Monday, September 21, 2009

sometimes it's hard

I've been hurt by this farm. Really hurt. I've been bitten, butted, cut, scarred, and brought to tears from pain, stress and exhaustion. This happens over and over and I'm always alone. There are things I won't blog about because I don't want my mother to worry. There are things that happen that terrify me.

This year was the hardest yet. I planted my largest garden ever, raised the most animals, and took on more work and personal projects than any sane human being should. Now that the year is almost over, and the south side of October is days away, I can let out a long sigh and tell you it was all worth it. I found a balance in it all, kept my blinders on, and everything got done. The garden was tilled, weeded, and harvested. The two-week-old goat kid grew up into a spit-fire. The young birds are almost full-sized chickens now and the rabbit doe is due to bear kits any night. Yes, the hive was lost. And yes, I failed the sheepdog I once called my own, but you'll have this from time to time. And you and I don't have enough nights to list my faults. There are many, some are awful. Trust me.

If you read this blog and find it overly positive, dramatic, or analytical: that's because writing about my choices is my daily therapy. I don't see a shrink—I write to 40,000. Sharing my stories and photos on this blog is like a long exhalation. I depend on the people who read this because in the shower I lose count of the cuts and bruises and I want to know they belong to something bigger than my body. All things considered, I am quite small.

Some nights I barely fall asleep, isomniatic from worrying about the delicate balance that is my work life, family life and farm life. I am so grateful for Jazz, my old dog, who looks at me every day like the wise bodhisattva that he is and I will never be. A good dog can walk up to you, slowly, one paw in front of the other, and sit down next to you with great stillness. I feel him lean into me and I realize I'm not the only animal on this farm. I am never alone and it is bigger than us both. He rests and lets me scratch behind his ears and only when he knows I understand the world again, pads off. Jazz isn't my child and he isn't my pet either. He's a good dog. Nothing more.

For quite some time now, people without dogs seem broken to me.

I am a farmer without a farm, a shepherd without a sheepdog, and in love with this big, stupid world without a lover. That's fine. Sometimes I foolishly think everything would be better if I had a mortgage, a collie, and a man. But I know myself well enough to see the idiocy in such black-and-white thinking. I know better. We all know better. Maybe these things will come or maybe I'll be hit by space trash tomorrow. It really doesn't matter. It's the wanting that fuels us. It's the hope. That desire to attain the life you want, whatever it is, and to fold your ears back and run into the wind like you're in harness—is life. Cold Antler farm isn't a place—it is an idea. Knowing I want it means I am already home. Actually getting there, is moot.


Blogger Morgen said...


September 21, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Darcie said...

Jenna, I hear you. I have had an ideal of a farm in my own head for years now, I call it Hamletgrove. It gets a little closer every day. To quote the late great Thoreau "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." Hang in there and be safe.

September 21, 2009 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Yes, you're already there. I don't know the details of your life, but I think about it a lot, and think how amazing it is that you've done this, and that maybe I'd like to do it someday. You really do lead a beautiful life, and I love getting to learn about it.

September 21, 2009 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

Enjoy your blog, Jenna. Found it after I read your book and wanted more. My husband has a block of land, that I am increasingly better able to call a farm now that it has cattle on it that we actually own. We have all sorts of pie in the sky ideas, but I think sometimes the real pleasure is in the planning.

September 21, 2009 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Spring Lake Farm said...

I'm glad you have Jazz. The unconditional love of a dog is sometimes the best comfort a person can have.

Stay true to your heart!

September 21, 2009 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Mare said...


September 21, 2009 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Holy cow I love this blog and listening to you more than anything some nights. I always say to myself, "What would Jenna do?" when I'm tired and don't want to continue. I admire your strength, writing ability, and tenacity. I root for you.

I am so glad my world is a better place because I stumbled upon your amazing world.

Thank you.

September 21, 2009 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

You better not get hit by space trash!!!! :) I don't know what I would do without this blog, or your inspiration. So, the feeling is mutual darling. And your right, its the wanting that keeps us going. The hope. Its what keeps me going.

Ps. And let me say it again...Please don't get hit by space trash!!!!! :)

September 21, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Funny Ernie said...

Great blog post. But, did I miss something awhile back? I thought you had two dogs....I sometimes wish my farm would beat me up. I'm too busy chasing a baby and don't get to spend time mucking the pigs :(

September 21, 2009 at 11:46 PM  
Blogger Jackjack136 said...

Keep up the good ole hard work.

