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At the age of twenty-four, Barbara McLean and her husband, Thomas, decided to make their home in the country, near a village called Alderney in Grey County, Ontario. Together they became homeowners, farmers and, eventually, parents. They called their farm Lambsquarters, and they remain there today, twenty-six years later.

Life on a farm is a cycle of neverending work and discovery. Barbara and her family develop close relationships with every living thing: the hearty lambs and the fragile ones, the pumpkins and the potatoes and the hollyhocks in the barnyard, a family of bluebirds with problems of its own. What at first seems an intensely independent act — having one’s own land and space — becomes more meaningful once it becomes possible to connect with the larger community. Strong bonds are formed with neighbours who share both in grief and in celebration.

In striking portraits that are intensely intimate and yet reverberate with the universal hum of life, Barbara McLean describes the beauty, pain and wonder of the very essence of her surroundings and all who share them. We accompany her on a life’s journey, from a somewhat daunted dweller of a ramshackle farmhouse to a true inhabitant of a place.

Lambsquarters is for everyone who has dreamed of reconnecting with the land, as well as for those already well acquainted with rubber boots, chicken manure and the long trajectories of the rural school bus.

Barbara McLean has been a lecturer in English Literature and has published literary book reviews, essays and poetry. She is...