Wednesday, October 7, 2009

reading the whole thing

It's really dark outside and the wind is picking up into a fever. Annie is here at my feet as I type in my kitchen (Jazz is still in bed). Coffee is heating up on the stove top and in about twenty minutes, when the first blue cracks of light come, I'll put on an insulated vest and some work gloves and go out and feed the animals by lantern light. Daylight savings will come soon and I can't wait. I look forward to greeting the animals in natural light again and not tripping over the wood pile. A lot of folks will look outside at 5PM and get bummed it's already dark out, but those of us up at 5 feeding chickens and stock will be thrilled to stop having to buy so many bandaids.

Every now and then I get an email from someone who admits to reading through this entire blog in a few days. This is flattering as hell, but shocking to read. They start in August a few years ago in Idaho and end up here in October in Vermont just a few days later. I have never done this (read the whole blog), but think if I would It would leave me with only two conclusions: Either this girl is crazy and needs to get out more or making dreams happen without giant inheritances or trust funds takes forever.

Forever is a stretch, I know. In three years I've managed to find two homes, get some sheep, fall into some subcultures and make a lot of things happen. I'm proud of the book, the farm, the writing gigs I've managed to land...but that farm and financial security are a long way off. A really long way off... Like most of you I need to be in the office by 8AM and make my rent and car payments. I'm a regular gal with a farming disease.

To be frank, I don't really care about the financial security. I'm fine with getting by if "getting by" is figuring out how to make tractor and mortgage payments and deal with slaughtering fees and how to pay for a weekend competing at a sheepdog trial in Canada. Those will be glorious problems to have. But the farm of my own...I hope to get there in three years. That is the great big hope. I want to own a small piece of Vermont by 30. I want to be walking out to check on the lambs with my border collies at 35. And I want to be reading my the woodstove, sick of (but still addicted to) shepherding at 55. My high trial sheepdog curled up at my feet. If some bills get paid late, or I can't retire at 65, then so be it. I'll be out in the pasture till I drop.

I view this process, and I view it slow. I don't expect anything to come fast or easy. I never have. I can only imagine reading through this whole blog and seeing it move from a few chickens and raised beds in Idaho to the the hooved and truck-fueled farm it is here in Vermont must seem like such progress, so fast. But I assure you the days, bills, jobs, heart ache, paperwork, contracts, moves and sleepless nights in-between posting times makes it all feel a lot longer to me. So do all the things I don't write about. I'm not living some double secret-agent life or anything (I don't have the time) but you know what I mean. The everyday dramas and events that don't really have to do with Cold Antler or make headlines.

And honestly, most of the big things that happened (i.e. finding people willing to trade sheep for fiddle lessons or having coworkers help raise a small barn) are luck and chance. Hey, I'll take luck and chance any day, but right now I'm taking this coffee outside to feed a goat.

P.S. 6:35 AM - I just got inside from the morning chores. The world is still navy blue. I was outside filling water buckets when a high, warm wind filled the hollow. It was almost scary, the trees cracking and the leaves swirling, everywhere. I walked across the farm with my water buckets, watching the yellow and red leaves fly across the lantern beams and all of stuck in the awkward warm wind and blue world. If Cold Antler ever reminded me of a twisted snowglobe, one that's all black and blue and gold and red, it was just now...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a early riser -need animals to feed! The wind is howling in Michigan too -trying to blow in some winter weather for us and skip fall, I fear.
Your place just sounds wonderful

October 7, 2009 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

Thought you should know that you make one think and think hard. We have what we call a "block". On the block we have a "shed". One day we would like to have a "house" on the "block" next to the "shed" and call the whole thing a "farm", but I even with 35 head of Angus cattle, I am not prepared to use that term yet! Your three year goal is inspirational as we lurch from one bright idea to the next. You make me think that we need to do some serious planning if we want to have it happen before we die. Thanks.

October 7, 2009 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger Shannan said...