September 21, 2009 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

What Katie said :>)

Persevere Jenna. It may be hard to see on nights like tonight, but your life has touched thousands of souls.

September 22, 2009 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger evergreenknits said...

It's crazy to think that there's a whole world of people waiting for your missives from one small corner of Vermont. Your writings are fuel and inspiration for us. Don't ever feel shy about asking for something back (namely, moral support) if you ever need it!

September 22, 2009 at 1:25 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Well said.

September 22, 2009 at 5:55 AM  
Blogger beansprout said...

I have to agree with you about "people without dogs seem broken." I often get asked, "Don't you feel tied down by your dog?" It's quite the contrary; when I travel, I feel lost if he's not there. They are that gentle constant in our lives. The one thing that always comes back to us and reminds us that we really are 'okay'. Thanks for sharing, Jenna. You're a inspiration to so many people. You remind us that although life's hard and sometimes seems unfair, in then end, the hard work, determination, and dedication really are worth something. Even if it's just a path to self discovery. Thanks again.

September 22, 2009 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Good lord, if you (or any of us) ever really talked about the hard part of this life, no one would want to do it!

September 22, 2009 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

I'm glad your doing this. You've inspired so many people to get off their butts and do something. If a 27 year old girl working a full time job why not a 42 year old stay at home mom? Why not an 18 year old girl who's fed up with the circle factory farms? Not only have you inspired many you've brought like minded indviduals together. It's nice to know someone's sympathizing with you over a lost chicken or a hive.
We're there for you. And where here for each other to count each other's cuts and bruises.

September 22, 2009 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

Thanks for the perspective. I have Beagle sized paw-bruises on my thighs from getting trod upon, and I used to get stomped by horses. You've reminded me how lightweight that Beagle really is!

And as for mortgages, collies and men . . . well, it's got to be the right mortgage (obvious point these days), the right collie for the right girl, and same with the man. The wrong ones are heartbreaking and life disrupting as all get out. Farm on. And maybe wear a cell phone or a mini boat horn so you can summon help if you find yourself face down in the pasture.

September 22, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cuts and bruises are superficial issues that I wear proudly as a young woman doing "mans work" my whole life. I like the life that you show us in your book and on your blog. I enjoy it, but I will tell ya...there are harder things to have to do on your own as a young lady. Keep going in the direction your heart sees fit and you will be fine, amazing,all set. You have goals...I know a ton of woman our age that STILL dont have goals. It doesnt matter if someone like you or I do not know where we will be in a long as we know where we are going as a whole. We atleast know we will be closer to our goal a year from now. Thats more than alot of chicks in our generation.

I just wish you the best and hope you get more sleep!

September 22, 2009 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

Very well put. It has always been a bit surprising to me how positive you always are. I work around very negative people all day and it is so soul refreshing to read your blog and know that even though life may be hard and circumstances may beat us down, our attitude and outlook are our own choice. You do need a shoulder (canine or human) to lean on now and again so don't short yourself there, but I am impressed with your choice of sharing your optimism, hopes and goals with a lot of people you have never met or seen.

September 22, 2009 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger hlbrack said...

Jenna: I've always appreciated your optimism, and your joy in the simple but solid and honest things in life, and your ability to take this dream of yours by the horns and give it all you got. But after reading this last post I can also say that I appreciate your truthfulness about the not always pleasant parts of life on the farm! Because without all of the bumps and scrapes and emotional bruising Cold Antler just wouldn't be the same. You've made it your own - and no one ever said it'd be a picnic all the time. You are a strong young woman, and you've inspired so many of us out there, and you will continue to. Keep working towards that dream; I have a pretty darn good feeling that you'll get there. Oh, and I loved the bit about Jazz...there is, truly, nothing better than a good dog :)

September 22, 2009 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Tony C. said...


We all feel this way, at least the people I have shared my frustrations with have said they too wish for things to happen faster.

Your blog does not mention faith and I don't wish to infringe it with mine but please allow this one explaination.

Things happen in God's time, not ours.

I often view that relationship as a father to a son (or daughter in your case). A good father does not spoil a child by giving them everthing they want when they want it. He makes them earn it.

You are succeeding one step at a time and learning what it is that you will need to know on a larger scale when you own your own farm.

There is a farm for you if you want it but as we all struggle with, it may come on a different time frame than we desire.

Take heart in knowing that this time is the preparation for the farm so that you will be able to manage it. Know also that I find that once things do come to fruition they often come in a wave. You may find that you obtain not only your farm but other dreams at that time as well.

