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Pastoral Song: A Farmer's Journey

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I will be honest, I absolutely adored “The Shepherd’s Life” and was not sure this would appeal to me. However, I was so very wrong. Rebanks has written a book that is both informative and offers an insight into his family history. Rebanks really opens up to the reader about what his family life is like, how far they have come and how far they have to go. At the same time, Rebanks reflects on modern farming and the damage that has been caused, is being caused and could be caused in the future. This elegy that captures the soul of British farming – its families and their land from which they are indivisible … Rebanks’s observations are rich with detail. He writes with a simplicity that hides his scholarship (how many Cumbrian farmers can quote from Virgil’s Georgics?) and some passages are right up there with Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie… This is a wonderful book. James Rebanks writes with his heart and his heart is in the right place. We should listen to him.”— Telegraph The New York Times bestselling author of The Shepherd's Life chronicles his family's farm in England's Lake District across three generations, revealing through this intimate lens the profound global transformation of agriculture and of the human relationship to the land. The book makes it clear that with modernity and our instant culture of now we are ruining and losing many aspects of our land. So many things are interwoven and if one thing is changed for the immediate benefit of one group, this may be at a massive and destructive cost to others. We need to think long term about the ecosystems, land, nature, wildlife and not just look at the end products wrapped in plastics in the supermarket. So many of the answers we are looking for our rooted in history if we look, even if we didn’t know why things worked like they did at the time. Through the eyes of James Rebanks as a grandson, son, and then father, we witness the tragic decline of traditional agriculture, and glimpse what we must do now to make it right again.”

The reason was that all the landmarks were gone. There was a time that farmers needed laborers to help them farm their land and that is why there was a house on every forty acres. But today, because the owner doesn’t live on the farm, there may not be even one house.Rebanks: “I have worked here my whole life, but I am only now beginning to truly know this piece of land. I stumble across a field at a different time of day, or in different light, and I feel as if I have never seen it before – not the way it is now. The more I learn about it, the more beautiful our farm and valley become. It pains me to ever be away. I never want to be wrenched from this place and its constant motion. The longer I am here, the clearer I hear the music of this valley: the Jenny wren in the undergrowth; the Scots pines creaking and groaning in the wind; the meadow grasses whispering. The distinction between me and this place blurs until I become part of it, and when they set me in the earth here, it will be the conclusion of a lifelong story of return. The “I” and the “me” fade away, erode with each passing day, until it is an effort to remember who I am and why I am supposed to matter. The modern world worships the idea of self, the individual, but it is a gilded cage: there is another kind of freedom in becoming absorbed in a little life on the land. In a noisy age, I think perhaps trying to live quietly might be a virtue.” p216 One quote that resonated with me, because I am so tired of seeing commercials on TV with happy people buying, buying, buying bright and shiny objects that they don’t need but they feel that they need, and the people who make the commercials are telling me I too need the bright and shiny objects to be happy…grrrrr. Lyrical and passionate … I was gripped from the very first paragraph … Rebanks has shone a brilliant light onto a world about which the vast majority of people know little … a cri de coeur for a healthier countryside, rather than a manifesto … a magnificent book.”— Literary Review This book won the Wainwright Prize for UK nature writing (2021), was on the longlist for the Orwell Prize for political writing (2021) and made the shortlist for The Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize (2021).

History, anthropology, ecology nature, farming and memoirs are all in here- a must read for everyone!

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The constant wanting of store-bought things he (James Rebanks’ grandfather) held in disdain. He thought these people (he and his fellow local farmers) had understood something about freedom that everyone else had missed, that if you didn’t need things–shop-bought possessions–then you were free from the need to earn the money to pay for them. This intimate and moving book is timely and relatable.... With a critical and curious eye, he asks of himself—and society at large—what does it mean to be a “good” farmer?" — Civil Eats The New York Timesbestselling author of The Shepherd’s Lifeprofiles his family’s farm across three generations, revealing through this intimate lens the profound global transformation of agriculture and of the human relationship to the land.

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