Jerry Apps

I recently discovered author Jerry Apps. 

I very much enjoy reading stories of rural life and agrarian living such as “The Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian” by Herrick Kimball.  I also follow Herrick’s blog on a regular basis.  Both of these are highly recommended, if you haven’t already read them, but that is getting away from the subject of my post.

Herrick recently posted a review of Jerry’s book “Every Farm Tells a Story.” What really caught my eye was that Apps grew up on a farm in Central Wisconsin.  Doing a little research, I found that to be just west of where I grew up.

Being somewhat frugal, my first inclination was to see what the library had.  Neither of the two libraries to which I belong had “Every Farm Tells a Story.”  But they did have his new fiction novel, “In a Pickle.”  That was an enjoyable read.

Set in the mid 1950s, the conflict centers on the struggle of the small, diversified family farm trying to stay afloat at a time that farmers were told to “get big, or get out.”  It’s not a perfect story, but nonetheless, it is a worthwhile read with a significant message about the death of the family farm.

The $64 Tomato

The $64 TomatoThe $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden

In a style reminiscent of Erma Bombeck, Alexander takes on a hysterical journey through his “quest for the perfect garden.” I found myself unable to put this book down, laughing out loud on nearly every page.

In his quest for the country life, Alexander and his physician wife move from Yonkers to a small town in the Hudson River Valley. After restoring an “historic” house, if not to its former glory, at least to a livable standard (there was no plumbing when they moved in); they begin the garden by hiring a landscaper.

Of Alexander’s trials and tribulations, we witness his failed attempt at growing organic apples, only to discover why there are no organic apples in the Northeast. Attempting to outsmart, outwit, and outplay a genetically superior, tomato-eating woodchuck leads him to boost his electric fence to 10,000 volts. From the town fire chief who tells Alexander how to build a 16 hour bonfire, to the contractor that left his backhoe outside the kitchen window for six months, every citizen of the town seems to have stepped right out of the movie “Funny Farm.”

All of this leads up to Alexander’s realization that every tomato he raised cost him $64. And that is after amortizing the major costs of his garden over 20 years, by which time he figured he would either be gardening someplace else, or given up altogether.

An easy yet enjoyable read, there’s a laugh on every page. Whether you like gardening, a good yarn, or both, you’ll love the $64 Tomato.

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