I liked it. Holy smokes–I liked it and it made me want to read some more. Not much has done that for me lately. It’s a lovely, light-hearted read–good for a quiet weekend morning.

Three women who no longer have anyone or anything they are devoted to grounding them to their current lives pool their resources and buy a house, a big house, that turns out to have significant grounds, and a farm, with sheep, and trees, and an ornate garden, with a barn, and an old dairy, and a folly. You see where I’m going with this? They underplanned, under-realistictedness (not a word, but again, you know what I mean), and generally grossly under-estimated everything to do with their transaction. And at the end, came out personally enriched (notice, I didn’t say “richer”) for the experience.

Their kids are grown, husbands gone either by divorce or death. Why is it exactly that they should stay on their PTA street any longer? Yeah, they didn’t know the answer either. So one weekend, on a lark, they view an old home for sale. 8000 square feet of significant clean up and some remodeling. But the details are lovely, and it’s an enchanting idea to just pick up from your whole life and move, start all over again, with a new purpose you’ve never contemplated. The women each have different talents they hope will help with what they decide will be their investment. Which is the first wrong decision they make. I think of my home in Texas we sold years ago–the nicest stuff we did to that place that we enjoyed was in the last year when we prepped to sell. Idiots.

Anyhoo, you’ve got the construction minded lady, the baker/gardening lady, and the painter lady.  They do, more or less ok at the outset. Fix the problems, try not to be discouraged that each time they fix a problem 10 more crop up. There are the realities of their friendship to deal with, different ways of viewing things. The realities of the fact that none of them seem to recall that none of them has any income whatsoever during the venture. And the realities of how much money you spend when you approach a project with the attitude of “dammit–I’ve earned this.”

I love that they get discouraged, things go wrong. That in this type of chicky book, they can admit that they would simply rather not be the ones doing the unfun day to day yard work, so they hire out instead of having to pretend that ideal womanhood means they have to warrior princess up. I like that the locals expect the ladies to play the local’s customs and games to get what they need–no artificial instant acceptance for this group. They do things that bug each other. Place value on things differently and struggle a little to agree to spend money on that value.

What I really loved was the detail Donna Ball provides into the restoring, the gardening, the cooking–just enough without making you feel like you just baked a pie and have nothing to show for it. I also really loved the way she took their pie in the sky dream and made them rationalize it. Instead of just buying the house for themselves and finding ways to make income sufficient to enjoy that from the outset, the women take this house they love, poor their savings into it and sign a partnership agreement (which, btw as an attorney I hated–there are several better ways to structure their business ventures that doesn’t leave them with their bare butts hanging in the wind). I thought at the outset–there is NO way these women are going to put sweat and soul equity into this house and want to leave it in a year! And I was right 😉 Why is it that women think they need to justify money decisions like men–turn it into a business because they think they should? And then screw it all up because that’s not what they really wanted and after the initial “business plunge” they never treat the rest of the money with business decisions–mostly emotion? Someone explain that to me? Because I see this all the time.

I did dislike a few things about the book, but they are easily overlooked. I didn’t like the painter character–she really didn’t have much to contribute to the endeavor and was frankly a wee-bit on the whiny side. And the whole thing with the over-loving the farm critters was a bit much for me… just like the “ghost” dealings. But they’re minor complaints and I dare you to say–I’ll read just one chapter and then put the book down. You won’t be able to; I certainly couldn’t.

I’ve just picked up the next installment of Ladybug farm. So that should tell you that I’m endorsing this one as a “go and read.”

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