake is a dead snake.". I tend to agree.

Also, the author is more than a bit eccentric about heating his home. He uses a wood stove, but this doesn't heat the entire house, and some areas are in the 50s! It's so cold at times that they wear sweaters and even hats! Inside! I think that's going a bit far. Especially since he has children! If the author had chosen a wood furnace it would be a completely different story. He's just essentially camping in his own house!

There's also an entire chapter devoted to how the author's wife gave birth at home and all his propaganda in favor of it. I'm just too disgusted by his attitude, and his wife's militant feminist views on the subject, that I'm completely speechless. I'm simply too disturbed by the entire thing. I ground my teeth during the entire, seemingly endless, hellish chapter.

All in all, the author is rather arrogant at best, and downright rude in places when discussing people who don't wholeheartedly agree with his philosophy of living. I certainly would never want to meet him. I do think some of the friction comes from the fact that the book was published in 1981. The world has certainly changed quite a bit in the past 25+ years, so that may be a contributing factor. Although, I think the author would be an arrogant ass no matter when the book was written.

I'm going to give this one six stars. On the pros side, there were some interesting anecdotes, on the cons side, the author is an arrogant ass and his wife is just indescribable, and they bug me.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆


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