Contagious Joy and Contentedness
A Brief Review of
The Round of a Country Year:
A Farmer’s Day Book
Paperback: Counterpoint, 2017
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon
When I first started reading The Round of a Country Year by David Kline I thought, “This is just an Amish man’s diary…”. Kline writes a short entry almost every day for a full year about life on his farm in Holmes County Ohio. I thought I would become bored after the first few pages. However, I was quickly absorbed into this farmer’s poetic and meditative observations.
I never realized know how many birds visited rural northeast Ohio. Now, I know that there are at least the following species: towhees, cardinals, sparrows, rough-legged hawks, horned owls, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, blue jays, Cooper’s hawks, mocking birds, and cliff swallows. And as far as firewood goes, I learned a helpful poem that informs you which firewood to burn in the wood stove. The list of firewood include: beech-wood, chestnut, birch, ash, oak, poplar, apple wood, pear wood, and, as the poem warns, never use elm.
Most of the entries begin with a description of the weather or temperature and how that will affect the day’s chores. One entry is a multiple page, detailed play-by-play account of an interaction between a rough-legged hawk and some nearby crows. Another one is simply a brief three-lined entry about spotted fox prints and what that indicates. Early on, the reader indirectly begins to learn about the natural ebbs and flows of farm life. You start to pick up on the patterns within each season; when it’s 70 degrees at 5 a.m. plan your work accordingly because by afternoon it’ll be 90 degrees; you want the last hard frost to kill of the silver maple tree seedlings before they fly off the trees, so that you don’t have maple trees sprouting up in your garden or gutter.
This book also broke down some of the preconceived notions I had about the Amish. For example, Kline reveals his knowledge aircraft when he mentions that he and his wife watched a refueling of an airplane. He identified the plane as a C-5 Galaxy. Maybe I had a really ignorant understanding of the Amish, but I would not have guessed that they would know so much about the types of motorized vehicles and their mechanics. (Kline, a little bit later, discusses the mechanics of farm equipment and other implements he doesn’t use). Additionally, throughout the book, the author inserts culturally relevant comments, pokes fun at Monsanto, and jokes about the wishy-washiness of politicians.
The Round of a Country Year is more than a diary; it is a contemplative book about the simplicity of daily life as an Amish, organic farmer. Kline’s joy and contentedness is contagious. The book is a snapshot of a deeply rooted life infused with knowledge, love, and candor. Kline possesses a deep knowledge of the natural world and of the small, simple things happening all around him every day. He observes, makes note of, meditates on, and delights in the limitless gifts of grace that are given to him each day. He dives head first into the mystery that is this life and decides to make sense of it by fully enjoying each and every experience, no matter how small or mundane.
Bailey Shannon is the Associate Editor for the Englewood Review of Books, living, working, and worshiping in the Englewood neighborhood on the near eastside of Indianapolis.