Review: You’ve Got To Be Kidding by Todd Alexander

Title: You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A shed load of wine & a farm full of goats

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: 3rd February 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy HarperCollins Australia

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My Thoughts:

In 2019, Todd Alexander published the story of his and his partner’s mid life tree change where they abandoned inner city living and their highly paid careers, and purchased a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B. Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga was longlisted for both the 2020 Indie Non-fiction Book Award and 2020 Booksellers’ Choice Adult Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and captured the imagination of a public who dream of escaping to the country.

It’s been seven years since Todd and Jeff took possession of Block Eight and they have created a successful business, but it has not been an easy process and in You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A shed load of wine & a farm full of goats, Todd again attempts to answer his own rhetorical question…how hard can it be?

It turns out, it can be very hard at times. If the men aren’t battling with broken machinery, sick or dead animals, or predatory business practices, then they are contending with drought, heatwaves, bushfires, and the pandemic. Todd and Jeff are forced to reinvent their plans several times to stay afloat, including culling vines, purchasing a tour bus, and altering their marketing strategy.

But then there are the moments when the couple can’t imagine being anywhere else as they share a glass of their own wine on their deck, or take a stroll around the property with their ever-growing menagerie of rescued farm animals which still includes (the now teenage) Helga the pig, as well as several more goats, sheep, peafowl, and ducks, each with distinct personalities that keeps them both amused and exasperated.

Related with honesty and self-deprecating humour, You’ve Got To Be Kidding is a sincere, funny, warts-and-all expose of country living, a sequel, of sorts, though it’s not necessary to have read Thirty Thousand Bottles before picking this up. I again enjoyed Todd’s anecdotes about both the highs and lows of farm life, and his relationship with his partner, the nominated snake wrangler and cushion obsessed, Jeff. I liked that this time photographs have been included in the book, though most feature their goats. Todd, a self identified ‘foodie’, also provides some more of his favourite vegan recipes, which sound tasty.

While Todd and Jeff remain convinced they did the right thing in following their dream, and are deservedly proud of all they have achieved with Block Eight, the book ends with them deciding it’s time to move on, and it seems they soon will be, since the property is now listed as sold. I look forward to Todd regaling us with the stories of their next adventure.

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Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

 

Title: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: February 23rd 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read May 2019, won via BetterReading.com.au

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My Thoughts:

I was delighted to win a signed copy of Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga to gift to my mother for Mother’s Day thanks to BetterReading.com.au. However I couldn’t pass it on without reading it first.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is the story of Todd Alexander’s mid life tree change with his partner, Jeff, abandoning inner city living and highly paid careers, for a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B.

Todd has dreams of channeling his inner Maggie Beer…cooking delicious meals from their own produce, sipping their own labeled wine, enjoying the spectacular views over their property, with Jeff by his side. After all, Todd is wont to say, how hard can it be?

It’s certainly not any where near as easy as Todd hopes. What do two gay city boys know about slashing acres of grass, empty water tanks, broken irrigation systems, eggbound chickens, and desuckering 12,000 grapevines? Not a lot as it turns out, but they are willing to learn, and determined to succeed.

There are failures and successes, mistakes and lucky breaks, all of which Todd shares with honesty and humour. I don’t envy them the years of renovation and building (though the results are stunning), or the back breaking work required to both maintain and grow a farm. But I enjoyed his anecdotes about both the joys and challenges of farm life, and particularly the affectionate descriptions of the couples beloved pets, like the titular Helga the pig.

Todd also shares information of a more personal nature, touching on his relationship with his children who are regular visitors to the farm, and I was moved by his support of his mother as she battled bowel cancer. He also discusses how his experiences as a farmer have resulted in him becoming vegan, and provides a dozen or so of his favourite recipes.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is an entertaining and charming memoir, and might just inspire your own dreams for a new life, or at least for a nice glass of Semillon.

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Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or to purchase via Booko

 

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