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Observations of an Accidental Farmer—and a Mindful Reader

Observations of an Accidental Farmer—and a Mindful Reader

Harry Kavros

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TK-page paperback / 5" x 8" / ISBN 9781589881914
Publication Date 7/16/2024 (available for preorder)

"Throughout my farming experience, the books I taught and the questions my students asked remained obsessively in my head. Great writers are so adept at unsettling readers that it’s difficult to escape their gravitational pull. My attempts to capture an urban professor’s experience on the farm never entirely pulled free from literary or philosophical meditations."

In forty short and charming chapters, a former "great books" teacher from New York City adapts to his new role on a small Southern farm by observing the natural world and drawing connections to his reading life.

In late middle-age, Harry Kavros and his wife, Peri, pack up all the household belongings that will fit into their car and leave Manhattan, bound for their new home on a twenty-two-acre patch of pine-filled land in Hillsborough, North Carolina. As Mr. Kavros spends long hours clearing the acreage, not for farming but for sightlines, he muses about the land, the exhausting work it requires, and the rewards the effort offers. Every task he undertakes prompts him to recall and meditate over scenes from his reading life. From the great Greek epics (Mr. Kavros is a Greek American, after all), to the writings of Frederick Law Olmstead on landscape, to Thoreau, to modern poets, to a veritable treasury of references, for the author life in the country is also life in among his reading. Witty and perceptive, Observations of an Accidental Farmer—and a Mindful Reader is about cultivation, of one’s land and one’s life.

“A lovely memoir, as clean and fresh as the stream the Farmer brings to life.”
—Allen Appel, author of the Alex Balfour series

“In this dazzling display of erudition and adventure, Harry Kavros traces his meditative journey from urbanite professional in NYC to neophyte farmer in NC. Local famers and newfound neighbors share domestic wisdom that makes his vast literary repertoire take on fresh meaning. A consummate storyteller offers a tale to ponder and treasure.”
—Bruce B. Lawrence, Marcus Family Humanities Professor of Religion Emeritus, Duke University

“In loving detail, Harry Kavros shares the story of his departure from the ivory tower and reconfirms that, even in this hyper-technological age, Nature remains the most essential metaphor for the human experience. He gives us a Romance in which the hero adventures in an exotic landscape, confronting all manner of creatures and defending the virtue of the ideas and the aesthetics he holds dear. This book is a deeply humanist meditation that connects him (and us) to centuries-old traditions of seeking and finding meaning in the world around us.”
—Nathan Kotecki, author of My Love for You Will Still Be Strong

“After a career in academia, Harry Kavros purchased a small farm in the Piedmont, North Carolina. His unvarnished account of what he has learned from clearing the land, tilling the soil, and raising animals is brimming with insight, laced with humor and humility, and enlivened by fresh readings of western literature.”
—Brooks Graebner, Historiographer, The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina; Rector, St Matthew's Episcopal Church, Hillsborough, NC, 1990-2017

“Seeded with the works of literary giants, Kavros’s thought-provoking prose is a reminder that our humanity has always been inextricably connected to and informed by our time in nature.”
—Aaron Vandemark,  Chief Proprietor and Chef, Hillsborough Bakeshop and Pasta Co. and Panciuto, James Beard Best Chef Southeast Semifinalist 2011-2016, 2022

“Harry Kavros has the heart of a storyteller and the intellect of the humanities professor he used to be. As I read this book, frequently on the NYC subway, I was transported to the challenges and beauty of farm life and enjoyed catching up with writers I love through the varied literary references he weaves into his essays.”  
—Retta Blaney, author of Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors

Observations of an Accidental Farmer is a compelling read as a memoir of making the life change from Manhattan to a farm in North Carolina and as a review of related literature. As a psychologist, I appreciate the author's reflective description of the process of growth and change as he moved to farming and living on the land. His extensive knowledge of literature provides us with thought-provoking quotes from a wide range of authors which add depth to the memoir. It is one of the most enjoyable reads I have had in a long time.”
—Joan Farrell, Adjunct Faculty in Clinical Psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; author of Experiencing Schema Therapy from the Inside Out



Harry Kavros
 is the author of two books, Dandelions and Honey: Travels on a Forsaken Island and Hexameron: A Discussion of Great Books in Six Days. He is a former dean of Fordham University and Columbia University, where he also taught the great books course. He now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
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