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The Boys in the Barnyard

Two city slickers chase their dream deep into the country

by Terri Schlichenmeyer

Maybe you’ve had a dream for most of your life. Maybe it’s something you’ve been reaching for since you were born, something you’ve always felt you were meant to do. Or maybe it’s just a passing “what-if,” a “dream of the day” that may or may not come true.

Maybe you don’t know what your dream is yet—but the day will come when it’ll hit you. Case in point: Josh Kilmer-Purcell always thought he belonged in Manhattan, but a crumbling mansion in upstate New York instantly and surprisingly called out to his Wisconsin roots. In the new book The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers, he tells more.

Most people chafe at getting lost on road trips, but in October 2006, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner, Brent Ridge, didn’t mind. Their annual apple-buying run was over, and neither was in any hurry to get back to the city and the long work week ahead. Kilmer-Purcell was an ad man whose job was to make you want things. Brent worked for Martha Stewart.

And then they saw the mansion.

The Beekman mansion is over 200 years old. Sitting on 60 acres, it comes with a barn and a guesthouse, and it’s on the national historic register. And it was for sale.

Kilmer-Purcell grew up in rural Wisconsin, and he thought he’d escaped that life. He thought Manhattan was his entire world—until he saw the mansion. It immediately became clear that owning a farm—this farm—was what he wanted more than almost anything. They made a lowball offer, which was accepted.

They put off the closing until spring, dreaming of holidays by the fireplace, and gardens. A local man asked if he could keep goats in the barn, and he knew a few things about raising vegetables. Locals embraced the couple, happy that the Beekman mansion would once again be occupied. Kilmer-Purcell began to dream again—this time about leaving his job to start a business on the farm.

“This,” says Kilmer-Purcell about his happiness at the mansion, “was more than
a boy from Wisconsin was ever supposed
to have.”

But he didn’t have it for long. A golden opportunity from Martha Stewart started a slippery slide on goat soap, which led to longer hours and shorter fuses. Wasn’t “living the dream” supposed to be a good thing?

I must admit that I was just plain charmed after reading this book.

Author, TV personality, and former drag queen Josh Kilmer-Purcell makes readers flock to his corner with gently sarcastic, Midwest-cum-New-York humor. It’s hard not to cheer for his triumphs and feel genuinely sad at his discouragements. Kilmer-Purcell isn’t afraid to show us his dream, warts and all. The fact that he wears his emotions on his sleeve only adds to the appeal of his book.

If you’re looking for one last summer-reading hurrah on the hammock, here’s an excellent choice. For every farmer, cowpoke, goat-herder, wanna-be, or dreamer, The Bucolic Plague provides acres of delight.

Log on to for more information on the mansion. Log on to for information on the docu-series The Fabulous Beekman Boys.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.


Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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