Tony in Asheville

September 22, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Sarah Sanders said...

*sigh* How I love your posts! Your writing speaks to my soul and I'm thankful for this place to come and be inspired.
Thank you.

September 22, 2009 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I was reading a past issue of Mother Earth News (Apr/May 2009) and stumbled across your article Life on the Homestead.

Your story is truly inspiring and your honestly refreshing. This post for example is a good reminder that sometimes those things in life worth earning will often come with a high price.

But like Darcie said in the comment above... "Hang in there and be safe".

September 22, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Curtis said...

Yes Jenna,
Life can have the harsh times but what drew me to your blog from your book is learning to not only do what you want but to live a simpler lifestyle and slow down. No one has ever said farming or living your own dream is easy but to me it has to be less insane then what most people think living is.

September 22, 2009 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Beautifully said, Jenna.

September 22, 2009 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Vonnie said...

Well said. It is amazing sometimes when we live our dreams that we endure a great deal more than we ever thought we could. Dogs sure help. My rescued Aussie is the soul who reminds us to run, to rest, to be aware of our surroundings and to fear the oncoming thunderstorm. She couldn't herd sheep (we're told she must've been bread for beauty!), but she is valuable just the same as is our eight pound chihuahua that was to be the pet of a much to busy 21 year old.
Today - the first day of Autumn is a day to CELEBRATE all you have survived and all you've done to prepare for the winter. I envy your life in New England as I pine for home from my office in Florida.
My prayer for you today:
Lord, I lift Jenna up to You and thank you for her and the wisdom of her accomplishments especially the most difficult lessons. Thank you for providing the best of companions in the form of hard working dogs as well as an array of loving friends. Protect her spirit, mind, body, and emotions from any kind of evil or harm. Hide her in the shadow of Your wings as danger and emotional toil passes. Remind her that she is never alone. Amen

September 22, 2009 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Thank you for your wonderful sharing, sweetie. You live a life that I am not able to do because of the hard work, cuts and bruises. You go girl.

September 22, 2009 at 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said, Jenna, very well said indeed...

September 22, 2009 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I waited 22 years for Bramble, my 4 month old Border Collie. Literally 22 years of raising children, other dogs, many cats. It just was not the right time then. Now, it is. And she, along with the other 3 (and my family, and my chickens, and my cats, etc. etc.) make my life whole and complete at this point. It doesn't mean she is the last dream or hope I will ever have. But when you wait a long time for something, you appreciate it SO much more. Life just gets better with age.

September 22, 2009 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

Beautiful. Love you.

September 22, 2009 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

Your post brought me to tears today. What a gifted writer you are!

I don't think you're overly positive, maybe because I've lived on a farm. In spite of having to cancel plans at the last minute because the pony broke through the hot fence and led 20 horses on a romp across the lawn, waking up in a cabin full of bees one spring morning and almost getting stomped to death in the mud in the dark by 10 1800 lb warmbloods, what I remember is being so full of life that I waltzed across the lawn in the moonlight by myself out of sheer passion for the life I'd been gifted w/.

I get it. Thanks so much for perservering and sharing your journey w/ us.

September 22, 2009 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

thanks jenna.

i just looked at my hands and was surprised at how clean and cut free they were. they even have nice nails. and i realized that i miss cabinet making; i even miss the dirty man hands that i could never get quite clean with-ought an hour long manicure. and the cuts that give them character.

right then, time to pick up the chisel and turn on the table saw. i let other people run me out of playing with wood and, somehow, you just reminded me how much i loved it.

thank you

September 22, 2009 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Bonita said...

I love your blog and admire your character. Your making a difference, isn't that all what we aspire to do?

September 22, 2009 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Wherever you go, there you are.

You've done well, and inspired a lot of other people into the bargain.

September 22, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger linda said...

You, young lady, are an inspiration - When I am up to my eyeballs in the stress of my urban lifestyle, I am able to click on your blog and loose myself to your farm in Vermont.

There are few of us who truly choose our path. So many of us get swept up and away by life, our choices being more of a reaction than a conscious choice.

You, however, know what makes you happy. Chickens, sheep, applecake, dogs, music, friends, farming.... What a gift you have given yourself ----- and us.

When I read your blog, I can see you in my mind's eye, walking across a grassy pasture in the early morning fog. Plaid wool parka, hat pulled down over your ears, long pants, boots, and warm gloves - the morning sounds trickling in and out as the sun begins to peek over the horizon and start your day.

