Monday, February 23, 2009

award shows, banjos, and guests

So right now while I'm writing barefoot in my cabin, adorned in a blue hoodie and brown bandana... somewhere in New York City Made From Scratch is nominated for an award at a place where people are far better dressed than I am. The Books for a Better Life Awards are going on tonight, hosted by Meredith Vieira. I'm up for the Green category, and if I win it'll be the first award I received as an author. If I don't win, it's still the first award I was ever considered for. That alone makes me feel a little fancy, even if my entourage consists of a pair of sled dogs, chickens, rabbits and some bitchy sheep.

Yesterday's storm blew in ten inches of fresh powder. I woke up to a world covered in white. Every tree branch, every fence post, every sheep had its own pearl coating to greet the day with. This morning I took this photo near the cabin looking down the hill at my outhouse. Yes, I have an outhouse. Don't worry, the cabin has plumbing, but I kind of like that I have a functioning old-school option. I think it looks kind of pretty out there in the snow.

I spent the blizzard in front of the fireplace, plucking the banjo and reading between regular trips outside to take care of the animals. I dig my Morhan Monro Hobo, and our happy progress together. I have moved onto my second tuning (sawmill), and am learning a new mess of songs. I am not as quick a student in clawhammer as I was with the fiddle, but I am getting it. I really don't take my backwoods education too seriously. Mostly I learn at my pace as I go, taking what I can and not letting myself worry too much about nailing it in one sitting. Unlike the fiddle, this isn't about love and passion - this banjo stuff is more like adopting a really great goofy dog. I enjoy its company, it makes me smile - but it's not going to make it into my wedding vows. But damn folks, learning a new tune is a fine reward.

And hey, when you can't grow anything in your garden - cultivating music is a perfect substitute. I highly suggest this banjo business for any frustrated/impatient gardeners out there. You'll be glad you learned a few licks when your tired and happy on the back porch after those first few days of planting. A cold beer, something on the grill sizzling, and a happy banjo frailing at sunset makes all that dirt and tilled rows seem so worth it. I look forward to that night so much it hurts. Snow melts, right?

And speaking of banjos... I have some interesting news for you pickers (and future pickers) out there. On a lark I emailed Zhenya Senyak, the author of Banjo Camp. I told him how much I loved his book, and that it was the perfect introduction to the instrument, the community, history and modern goings-on of us banjo-folk. I asked if he'd grace this blog with an interview about learning the banjo as an adult, and mountain music's role in simpler living. Shucks guys, he agreed! So this week the blog will have it's first ever bonefide guest interview! If you're new to the farm, you can click here to read my post about his book. I'm really excited to have him join us for a day. He'll be a hoot.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Annie said...

Congrats on your award nomination. I would have put your book in a different category than "green" to win, though. Maybe 1st book or memoir.

If nothing else, you can know that you inspired someone else to take up an instrument. I bought myself a "grand" strumstick on ebay and it arrived today. I am so tickled that I can actually pick out tunes on this thing. I never had the patience to learn anything else despite piano and guitar lessons as a child. I think this might just be my speed. It's a start at any rate, and the smile on my face is all thanks to you, young 'un.

So there now.

February 23, 2009 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Congratulations on your nomination Jenna! A positive message delivered by an inspirational author!

February 24, 2009 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thank annie and stacy, and congrats on the strumstick, you'll love it. And just wait till you can sit back and play it outside (I'm not sure where you live Annie, i assumne it's cold too!) but you'll have fun. Is it in D or G? You can download any free dulcimer tabs online to learn music. email me if you need help.

February 24, 2009 at 5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna - congrats on the nomination!!! Hope you won! So can you send us some snow here in PA? I'm in that spot that gets the mix of ice & rain with a little now thrown in - what I wouldn't give for just one storm of 10 inches!!! Then it can melt & be summer! LOL!
By the way, can you share your cinnamon bun recipe with us? I'm dying to try it - it's making my mouth water just thinking about them! Thanks!
Wendy A
in PA

February 24, 2009 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger LisaZ said...

Can't wait for the interview! And thanks for continuing to inspire my banjo playing. I'm still working at Good Night Ladies and the very beginner version of Tom Dooley. It's slow going, but I'm proud of myself for doing it at all...

February 24, 2009 at 10:01 AM  
OpenID mountainchicken said...

Congrats on the nomination. Your book is very deserving of an award. At the risk of sounding sappy, it's basically life changing....well, at least life affirming. It opened my eyes up to the fact that there are other people out there who appreciate the same things I do. Thanks and good luck!

February 24, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

I'm sure you know by now... you WON!
Congratulations on a well-deserved award. I'm sure you'll be getting several for your wonderful little tome.
http://www.bookreporter.com/features/awards-books-better-life.asp

February 24, 2009 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Trailing Mira said...

Congrats on the book award. I just stumbled across your blog today and am loving it. Noticed that Michael Pollan won for the Wellness category... I am reading another of his books right now.

Keep the posts coming -- it's all very interesting stuff!

March 2, 2009 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Blue Mountain Schoolhouse said...

Hey Jenna, dropped in on you because I was stuck on a blog I've been working on and remembered you had one of the coolest blogs ever and maybe you can help me out. But never dreamed I'd see a banjo up front and hear about you fiddlin' when here I thought you were knee deep in chickens and poison ivy. Love the shots and the story .... and if you need a replacement Banjo Camp! just lemme know zhenyasenyak@gmail.com and I'll shoot one out to you for next year's awards.

Zhen

June 2, 2011 at 6:12 PM  

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