Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy

Dirty Chick by Antonia MurphyDirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy
Published by Avery on January 22, 2015
Pages: 272
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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“One month into our stay, we’d managed to dispatch most of our charges. We executed the chickens. One of the cats disappeared, clearly disgusted with our urban ways. And Lucky [the cow] was escaping almost daily. It seemed we didn’t have much of a talent for farming. And we still had eleven months to go.”
Antonia Murphy, you might say, is an unlikely farmer. Born and bred in San Francisco, she spent much of her life as a liberal urban cliché, and her interactions with the animal kingdom rarely extended past dinner.
But then she became a mother. And when her eldest son was born with a rare, mysterious genetic condition, she and her husband, Peter, decided it was time to slow down and find a supportive community. So the Murphys moved to Purua, New Zealand—a rural area where most residents maintained private farms, complete with chickens, goats, and (this being New Zealand)  sheep. The result was a comic disaster, and when one day their son had a medical crisis, it was also a little bit terrifying.
Dirty Chick chronicles Antonia’s first year of life as an artisan farmer. Having bought into the myth that farming is a peaceful, fulfilling endeavor that allows one to commune with nature and live the way humans were meant to live, Antonia soon realized  that the reality is far dirtier and way more disgusting than she ever imagined.  Among the things she learned the hard way: Cows are prone to a number of serious bowel ailments, goat mating involves an astounding amount of urine, and roosters are complete and unredeemable assholes.
But for all its traumas, Antonia quickly embraced farm life, getting drunk on homemade wine (it doesn’t cause hangovers!), making cheese (except for the cat hair, it’s a tremendously satisfying hobby), and raising a baby lamb (which was addictively cute until it grew into a sheep). Along the way, she met locals as colorful as the New Zealand countryside, including a seasoned farmer who took a dim view of Antonia’s novice attempts, a Maori man so handy he could survive a zombie apocalypse, and a woman proficient in sculpting alpaca heads made from their own wool.'
Part family drama, part cultural study, and part cautionary tale, Dirty Chick will leave you laughing, cringing, and rooting for an unconventional heroine.


Antonia Murphy and her family move from San Francisco to New Zealand expecting a quiet, peaceful life in the country where their children can thrive. Dirty Chick is an expat memoir of their first year as “hobby farmers” in a place where the local families have a centuries-old history of serious farming.

Murphy provides a hilarious dose of reality: If you’ve ever had a romantic urge to move to the beautiful countryside and raise some sweet, adorable animals, you’ll think again after reading this book. I laughed out loud a lot. She had me googling “duck penis” (warning: NSFW) within the first six pages!

But—and this was a huge issue for me—I grew more and more uncomfortable with how casually she was with the rape humor. Is it necessary to anthropomorphize animal mating rituals and equate them with sexual assault, over and over again? Even worse, attempt to make it funny? I couldn’t help but feel that her irreverent sense of humor crossed a line: Rape isn’t a joke. Period.

I love a good expat memoir. I enjoy reading about making new friendships and putting down roots, and the unexpected adventures that come along with that. I know nothing about farming, at all, so that was pretty fascinating. Unfortunately, I grew so tired of the raunchy humor that by the end, I felt ambivalent toward the book overall.