I have to admit I have read your entire blog. It took me a couple of days while I was laid up sick. I loved reading about your ups and downs because they helped to put things into perspective for me. I now have more confidance that we can acheive our goals, we might not reach them when we want to but we will reach them. I know that this road that we are traveling is a steep one and we need to pace ourselves climbing up so that we do not slide right back down. Even when we do slide down that hill we have to bounce when we hit bottom. So Jenna, thank you for writing because even though we do not know everything that goes on with your life you have allowed us to share enough of it to give us hope, and hopefully not look like a bunch of crazy stalkers. LOL.


October 7, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

By working toward your dream, you've already won it. Without the effort, it wouldn't be nearly so fulfilling. I look forward to the days I get to read about you getting your land, tending your sheep, working your dogs, and reading with your feet up - plus all the in-between.

I'm sending two thumbs up across many, many miles!

October 7, 2009 at 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! What Tara said! You've got your eye on the goal and we're all here to support you along your journey there!

October 7, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger paul said...

I'm also an early riser, but my morning chores usually consist of getting my lunch ready to bring to the office. I think that would be a lot more fun (or at least tolerable) if I also had some sheep or other animals to tend to in the morning.

I'd also like to point out/nitpick that daylight savings time is not coming, it's going away! And sheep or not, I'm always happy, too, when the morning gets a little bit more light.

You really do inspire, people, Jenna. Reading about your efforts and dreams makes me want to pursue my dreams more and more. And one of my dreams is to inspire people as much as you do!

Anyway, have a great day and watch out for that wind!

October 7, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 7, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said... this where we confess?? It is my method when I find a new blog, to read a couple and if I like it, go start at the beginning and read all the way up to now. I do it mostly at lunch and other snitches of time, so it takes me awhile...quite a took me months to do Down To Earth and I found Jenna there. Otherwise to me, it is like watching season 3 and wondering how they all got here. So over weeks or months, I traveled along with Jenna's adventures and I got testy some days when I didn't get a fix..(more confessions!) I do have to be careful that I don't miss enjoying where I'm at, thinking I just want to be in a different place or a different life... so I planted and I grew and I canned and I froze and for me, this summer, I made a difference. Last night I told my mom to head my dad off if he was buying any gifts to sit around...what I'd really like is a flour sifter. And I'll get one for Christmas or my birthday, because we have a respect for our sense of usefullness. Last Christmas, I got them both a big bag of birdseed. It is all gone..I can get more this year. no color or sizing problems...not looking to impress anyone else or keep up with the Jones...Just looking to enjoy the simple things of life ...Why buy me Liz when Carhartt is more my style??

(sorry the last one had too many typos!)

October 7, 2009 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

I confess as well that when I find a blog I like I start at the beginning and read to the present. It does seem to make more sense that way to me.

I also feel that if I am living the life I love, I won't care if I have to "work" past retirement age. I will drop while doing those things that matter to me. I can't think of a better way to live or die than working toward worthwhile life goals.

Karen Sue, I think your philosophy of gifts is spot on. I don't want any more dust collectors, just things that are useful or needed.

October 7, 2009 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Me too. After I finished, "The Book," I read the blog start to finish. I think the selected content of your blog would make a great book. Sort of like one of those Chicken Soup series books. We just need to come up with a catchy title.

October 7, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Jenna, I also agree with Karen Sue. I found you through the
subsistencefoodpattern blog and liked what I read and did indeed need to go back to the beginning and read to the present. Ordered your book from the library system and read that as well. Sometimes I sense your anguish at not being where you would like to be or the lack of a partner, but you seem to carry on with such determination and grit that you inspire me. I believe another reader once wrote, 'What would Jenna do?' and I find myself asking this same thing when times get rough. I also agree with BJ Gingles that if we do what we truly love, it is a labor of love. I'll keep on keepin' on right along with you!

October 7, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Sparkless said...

