"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

January 5, 2011

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

We recently upgraded our cable package just so we could get Planet Green, and just so we could watch The Fabulous Beekman BoysI highly recommend that you do the same. If you don't have access to the channel, then you must at least read The Bucolic Plague––more about that in a minute––or get their first season on DVD.

After stuffing ourselves with Thanksgiving goodness, my husband and two boys and I watched every installment of the first season in a special marathon. We couldn't get enough and eagerly awaited their holiday special in early December. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge seem to define 'gentleman farming' at first glance, but their antics and learning curve are enjoyable to watch. Besides, I'm rather partial to men who sometimes go to the barn in their tweed jackets, as my grandfather often did after church on Sundays. [He had been ascribed a 'gentleman farmer' when he retreated from the New Jersey suburbs with my grandmother, and their children, in 1945 to have a farm in New Hampshire. They eventually proved the natives wrong, as I'm sure Josh and Brent are doing.]

We were enchanted with Polka Spot, the diva guard llama who cares for Farmer John's beloved goats, and could relate to her antics (as we have a diva deer who comes and goes around our farm). Farmer John, who lives and works on the property, is also a devoted goatherd that truly loves his animals and isn't afraid to express that (even if that makes my less emotive husband uncomfortable).


Being the holidays and all, and a quick study in 'groupie,' I had to order a round of their Blaack raw goat/cow milk cheese (delicious), some goat milk soap, and a signed copy of Josh's book, The Bucolic Plague. Friends, this is one of the best back-to-the-land memoirs I've read or own (even better than Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I if you can imagine that, and an even match with Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish). The kind of memoir I would probably write if I were an former drag queen dancer who left Manhattan for greener pastures with his doctor boyfriend. It is honest, fun to read, and you want Brent and Josh to succeed each step of the way.

While Josh still works in advertising during the week in Manhattan, Brent has been busy on the farm front––and from the looks of it, immediately successful––building up the Beekman brand. A stint with Martha Stewart certainly helped him there but he also seems to have an intrinsic methodology of marketing the farm, its products and their lifestyle. The show is another vehicle for this but it would be a hit whether they had "product"or not. I should also add that I technically bought the cheese, and the soap and the book to put under the tree for my husband. Well, not exactly. I suppose I was being both generous and extremely selfish at the same time.

If you haven't been to Sharon Springs, New York, where 'the boys' live and have their store, it's a lot like Brigadoon (or perhaps now that tense would be 'was like'). You can get there from the Canonjoharie exit on the New York Thruway, which I'd passed a zillion times over the years on the way back and forth from New England to Ohio without stopping (where the Beech-Nut factory looms and I always started asking my parents for gum). Or, on a more leisurely off-road and scenic jaunt along historic Route 20, which the thruway more or less bypassed in the 1950s, thus further cocooning the historic Victorian spa village.

At least that is how I remember it on our two visits there about ten years ago, when we stayed at the Adler Hotel (now abandoned) and met many survivors of the German death camps and Hassidic Jews who still 'took the waters' there. It was an experience out of time and place. Garth and Doug, regulars on the show, are how I remember them when they ran a café in the village: just as kind, fun and welcoming as they seem on the show. [They are now the proprietors of The American Hotel which they restored and opened in 2001––and where we likely would have stayed had it been open when we were there (although the Adler was truly unforgettable in its own way).]

But here's the underlying loveliness of The Fabulous Beekman Boys. In all of their squabbles and visions and hard work, they are just a normal couple. And this is the first reality show I can think of that portrays a gay couple just living their life like everyone else, even if it happens to be on a fabulous farm (and their grand Federal farmhouse is amazing) in scenic upstate New York. They are rural pioneers in a whole different sense than the typical 'urban flight to the farm' story.

In an age of intolerance, often in rural areas, this is also an empowering thing to share with children. There were only a few brief moments in the first season that made me wince a bit as a parent watching with children (we have a 13 and a 10 year old boy at home) but each one of them prompted discussion within our family about lifestyle and acceptance. Our children have always embraced our gay friends as much as we do and they are being raised to know that love does not discriminate. It was probably one of the best moments of the holidays for me.

For me, The Fabulous Beekman Boys is also the familiarity of a comfortable farmhouse, good friends who understand and support you, and historic architecture from my past lives, farm living, and great food (I am hoping there will be a cookbook in their future) that makes me want to watch again and again. And then there's Polka Spot––this llama is going to demand her own show if they don't watch out. The scene where she seems to play dead, with great effect, is some of the best animal footage I've seen on television.

I just can't say enough about the truly fabulous Beekman Boys, and Farmer John, and am grateful that they've shared their lives with the world and with my farm family on a quiet ridge in Kentucky.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

6 comments:

  1. What channel is this on? I've got to watch it.

    Joberta

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  2. Planet Green! We have Dish Network so I'm not sure what it is on DirectTV (you might have to upgrade to the next level as we did--for $10 bucks extra a month we also get National Geo, Science, History International and some others that we enjoy--oh yes, COOKING! So between Cooking and PlanetGreen, that is why I personally upgraded--so I could also watch more Nigella programs).

    I think their first season might also be available on Netflix.

    Catherine

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  3. I've got DirecTV and I think I get that one. I know I get National Geo, Science, History Internation, Cooking and more. Thanks!

    Joberta

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  4. Thanks so much for this Catherine! I will def. seek their series out on Netflix (as we don't have cable/dish tv) It sounds FABULOUS! I am entranced!

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  5. Another homerun post, Catherine!

    I adore the Fabulous Beekman Boys, but imagine my surprise when I realized that it wasn't about brothers named Beekman like I initially thought -but instead two gay men who buy a farm and do their best to make it and their relationship thrive.

    I agree that there were a few moments that created the need for follow-up conversation, (nothing gratuitous) but it was more to confirm our belief that all people deserve to be loved and accepted.

    (And ... it wasn't anything that made my face turn/burn red -- which happens often if you watch or even scan through any of the top tv shows. (The Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, etc.)

    Didn't you just crack up at the episode when Polka Spot fained death whenever Josh came near her. And Farmer John ... there are no words, except precious. (I loved that he went behind Josh's back and had Garth and Doug bring an extra turkey to Thanksgiving.)

    This is one of our family's all-time favorite shows and we can't wait for Season Two!

    Destiny

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  6. Thanks Destiny! Did you know that Polka Spot has a Facebook page now? And, she tweeted while watching the Golden Globes (or as she would write: Gollden Gllobes). Adorable.

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