Finding your home in the world – with the help of chickens

  • 'At Crossroads with Chickens' by Tory McCagg. Courtesy photo—

  • Tory McCagg of Jaffrey will release her second book, 'At Crossroads with Chickens' on Friday through Bauhan Publishing. It's a what if it works adventure about off grid living, a quest for home, and of course, chickens. McCagg and her husband Carl Querfurth built their sustainable Jaffrey home in 2012 and it’s a big part of her writing journey. Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

  • A view of Tory McCagg’s Jaffrey property with Mount Monadnock in the background, which is plays a large part in her book, ‘At Crossroads with Chickens’ is set to be released on Friday through Bauhan Publishing. Courtesy photo

  • Tory McCagg of Jaffrey will release her second book, 'At Crossroads with Chickens' on Friday through Bauhan Publishing. It's a what if it works adventure about off grid living, a quest for home, and of course, chickens. Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey—© Joanna Eldredge Morrissey...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/17/2020 4:31:03 PM

After a year and a half of blogging, Tory McCagg felt all that work could turn into something more.

She saw her writings about chickens, off-grid living and the uncertainty of the world around her as the start of her next book, so she embarked on a journey to turn those posts into what would eventually become “At Crossroads with Chickens.”

As her second published work is set for its official release on Friday, McCagg now realizes the depth in which she went in trying to answer some of life’s most difficult questions – including where is home and what is home.

“And why home is so important to me,” she said.

McCagg said that when she and her husband Carl Querfurth finally made the decision to build on a 193-acre plot of land in Jaffrey with views of Mount Monadnock, Pack Monadnock and down to the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border, it was meant as a weekend getaway from their home in Providence.

In December of 2012, they decided to stay for the winter at their recently completed off the grid, solar powered home. They came with their two cats and six chicks, but that was just the beginning of a deeper journey to find the place she belonged.

“I think people are always searching for something,” she said.

By 2013 she had started blogging about this transformation in her life. McCagg was understandably uncomfortable living in the woods of New Hampshire. She grew up surrounded by very few trees and had lived in Providence for what she described as forever. Her first attempt at climbing Mount Monadnock proved unsuccessful and wasn’t sure this was a place she could truly call home.

“We were really up here full time, but I wasn’t ready to let go of Providence,” McCagg said.

But what is home? Where is it? And how do you define it? Those are questions that “At Crossroads with Chickens” tries to answer, as McCagg searches for her spot in the world.

“Eventually you’ll find that path and that answer,” she said.

While the blog started about chickens and her life living off the land, the book morphed into something much more, diving into her childhood and that of Carl’s. It intertwines caring for her mother, who has Parkinson’s and since the book ended has come to live with them at Darwin’s View – the name the longtime married couple gave to their Jaffrey property. She parallels her mother’s decline with the disease with that of the earth’s as she touches upon her quest to reverse climate change.

“I wanted to do something and I was trusting that I’d figure it out,” McCagg said.

And of course, there are the tales of the chickens, all 42 of them, including Big Red, the rooster that came out of that first half dozen chicks.

“The chickens always had a story to tell,” McCagg said.

Even when she was in Jaffrey full time, there was always this pull that the place she was currently living and called home wasn’t in fact that at all. What was she doing in the backwoods of New Hampshire with the trails of Mount Monadnock just a short distance away? Was she really meant to live off the land and a life centered around sustainability?

“How do you see the world?” McCagg said. “Or this small piece of it?”

As someone who rewrites a lot, McCagg was in search for that balance in the book. The first six of seven drafts centered around the blog, then she started ripping it apart and rewriting some more, adding more tales of her time growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, and time spent visiting her grandparents in Connecticut and Europe. She touches upon Carl’s upbringing in Peterborough and his time spent on the famous mountain they can now see every day from their property.

The chickens are “very much the structure because they are the forward motion,” McCagg said, with each one having a place in the story.

“You get to know the chickens and what keeps me going forward in time,” McCagg said.

When she was finally done – or at least she thought – the book was somewhere in the vicinity of 280 pages. That’s when she gave it to her friend and fellow author Ann Hood.

“She had me take out 90 pages or so,” McCagg said.

But it wasn’t as simple as eliminating the last 90 pages, it was removing what she described as the extraneous stuff. But the result of almost five years of work, from the start of the blog in 2013 to the final draft in 2018, is something that McCagg hopes people will gain something from.

“It was an ebb and flow transitioning it from a blog to a book,” she said. “It’s really hard to go from a blog to a book.”

The cover is simple but McCagg loves it. It of course features a chicken, and a view of Mount Monadnock, and really is the perfect image to begin a readers’ journey.

McCagg’s first published book, “Bittersweet Manor” is loosely based on her family, and more specifically her grandparents, and came out in 2014. She embarked on a cross country book tour that was more than just a publicity trip for the book, but to raise awareness of the importance of independent bookstores and public transportation. It took her from Peterborough to New York City and then across the country and back on Amtrak.

But with a global pandemic still going on, McCagg can’t visit with readers in a bookstore like in the past. So she’s starting the All Cooped Up book tour, where she will livestream from her chicken coop in Jaffrey and the first reading will be with the Toadstool Bookshop. It will be streamed on the Toadstool Facebook page on Saturday, June 27 at 2 p.m.

For copies, visit www.bauhanpublishing.com/crossroads-with-chickens/ or go to the Toadstool in Peterborough. For more on McCagg, visit www.torymccagg.com/.


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