A rural retreat

<strong>Our Farm: a year in the life of a smallholding</strong>

Rosie Boycott <em>Bloomsbury, 304p

Rosie Boycott has been many things in her life: mother, feminist, hippy, divorcee and drunk. She was co-founder of the 1970s feminist magazine Spare Rib, the first woman editor of two national broadsheets, as well as editor of the Daily Express. She is now a pig breeder and agricultural enthusiast.

Her fractured, but at times fascinating, account of becoming a farmer begins slowly and impersonally, before picking up speed. Echoes of her former glory as a writer are evident as she details the finer nuances of chicken and pig reproduction. Later disclosures poignantly include her father’s slow decline from Alzheimer's disease and how, as a working mother, she was "seduced" into believing women could have it all.

Boycott fled city life shortly after a drunken car crash. She has rebuilt her "shattered self-esteem" through life as a farmer, and her observations can be uncomfortably sentimental: "when you push a bulb deep into soft wet earth it is always a symbol of hope . . . gardening connects us to the

bigger picture".

Boycott writes engagingly on bird flu, global warming, Tescopoly and anything that threatens her community or peace of mind. It is a unique combination of insight into British farming, the media and "pigscapades".

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, New Leader, New Danger