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Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA
The old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Such was the case for reality show stars Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, “the Fabulous Beekman Boys,” and the historic upstate New York farm they bought in 2007. The farm, built by Judge William Beekman in 1802, was meant to be a weekend retreat, but after both lost their jobs in the Great Recession of 2008, they decided that, in order to keep the farm, they would have to actually farm it— and quickly. As they explain in the first issue of their magazine, Beekman 1802 Almanac, “We turned to our neighbors, who taught us how to raise pigs in our old silo foundation, protect apple trees from deer, and perform the art of soap making. . .. To pay back our neighbors for their generosity, we harnessed our city skills to help them market and sell their pottery, weaving, soaps, jams, cheeses and more.”
The magazine is inspired by 19th century almanacs that served as calendars, offered advice, and celebrated the seasons. This is emphasized in the premiere issue with The Beekman 1802 calendar, “a glimpse into life on the Sharon Springs farm,” a Gazette article on “20 ways to celebrate a better life this season,” and an illustrated article about harvesting ice in East Meredith, New York by slicing it from a frozen pond. According to the Beekman Boys: “We still use The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and we wanted to reinterpret it for the audience that wants a little of that ‘rural life” even if they live in the middle of a city or a suburb.”
There are also stories about other entrepreneurs, AKA, “city slickers who made it big in the country,” such as one who moved from Atlanta to Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, to open a general store, or the one who left Huntington Beach to open a bakery in Mammoth Lakes, California, or another who wanted to make something by hand and went from Brooklyn, New York to Bloomington, Indiana to start up a distillery.
The premiere issue also has 55 farm-to-table-recipes for the holidays as well as lifestyle articles on how to “Ace Your Hosting Style” or “The Gentle Art of Bulb Forcing” (in this case, hyacinths). The thoughtful article, “A Farewell to Cursive” (about the end of the pen and paper era) is my personal favorite. It concludes: “. . . cursive is that place where art and language intersect, because how you form your words says almost as much as the words themselves, and because hand[writing] tells us something about who the person holding the pen really is, and mostly because it’s beautiful. Ever read the Declaration of Independence in a word doc? I rest my case.”
The design of the Beekman 1802 Almanac reflects Josh and Brent’s enthusiasm for being environmentally sustainable, with a limit on the weight of the paper use and “density of information” on the pages. Everything Beekman 1802 will be a delight to anyone interested in witnessing a slower, simpler life in 2016. In addition to the magazine, check out Beekman on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, and do be sure to visit the Beekman 1802 baby goat cam.