“I began to wonder if I were writing my life into inevitability. I was a character in a book and it had to end. Happy or sad? Lost or found? I plotted life at Darwin’s View, ever moving, never pausing, seeking meaning even in the antics of chickens”
This is one of many musings we get to read in At Crossroads with Chickens: A “What if it Works?” Adventure in Off-Grid Living and Quest for Home”. This book explores what and where home is, and the author, Tory McCagg, does it in a way that is relatable to us, in this writer’s opinion —even if we’re not living off-grid and don’t have chickens. McCagg appeals to our pathos by being vulnerable herself.
At Crossroads with Chickens: A “What if it Works?” Adventure in Off-Grid Living and Quest for Home Gives Us a Behind-The-Scenes Look at Off-Grid Living and Owning Chickens
In the book, we are privy to the anxieties and decision making that went on when McCagg decided to move to Darwin’s View, an off-grid home in New Hampshire.
But she takes her story full circle, from her experiences as a child, to the death of her father. She doesn’t fail to let us in. Her story explains how her search form home stems as far back as her childhood, when she went away to boarding school. She makes sure to stay faithful to the idea of searching for home in a sustainable way, from beginning to end of the memoir.
And, of course, there are the chickens. The chickens are characters in and of themselves, and McCagg takes us along with her as she experiences the trials, errors, and successes of owning them.
Many chickens are introduced to us; Big Red, their first rooster that was supposed to be a hen, Panda, their broody hen who mothered her own chicks, CooLots, Ping, and many more— 45 in total over the years. We also don’t have to imagine the chickens, as this memoir is rich with photos of them, as well as of their off-grid home.
We get an inside look at chicken behavior: the complex chicken hierarchy/pecking order, their rooster Big Red staring at the sky, protecting his hens, crowing his threats and promises at the wind, from sunrise to sunset (and, usually, even earlier than sunrise). Like cats and dogs, animals most may be more familiar with, chickens too have their own distinct personalities, and McCagg shows us her own chickens’ personalities throughout her journey.
But, with chickens, comes heartbreak. McCagg lets us in during these moments. She describes her own emotions and experiences vividly and in a way that isn’t too sentimental. We feel the tragedies with her. You too may feel that there are moments where we have to close the book to process all the painful losses that occur in this memoir.
At Crossroads with Chickens: A “What if it Works?” Adventure in Off-Grid Living and Quest for Home – Virtual Reading from Inside the Coop
Though we see many photos throughout the book, seeing the coop and the chickens in a Zoom reading book preview event took it up a notch, in this writer’s view. McCagg read from the book against the backdrop of sunlight and chickens poking and clucking around her. The post-reading discussion and question segment covered topics such as how many chickens does she currently have (16), and who’s the oldest (Apricot), what we consider home and how hard it is to leave home once it’s been established, loss, living sustainably, and supporting one’s community— all topics that are evaluated over the course of the book.
This book would be a good fit for anyone who enjoys the topics of sustainability, off-grid living, chickens, and enjoys memoirs. This book isn’t for those looking for a how-to in off-grid living; this book is more about following McCagg on her personal journey.
To purchase a copy, visit your local bookstore, or anywhere where books are sold, or for more information and to purchase a copy visit the Bauhan Publishing webpage for AT CROSSROADS WITH CHICKENS, A “WHAT IF IT WORKS?” ADVENTURE IN OFF-GRID LIVING AND QUEST FOR HOME.
Images courtesy of Tory McCagg
About the Author: Nichole Gould
Today, she does things a little differently and her writing covers topics of disillusionment, nature, family, homecoming, and growth. She attempts to tackle these topics in an experimental and dreamy way, through both nonfiction and fiction, and sometimes, when she’s feeling confident, poetry. Nichole also spent a semester in Oregon, studying writing and hiking among the moss. Although she misses traveling, she enjoys exploring the magic of the Great Lakes in her home state of Michigan. When she’s not writing or traveling, you can find her reading, bookstore hopping, looking for her dream job as a recent grad, or hanging out with her 16-year-old cat, Kyle.