________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 1999

cover The ABC's of Farming.

Terry Chamberlain.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press Ltd., 1999.
188 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 1-895449-94-4.

Subject Headings:
Canadian wit and humour (English).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


BUTTER (but' er) An early, low-tech form of margarine, made from cow's milk. There are a few people still living who remember this form of bread spread, how it tastes (wonderful) and why it is almost extinct (the vegetable-oil lobby came up with more money than the dairy industry did).

Butter does seem to be coming back into vogue, and why not? A golden spread priced at almost its weight in gold what a status symbol! (See also MARGARINE, DAIRY FARM, MILK, CANOLA.)

COW PIE (kow pie) Not, as urbanites may suppose when hearing the term, a beef pastry, but an equally delightful and honorable symbol of western rural life, it has enlivened the evening stroll of many a city-bred visitor. (See PASTURE.)

Don't let the title and the primitive cover art mislead you. The ABC's of Farming is NOT an ABC's book for preschoolers trying to learning the alphabet. Instead, Chamberlain, a long-time teacher, farmer, columnist and contributor to CBC Radio, was ostensibly moved by a news item which said that city children in Saskatchewan did "not know very much about farming." To fill this knowledge void and to try to bridge the rural-urban split were, Chamberlain claims, his primary motivations in putting together this "countrified dictionary, a mini-encyclopedia of farm facts." Borrowing from columns that originally appeared in Rural Roots and AgWorld News and on CBC Radio, as well as creating new material, Chamberlain defines those words which he collectively categorizes as "basic agricultural vocabulary." Consequently, city folk, seeking to be able to converse knowledgeably with their rural counterparts, can begin at "ACRE" and, if diligent, will read (and learn) their way through this dictionary, concluding with "ZERO TILL."
     As the two excerpted "definitions" above demonstrate, Chamberlain 's treatment is lighthearted though, in most instances, he actually manages to provide a "real" definition of the selected terms. While this "dictionary" is meant for browsing rather than sustained reading, a portrait of the Western farmer's life, past and present, does emerge. More likely to be found in a library's humour section than on the reference shelves, The ABC'S of Farming has a definite place in junior/senior high writing classes where it could serve as an excellent example of and model for different forms of humour.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who is still trying to deal with the use of the words "city" and "Saskatchewan" in the same sentence, actually lived in rural Manitoba before being lured by the bright lights and fewer mosquitoes (and salaries) of Winnipeg.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364