I bought your book after finding your blog and read it in a couple of evenings. I'd love to have a farm but don't have the finances right now to make it come true so I live vicariously through you and your stories.
Very appropriate runes on your pumpkin too by the way.

October 7, 2009 at 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After I finished your book, I also went back and read your blog start to finish.

I love the entry pictures. I agree: very appropriate runes

October 7, 2009 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Kimmy said...

Seems that I'm not the only one; look at all the confessions ;-).

I have full respect for all of the non-blogged experiences that go into three years of life, moreso three years spent nudging/trudging toward a dream. But when you're 65 and by the fire with your tired collies, I have a feeling the past three years will suddenly seem to have passed as quickly as someone discovering them over several weeks (I wish I had the free time at work or the speedreading abilities to have read this in a few days). And heck, you'll have a broken-in uniquely yours farm built on the proverbial foundations of the years chronicled in your blog. Pretty cool, huh?

October 7, 2009 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I loved your book and was so happy to find your blog and pick up where you are now. I guess I could go back but I like where you are at hubbie and I have a lot of the same conversations that you are having. When will it happen, why hasn't it yet and how can we change from always looking forward to being in the present and enjoying the now. Your place does sound lovely but I understand completely about looking forward to your "dream" coming true...all in good time~

October 7, 2009 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Don't you know you're not supposed to feed coffee to a goat? No matter how much they whine.

I love the description of the swirling leaves and wind. I could just imagine being in that myself with my long hair crackling and blowing too.

October 7, 2009 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I've read the first year and the book and everything since I read the book - now that it's getting towards winter and Lord knows we'll be housebound at some point - I'll read the second year to where I started - ha ha - good times!!! Oh - and I got a fiddle off craigslist and the learn to play book you recommended!!

October 7, 2009 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I'll cop to it, too. I too came to the blog after reading your book (in days) and went all the way back to the beginning and read through to the present. Mostly on my lunch breaks. And I have to say, it's not a bad way to escape the slog for just a little while and be reminded that "dreams" don't have to be restricted to that make-believe world that exists behind my eyelids. I've done more with what I have this summer than I've done in years of daydreaming, book-reading, and seed-catalog drooling. I canned my tomatoes for the first time, something I've been wanting to do for ages. Somehow it just seems easier when I can see Jenna doing so much more and still having the time to tell us all about it. I have fewer excuses now, and I thank you for that!

BTW - I just got my second copy of "Scratch". I gave my first copy to a kindred spirit. I think she read the first three chapters before she even got it home! Spreadin' the love, baby, spreadin' the love...

October 7, 2009 at 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to find out I'm not the only one to have read the entire archives of your blog Jenna! I read them in 3 days and it was better than most novels I've read in a long while. It's an amazing thing to realize that someone else's dreams, which so fantastically parallel your own, are the best escape from every day reality!

I read your book in one evening and feel the need to check yuku daily, sometimes twice. You've allowed me to truly embrace my "hippy" dreams and really focus on achieving them too. Thanks for sharing so much of your life with us kindred spirits! I am looking forward to reading about the farm and the sheep and the border collies and hoping you get there sooner than you think!

October 7, 2009 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

I was one of those who read your blog from back to front in one weekend. It was a lovely weekend, too, because of it. And because of it, I put up some tomatoes for the first time ever. And because of it, I made bread for the first time in a long time. And because of it, I snuggled up with a blanket on my couch in the middle of summer in Texas as I read about the snow and howling wind. That's awesome. And I thank you.

October 7, 2009 at 11:31 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I too read your entire blog in just a couple of days after finding your article in MEN. I agree with the person that said it helps put your life into perspective. It definitly also gave me something to work for and hope that I can make it happen. It was a place I was looking for and didn't even know it, an inspiration and a "community" I didn't even know I was looking for.

Ps. Yay! I was hoping you would have pictures of your pumpkin that you had posted about having etched while it was still green. It made me smile to see that picture tonight.

