Monday, October 13, 2008

the great fall weekend - part 1

The Sara's showed up on a calm Friday night. They had traveled up to my hollow all the way from Suburban Philadelphia. I set a glowing jack-o-lantern out by the oak trees near the driveway to be their initial greeter. When they came inside I had a fire glowing, fresh-from-the-oven pumpkin bread, and hot tea and cider on call. I felt like I would be asking a lot from them this weekend, and wanted to make it as hospitable as possible. We'd be getting up at 5 AM for the trials and after along day on the road, that's not great news for any guest.

But they were more than graceful. After a light tour of the farm and some unpacking we were all around the fire sipping hot drinks and talking. Sara Stell, as it turns out, isn't just my old college pal's co-worker, she's a violin instructor. She brought her beautiful violin (made in 1894) and played the most beautiful rendition of Ashokan Farewell I've ever heard live. She let me give it a whirl and I played some dirty fiddle music on it. She was kind enough to compliment my homegrown education. Which burst me up with quiet pride. It was a fine evening.

In the morning all five of us headed to the trial. Three humans and two dogs in the hay truck (my Subaru.) I was fairly proud of the fact we were on the road by 6:30, and after a brief stop at Wayside for pumpkin coffee, we hit the road. I'm glad to report we were in Cooperstown before most of the spectators even pulled in. After setting up our folding chairs and scoping out our coffee options - I left the girls to watch the dogs run while I wandered off to meet up with shepherds I knew. I ran into Barb and Denise and soon we were talking about the newsletter (my new job) and Sarah, the sheepdog in need of a shepherd. Barb told me Sarah would be here in a few minutes and I should meet her, look over her papers (ABCA), and walk around with her.

And walk around with her I did. And it was great. Sarah was a petite 30-pound sprite of a Border Collie. For someone who walks a 130 pounds of sled dog with one arm, it felt like I was holding a kitten on a line. She was gentle and quiet with me, but her focus was 100% of the sheep in the field. Barb has been training her on fleece for a few months and when we walked on her thin leather leash around the trial field she trotted with her eyes always on the prize, her tail low, her eyes fixed. She was a beauty. Had I the means, I would've scooped her up and taken her back to Cold Antler to teach Maude a thing or two about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Alas, not today.

Now let me tell you something dear readers, this truly was a sadistic weekend. I played a fiddle from the 1800's and held the lead of a Border Collie who's grandparents were imported from the UK and who's refined working-dog lineage had won high trials overseas. These two beautiful things I had to relinquish to their proper owners when I left. People commented below and asked if I took Sarah home. I didn't. A dog like Sarah isn't just handed off to people and would cost a small fortune (a small fortune for me anyway, probably equal to the going rate of a fiddle from 1894!) So no, she's not my dog. Sarah is right now in a kennel in a barn in upstate New York, and not playing Parcheesi with Jazz and Annie back at the cabin.

After time spent with Sarah, and the Saras, I was put to work. I jumped into a pickup truck with Warren Mick and we both worked the sheep pens and talked about the trials. I think I have learned more about sheepherding while wrestling with ewes in these pens than I have anywhere or anyhow else! The questions you can ask people are endless, and the whole trial is sprawled out before you to comment on. The advice and answerer are well worth the occasional black and blue mark from a bossy ewe's horns.

I spent the day with good friends. I got to be outside on that amazing fall day talking herding and sheep. I grabbed Scottish Blackface ewes by the horns and touched the black fur of working dog in my own arms. All of this writhing with hope. I'm wrestling with a lot right now. Trying to decide what's next and how I'll get this farm of my own someday. I'm nervous about the book, and how it will do. And I'm worried somehow this will all slip though my fingers and get away from me, like a leash could slip from idle hands on a runaway dog. That I'll end up settling for less because it's safer, or because it gets people off my back. I don't know if I can pull this all off on my own. Everyone keeps telling me I can't. Not without a miracle, an inheritance or pa perfect credit score that is. But I really think I can with a good dog, and some great faith. Or that's what I keep telling myself. When I waiver I just clutch the black fur tighter and say a prayer.

All of it paces in my head when I go to bed at night. I'm just grateful that come morning there is too much to do here at the farm to keep thinking about it. But the uncertainty is exciting, if nothing else. If nothing else, it's that.

p.s. More photos to follow later this evening. Photo of me and Sarah above taken by Sara Mack

12 Comments:

Blogger Theresa said...

Hi, Jenna. What a great weekend. I know what you mean about the dog. I had the same feelings about horses. I don't have one today, but maybe again. By the way, I'd like a book, also.
Theresa

October 13, 2008 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Darx said...

I don't know who is telling you that you can't pull it off, but for what it's worth, I truly believe that you can. Who am I, right? But just remember that there is at least one person who completely believes 100% that the farm and the sheep and the dog and all of it will come true for you. And it's going to be really cool! I can't wait to read about it. And buy your book :)

October 13, 2008 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger E said...

Don't listen to other people who tell you what you can or can't do.

Listen to yourself. Start small. Learn from your mistakes. Make friends.

Do what you love. Become more self sufficient in all aspects of life - stuff, food, distractions.

From your blog it sounds like you are well on your way in this direction.

October 13, 2008 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger orfeo256 said...

I am SO glad you mentioned this trial! I read about it here, and then went on Saturday (from Sand Lake, NY). I got there about noon and looked for you to say Hi, but didn't want to seem too stalker-ish. You're right - it was a beautiful day, and such very nice people!

October 13, 2008 at 6:36 PM  
Anonymous linda_t said...

Jenna, You had such a wonderful weekend. You've made a great memory. You're so young, and you've accomplished so much. It just takes time. You've got a lot of talent, and you'll accomplish your goals. Keep believing in yourself.
Linda

October 13, 2008 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

orfeo, shucks, you should've said hi. I was up in the pen on the hill sorting ewes at noon, but I came down around 1pm and we had to head back to VT. Next time say hi!

October 13, 2008 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Keeper of Little Sweetie said...

Hi Jenna, Sounds like you had a fun-filled weekend! I don't know about you, but when someone tells me I can't do something... is when I make sure I do... come hell or high water. :) Hang in there. And don't stop believing in yourself. Go with your gut--it won't lead you astray.
Lynnanne

October 13, 2008 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger TheMusingMommy said...

ditto what E said.

Don't listen to those naysayers. Look at all that you've accomplished so far. I have total faith you will achieve your dream(s).

October 13, 2008 at 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may know how you feel...that ache of wanting some thing/some life/some reality that's just out of reach, and the questions and anxiety that can accompany that. I think it's so hard when something that speaks to your soul is only attainable through many baby steps that are firmly grounded in a less fulfilling reality.

October 14, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

The naysayers have no idea how intrepid you are! You've already proven you can accomplish more than most of us in a year (or even a day, sheesh!). So, I agree with others here. NEVER listen to discouragement unless you're using it as kindling in the fire of your dreams.

October 14, 2008 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous gooddogboy.mark said...

Don't even think about not gettinh what you want. You are very young and have already accomplished so much. Once you get your own duchy, you will hit the ground running! I have faith in you.

October 14, 2008 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Me = Going to buy our book right now. :) I just called B&N and they have it on hold for me.

You rock. :)

September 29, 2009 at 5:17 PM  

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