My earliest wish was for a horse, but I would have been happy with any animal in my life. I was allowed only tiny turtles until my older brothers went to sleep-away camp, at which time I was given a guinea pig so that I wouldn’t be lonely. I didn’t want my brothers to come home because I thought I’d have to give Chester back! Luckily, that was not the case. Eventually, I was permitted to keep a couple of stray cats and a dog (all of which found me) and to ride horses. Despite what my parents were told would happen, I never did not outgrow my love of farm animals, and so in college I studied animal science and for a while rode horses for a living.
In my early twenties I got a job in the kitchen of a health spa, which led to teaching cooking and food writing. My first cookbook was a James Beard Award nominee. My third book, 1,000 Lowfat Recipes, remains in print and beloved by many. Meanwhile, I married, had two sons, and landed in a town outside of Boston. The backyard was too small for hoofed animals, but I could keep chickens.
A move to a larger property allowed for an expansion of the flock, the addition of two goats, and an abundant kitchen garden. My interest in chickens and cooking led to the writing of The Farmstead Egg Cookbook. One favorite little white hen inspired my first picture book, Tillie Lays an Egg (Scholastic, 2009) which received much positive press, a PW starred review and the appreciation of Martha Stewart—Tillie and I appeared on her television show. (For a detailed listing of press go here.)
I share the joys of my backyard animals with a worldwide audience via HenCam.com, which features live-streaming cams on my flock and goats. My blog chronicles the on-going joys and travails of a life with chickens. I also spread my knowledge and enjoyment of chickens in person, through school visits and chicken keeping workshops.
I collect old poultry and agriculture books—there’s much to learn from them—as well as ephemera, photos, toys and other vintage items with chicken designs. I have projects in the works using these charming items. There are more books in the works, too!