Yes, I mean that literally. As I was reading this on my Kindle, my family kept staring at me and demanding to know what was so dang funny.
Rowland is an award-winning columnist at the Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Maryland. This book is a collection of his columns, which chronicle life on a small farm with his wife Beth and various critters.
I was on the fence about accepting Creature Features for review, but as you probably know, I can't resist a genuine animal lover. Plus my dad is also a newspaper columnist, and I figured people in this underappreciated profession -- and their relatives -- need to stick together. I was delighted to find out how much I loved Rowland's intelligent, articulate, and witty style of writing. A nice diversion from my own life with three feral dogs and the two-legged critters to whom I answer to "Mom."
Most of these columns are about the ups, downs, and absurdities of life on a hobby farm. There are also glimpses of nature, as local wildlife comes into the picture, as well as occasional snippets about politics, history, and the benefits of eating locally produced food.
The closest I've ever been to farm life is visiting a local farm to collect my meat share. So while this provided light, fun reading, I also learned a bit about farming and animal husbandry. Including the fact that when a mare is "in season," it's essentially “Twelve hundred pounds of PMS.” A thought that chills me to the marrow of my bones.
A Few Quotes:
Even part time, pretend farming can be a humbling experience. Whenever I’ve preserved a flower bed by outsmarting a chicken, I sadly feel as if it’s been a good day.
Natural Resources folks say the bear—fairly small and about 18 months old—had probably just gotten kicked out of his mom’s domain and was looking for new turf he could call home. First, mad props to the bear community for realizing something that we, as a human race, still haven’t mastered. That being, when you turn 18, you need to get out. There are no 26-year-old bears living in their parents’ basements surfing the Internet and showing no real interest in advancing past their career as night manager at Wendy’s.And My Personal Favorite:
Five of our hens went broody all at once, which seriously ate into our egg production. This nonsense had to be stopped, but unbroodying a hen is like trying to smarten up a national banking executive.
As usual, we read all the books. As usual, they didn’t help. The book says to confine the hen in a cage and hang it from the ceiling where the breeze will “cool off their torrid underpinnings.” I can photocopy the page and send it to you if you think I am lying about this.
Aware that there can be nothing more dangerous than a female with torrid underpinnings, I took the work seriously. But I’ll be darned if I were going to hang up five chickens in cages like they were parrots or something, on the chance that a visitor might think I was part of some freakish religious cult.
We researched further, and Beth found a post from an old British countrywoman who swore that if you “dipped the chicken’s bum” in a bucket of cold water, it would immediately cure the problem.
I let this info process in the old melon for a bit.
Sensing my skepticism, Beth said, “It sounds weird, but I bet it works; those Brits don’t put up with any foolishness.”
“Yeah, well, two words: Monty Python. How do we know this isn’t one of those bizarre stunts they pass off as humor, like camel spotting or Twit of the Year competitions?”
About the Author:
Tim Rowland is an award-winning columnist at Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Maryland. He has written for history and outdoor magazines and news syndicates nationwide.
He has published several books, including All Pets are Off, Petrified Fact: Stories of Bizarre Behavior that Really Happened, and Mostly Earth to Hagerstown, High Peaks: A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Maryland’s Appalachian Highlands: Massacres, Moonshine & Mountaineering. He is also the author of Strange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War (which I really want to read!)
Tim is also keeper and lackey for a wide assortment of mostly non-useful, freeloading critters, aided as always by his trusty (well, mostly trusty) companion Opie.