Thank you.

September 23, 2009 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I'm so glad you have chosen to share your journey, you're doing what many of us have always dreamed of and haven't had the moot to do. I turned 50 a few weeks ago and find myself thinking more and more about my own dream in this direction. More importantly I am looking at ways to start living out this are showing us that it can be done. Keep going!

September 23, 2009 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

I started reading blogs a while ago. I had read a little magazine article about raising alpacas..Hubby said NO ALPACAS!! (I didn't want to RAISE any, just learn more about them) so i googled and got all kinds of websites and articles and then some blogs...everything in alpaca land was rosy and I googled something like 'BAD LUCK WITH ALPACA' and I finally got something I felt was closer to truth. Things didn't go wonderfully. Animals were sick..some things died...some just kept getting out and running away..but I finally felt I had an honest story...
I guess that's how I feel when I read yours. Hey, I have an idea how hard you work for your money, and because of what you write... you show us how hard it is to see what the bear did to a week's wages... or how the dang fox is taking your breakfast and your friends away... how much a little garden plot can give you... you talk about getting comfort from your music and your animals, especially your dogs... We have a border collie. I came into the marriage with a dog, who got old and died. Now the hubby has a dog. He's only on loan to me when the master is away. If I say get off the bed, the dog looks at his master to see if he has to listen to me. Theirs is a special relationship.. I miss having a dog... but I have kids and I can wait for my own dog day! All in good time...

September 23, 2009 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger deborahwolfe said...

"Sometimes I foolishly think everything would be better if I had a mortgage, a collie, and a man."

Bummer. I sort of thought you played for the home team.

September 23, 2009 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger dirtygirl said...

it's about the journey, not the destination.

September 24, 2009 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger rebecca said...

Hi Jenna!
I have been reading your blog for a while now but never commented.
I have a Husky/German Shepherd cross and I am sure you know the hair is everywhere about now - I just spent about an hour brushing him. Do you have a routine for brushing your huskies? When do you have time?

September 24, 2009 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger rebecca said...

PS ~~~ Get a massage Jenna!!! You would not beleive waht a simple thing can make a TON of stress melt away and get you right back in the swing of things. :)
Advise from a small farm owner.

September 24, 2009 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Joshua and Rebecca Thomas said...

Oh Jenna, Your post made my heart ache! You are such an amazing woman. I love reading about the beautiful life you have made for yourself. Keep your chin up, dear, you are loved by so many of us!

September 24, 2009 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger René said...

This is actually from a TV show but it's so beautiful:

"Before the big bang,
Before time itself,
Before matter, energy, velocity,
There existed a single and measurable state called yearning.

This is the special force that on a day before there were days,
Obliterated nothing into everything.
It is the unseen strings tying planets to stars,
It is the maddening want we feel,
From first breath,
To last light.”

September 24, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sorry, Deb. All activities and evidence point to the contrary.

September 24, 2009 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger deborahwolfe said...

S'alright. I'll still read your blog. I'm all about the chickens.

September 24, 2009 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger kadfoto said...

Your words, and YOU, are brilliant. I enjoy your blog. It beams rays of goodness in an often crazy world.

September 25, 2009 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger 2 Green Acres said...

This post is just one example of why I love your blog - great insights and great writing.

The thing that keeps me coming back is not a shared interest in farming, because I know my limits. Rather, I so admire (and am so inspired) by your focus on achieving your dreams.

September 26, 2009 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger julochka said...

this is a beautiful and thoughtful and honest post. as we're embarking on the purchase of a farm and a desire to change how we're living, it's so helpful to read about your journey. i'm glad you're sharing this way instead of going to a therapist. :-)

greetings from denmark,

September 27, 2009 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog--what a farm you have there -you are so lucky -
your doing a great job.

September 28, 2009 at 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna, I cried, and am still crying, about your post. Not sure exactly why except like plucking a string, you've hit a tender, secret spot of mine. Something about you and your dream, fighting for it, struggling for it, living it and then sharing it with all of us. And there's nothing, nothing like taking comfort from furry friends, who are indeed part of our families. Okay, I'm better now. Going to grab a kleenex. Thank you.

September 30, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger golfsmirk said...

"people without dogs seem broken to me" Yep, dogs are God's gift to mankind. They aren't judgemental, they just wanna be with you. The worse day of your life, and they are happy to see you, you can't put a price on that!

September 30, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
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