Wednesday, February 25, 2009

two lives and the big why

This morning I had an interview on Martha Stewart's radio show Whole Living. It was a fine, polite interview. Nothing out of the ordinary. But the host asked me something that gave me pause. She asked me what I get out of working so hard at Cold Antler? She wanted to know why any sane person would work a 40-hour office week and then come home to churn butter, feed chickens, and sew clothing? This is not an unreasonable question. I get it a lot.

I tried to give her a quick answer about wanting to transition my life into one supported by full-time farming and writing, and that seemed to appease her—but it didn't stop my wheels from turning. The real answer to why I live the way I do is much more complicated than that because it's so ridiculously simple. And I'll explain that more in a minute.

It's never easy to explain to people why sustainable farming has such a hold on me. But ever since it first dug those raven claws into my brain - my life as a regular person has been split in two. One half is a world of high-brow design and corporate culture and the other world is one of potting soil, bee hives, and turkey feathers. Together these two lives collide and make up the everyday goings-on of Jenna Woginrich. I'm okay with splitting my life in half. Things are never boring around here, that's for damn sure.

Now, as to explain why I dance this dance—here's something I wrote for Mother Earth News. This is just an excerpt but you can click the link at the bottom for the whole story. I think it explains the addiction just fine.

From the article Why Homestead
Why would a perfectly normal middle class gal, who had a nice city job, and a pleasant apartment pick up her life and shake it till trowels and feed sacks fell out? Why spend a year learning to raise chickens and keep bees and nearly pass out of heat stroke in the garden when eggs, honey, and broccoli are all for sale at the grocery store for less than the cost of that hoe in your blistered hands?

There are a lot of canned answers to this and you know them already. As fellow homesteaders (or friends there of) you get the whole “homegrown-satisfaction-quality-of-life-green-living” bit. All those reasons ring true for me too, but there’s something else writhing below those surface answers. Something deeper that makes me smile in the garden or laugh from my belly in the bird yard.

It’s the honesty of knowing what I do everyday directly helps keep me alive.

It’s that simple.

You can read the rest of that story here


Blogger Judy said...

I know why you do it - my peas have sprouted and I got so excited - you think I had a baby! Well, I guess I did - baby peas.

February 25, 2009 at 5:51 PM  
Anonymous windwoman said...

And knowing that if every grocery store around you disappeared or that you couldn't afford to shop in them (for whatever reason) have the skills and hutzpah to survive...

February 25, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

I know why you do it . . . you're tending and caring for critters and plants that provide you with food, warmth, love, a semblance of independence and fun. And to quote a TV show, an "I can make it on my own" kind of attitude! And by the way, any one who can get people around the world to plant peas in the dead of winter deserves to win a prize for a book they have written. I know, the book didn't have anything to do with the pea challenge, but so what. Congratulations for the first of many awards.

February 25, 2009 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Everyone who may read this, I'm still on the mission to get Jenna's new book deal buzz going for her...write a recommendation and request for her next tome at, click on contact us and write with your support. I don't know about you, but I want round two!

February 25, 2009 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Dude, I totally get it . . . and am living it, too! I spend 40 hours a week working in a research lab, and then I go home and plant peas and make homebrewed beer and learn how to play guitar, etc etc etc.

Speaking of peas . . . mine are sprouted and have a bunch of leaves, and are going to get transplanted into a container this weekend! I'm containerizing them instead of putting them in the garden so that I can bring them in when it gets too hot (summer is my gardening "winter" in TX)

February 25, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When someone asks me why I tirelessly research and catalogue species of lepidoptera, I refer them to the 2000 hit single by Bon Jovi entitled "It's My Life." Not many people realize it's a sophisticated reference to Frank Sinatra. The song came so close to not being made due to an argument with Richie Sambora. Well, Richie, I care about Frank.... I CARE.

That's what it's about, Jenna. It mattered to Jon and it mattered to me. Screw the Richie Sambora's of the world.

Never forget.

February 26, 2009 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger erin said...

I miss you! ;)

February 26, 2009 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

That's the best possible way it could be said, I think. And every day I move further and further from the city corporate culture. It's been a much easier divorce than I ever imagined.

I saw my first pea sprouts yesterday - TEXAS PEAS! And my duck has started sitting, and more baby bunnies born yesterday. It's full-on springtime here.

February 26, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

That article was really well written, thank you for sharing your experiences with us

February 26, 2009 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger kikejokay said...

You do it because it's in your soul. Plain and simple !!

February 26, 2009 at 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's certainly a noble venture, but, alas, it's very VERY difficult to obtain and maintain. As we age, things like retirement, and how we will pay the bills keep popping into our minds. Many old farmers end up down sizing, because their bodies just can't do it anymore. As with all things in life, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Be sure that you have your finances set before you leap. I know it isn't what you want to hear, but coming from someone who has been there, it's experience talking.

February 26, 2009 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

"It’s the honesty of knowing what I do everyday directly helps keep me alive."
speaks volumes to me right there ...

February 26, 2009 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger pleintexasgirl said...

We do it because it is what keeps us sane. I just wasted another sunrise sitting in traffic to get to work in Houston. While @ work, I sneak around to all the coffee stations grabbing those precious grounds to amend into my compost once I get back home to the country, my home, my sanity. I have 26 new chicks calling my name as soon as I get in. It is what I love.

February 27, 2009 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger r. said...

so simply and wonderfully said, yet others will still scratch their heads in bewilderment, as if it were more than that, but to me that is the secret of simplicity. a wee little pea has sprouted, and it is a simple, darling thing, only a green sprig of life, a mere shoot of the earth. but therein lies the secret, it's rather complicated, and the beauty of it all is how much is left to life outside us, elements beyond ourselves. the simple things are the planting, the watering, the watching. something provides those simple things, but all that grows, all that becomes, underneath it all, something much larger is taking root and reaching out to some primitive part that revels in the simplicity beyond ourselves.

February 27, 2009 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Mama said...

As usual lovely writing and a simplicity that puts it into borrowed words for a dorky girl like me;)Thanks and btw you soo went up on my cool chart for having words with Martha LOL

February 28, 2009 at 8:19 PM  

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