October 8, 2009 at 12:48 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I have also read your blog from cover to cover and have started reading your book. I have always been interested in self-sufficient living and over the years (I'm 50) have had numerous gardens and had different projects in this direction. I find your journey inspiring and often helpful as I sort out my own strategies.

October 8, 2009 at 4:24 AM  
Blogger lmel said...

Love this blog Jenna. You're dream helps me keep my dream alive. Like you, I'm looking for that plot of land; a place to farm and keep a few horses. There's not enough room for me in southern Maine. And like you, I will probably be working till I'm in the grave, but I might as well go having fun in a place I love! You also inspired me to pick up my guitar again! Having gone to college in SW Virginia, I too have an appreciation for mountain music--can't beat it!

October 8, 2009 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Oz Girl said...

I tried to leave a comment on your post on Mother Earth News website, but it wasn't accepting any new sign-ups at the moment, sooo here's that comment ~ and I am with you on the whole financial security thing. If getting by means being happy, then I'm all for it. And I am with Karen Sue and Gingles on the gift giving - no dust collectors for this gal!

What a wonderful commentary on farm life - in addition to all your farm talents, you are obviously well gifted with the writing gene! As a relatively new squatter on 26 acres in Kansas, I can see my fears in your post - my fears of losing animals, and so hence I have not accumulated any more beyond the 3 horses, 3 dogs and 3 cats that we do have. How well I realize the pain that can also come with the joys of owning chickens, sheep or goats. Needless to say, we have LOTS of coyotes out here on the plains.

I've enjoyed your Mother Earth post, and this one here, and obviously need to read your blog from cover to cover!

October 8, 2009 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Chelli said...

Jenna, you have to realized how "out of date" and rare you view of the world is! But, I envy you for it! I have enjoyed reading you blog for all this time. Speaking for many of your readers (I'm sure), we live vicariously through you. You had the guts to follow a simple and beautiful dream. I hope some day I can wander Vermont way, and visit your "heaven on earth"!

October 8, 2009 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger RenĂ© said...

Knowing what you want at 26 and having the strength to go for it is no small thing. I just turned 29 and I'm still trying to figure it out. Your miles ahead of yourself, girl. It'll be 4 or 5 years before I can even think of having place with enough room for chickens, let alone goats. Sometimes I wish I had your guts, to go for the life you want even if you don't have a trust fund to pay for it. It took people like you to teach me it's okay to go for your dreams no matter how far out they seem. More than okay, really, it's vital to happiness. You will have to work hard for the life you want, but you'll never be nagged by dreams you didn't go for.

October 9, 2009 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger Grant Wagner said...

I don't know abount a few days, but I've only learned of your blog a week or two ago, and I've been cutting through it as time has allowed. I loved learning about your life to this point, and I find your outlook and chosen life style both endearing and a hell of a lot more logical than some of the people who surround me here in Chicagoland. Maybe it is hard to chase a dream, but when most of our generation have lost their dreams to TV and video game fantasies (myself included sometimes), there is no shame. Only adoration. You're a beacon, shine brightly and without embarrassment or excuse.

Hell, next spring I'm going to be getting some chickens and start some raised beds. I'm done wishing, I'm fsckin' doing. You can count on that.

November 5, 2009 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Dee Anne Anderson said...

I'm also one of those people who is reading your blog all at once! I bought your book on Wednesday, read it, found your blog yesterday (Thursday) and now it's Friday and up to Fall 2009. :-) I might finish it tonight, or maybe save 2011 for tomorrow morning. What should I be doing in all of this? Homework. (That dissertation isn't going to write itself.) But sometimes a girl just has to dream about chickens, bees, and learning to fiddle. (The fiddle is a brand new dream, but I think it's taking hold.)

Thank you for sharing your life!
Dee Anne

April 15, 2011 at 8:08 PM  

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