Saturday, December 5, 2009

orphans and alpacas

I woke up early, or early for a Saturday anyway. I was done with chores and on the road by 8AM. I was on a mission to load up the Ford with hay before any weather hit. As I drove I turned up the heat and opened the windows, letting that air hit me and move my ponytails around. Southern Vermont smelled like snow, like something was in the works. I stopped at the Sherman's General store in West Rupert for a cup of coffee and read the poster board outside sharing all the trophy bucks and scores. A few hunters were inside warming up from scenting in the morning. Everyone seemed excited about the snow, and the coffee. I was among them.

After the hay was unloaded I filled the bed with my trash bags and headed to the dump. (One of the charms of rural living is no trash pick up. That's a small price to pay, far as I'm concerned.) Jazz was deep into round two of his morning nap, so Annie jumped in the front seat for a ride into town. When we returned to the farm we were met by a big silver truck. A man came out with a silver badge and announced he was Animal Control. I didn't roll my eyes, but wanted to. I wasn't worried in the least and Annie and I walked right up to him and shook hands.

He went on to explain that someone had filed a complaint about how I take care of my animals. They told him my rabbits were in too small of cages, the goat was suffering, no one had bedding, there was feces everywhere and I keep my dogs in cages all day. (That last one was especially hard to swallow with Annie sitting happily by my side.) He told me I had nothing to worry about. He said he checked out the entire property and my animals and their homes were in great shape, that the complaint was ridiculous and the case would be closed. He actually used the word pristine to describe my animals' living conditions and overall health compared to some places he has to visit.

We talked for a long time. He was a really kind man, a retired police officer and seemed to be tired of having to seek out complaints like this. He said over 60% of reports about farm animals come from people without farm animals. That a lot of activists call because they don't understand why a goat would live differently than a labrador. I asked for a copy of his detailed report so I had it on file. He told me he'd gladly mail it and gave me a contact number in case I ever need to get in touch with him again. He then shook my hand, wished me a Merry Christmas, and told me people who complain about nothing and waste the state's resources should be fined. I liked him.

The state of Vermont officially recognizes me as "not a crappy person". I'm framing that report when I get it.

After my meeting with the Officer, I packed up Bean Blossom and her hutch and drove her to Shaftsbury. I was taking her to her new home with a friend I met through Storey Publishing. Mel, an amazing woman, was taking in my orphans. She not only adopted both of my angoras but all of my goslings. Her son Ben (possibly the kindest twelve-year-old boy I ever met) was thrilled to take Bean into his arms. I had already delivered the buck and the geese earlier in the week—this was the last trip to hand over livestock. I try not to think about what's happening when I'm doing this. If I think I get angry. I'm as far from perfect as you get.

As I waved goodbye and pulled out of her farm's driveway, it was starting to flurry. I had a warm loaf of wheat bread given to me as road food, and bit into it as I drove off. I was famished. I chewed my bread and watched the weather turn. The snow was a welcomed sign of cheer. I was feeling validated after the animal-control incident and happy knowing my animals were in such good hands. The snow felt like personal applause for the kismet.

I was now heading to Bennington to meet up with Abi and Greg, local readers of CAF who offered to foster Finn for me. They invited me into their home, which they were selflessly offering to my kid as well. The reason for the drop in was to allow me to check out their digs before I brought the goat to reside. You know, to make sure I was happy with it. Of course I was. These folks were amazing.

I never met this couple before, but at first hug right inside the front door I felt like Abi and I shared a college dorm. We talked over coffee while their adorable children ran around with their black cat, Obi. They told me their stories about buying property, and the ups and downs of it all. The whole time I couldn't stop thinking how damn lucky I was to have people like this watching over Finn. Their two-year-old daughter offered me a piece of Mandarin orange, and I instantly thought of horns. I reminded them to watch the young ones around Finn. Not because he would hurt them, but a quick turn could cause a black eye. The chances are slight, but it felt like the responsible thing to bring up. I hope with all my heart it works out for us all.

Then they introduced me to their pair of yearling Alpacas. Oh. My. God. I never was up close and personal with Alpacas before and was instantly smitten. They were hilarious, quirky, gentle and calm all at the same time. They took grain right from my hand and had these giant camel eyes that made me think of cartoon princesses. I won't be changing my fate from sheep to Peru's Best anytime soon, but I can see myself adding one or two to my flock some day. What dolls, them.

I made it home just in time to pick up an apple pie at Wayside and head over to the Sandgate Christmas Potluck. It was so wonderful. Any doubt I had about leaving this town melted away. The people, the history, the farmers, the fact we all sang with Santa as the snow fell outside in thick chunks—all of it perfect. I'll write more about it soon, but know that my hearts all filled up tonight—packed to capacity. And now I'm going to listen to what's going on in Lake Wobegon, drink my hot chocolate, and call it a night.

potluck tonight!

Big day today, so much has happened. It included hay lofts, a trip to the dump, an animal control officer, and a pair of alpacas (not mine, a friend's). I'll post more soon. I just wanted to drop a note sharing how excited I am for the Christmas Potluck tonight in our Town Hall, and to share the awesome sign at the Yellow Farmhouse. It's snowing right now and the farm is covered in a blanket of white. Tonigh is going to be amazing, I can feel it in my bones.

A reader emailed me today to tell me how distasteful it was "asking" for donations to buy a farm. I would like to make it clear that I have never asked anyone, ever, to donate money to the farm fund, including this week. This recent flurry of charity was not something I started (though I damn well appreciate) and besides one small graphic link on the right hand side of this blog, there has never been a single post asking for money. The paypal link was there because a while ago readers requested it as a simple way to help pay for chicken feed or aid the dream if they felt the desire. However, if this now offends a herd of people, I will take it down.

Now, with that said, what I have done is posted small fundraising ideas like auctions, watercolors, and workshops as ways to earn extra savings, but I don't consider such an exchange distasteful. I want to be clear I am not demanding anything from my readers, nor asking. This story is free. This blog is free. And I do not want to come across as such a person.

I've had enough of misconceptions for one week, thank you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

another book!

I'm pleased to finally announce I'll have another book out next year! I can't get into any detail, but I will say it's about chickens, and once again it's being published by the fine people at Storey. I just recently handed in the manuscript and I can honestly say I haven't seen another book on the subject quite like it. I'll let you know more as more details become public, but for now I can share that it's in the works and long as things go as planned, there will be two Woginrich titles in your neighborhood bookstore.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

we're not from around here

We're not from around here. I know you see us all the time, but trust me, we're from someplace else. We may have lived our whole lives right next door to you, but we left quite some time ago. We found another place and it suits us just fine.

It's not far or hard to get to. Chances are you pass it all the time when you're driving too fast to work or throwing another frozen dinner in the shopping cart. You can't get to us that way. We aren't there.

We're the ones in the next aisle buying yeast, flour, sugar, and coffee. We buy provisions, not groceries. We learned that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. We started with just a few recipes then learned to chew at a trot and now the idea of Lunchables and drive-thru hamburgers makes us tilt our heads a little. We're not above them, not by a long shot, we just don't have those where we're from. Or maybe we did and forgot about them? I can't remember. It's easy to forget about such things when you hop the fence to go where we went. There just isn't a lot of shrink-wrapped circular ham there.

We're from another place. It's just like yours but the naps are better. We came for a bunch of different reasons but we sort of set up shop in the same community. It's not a physical location, of course. (It's much better than that.) It's a place in our actions, our decisions, our conversations, our hope. It's a place in our hobbies, our skills, our secret desire to know what a warm egg feels like in lanolin-wet palms. It doesn't matter where we came from or who we were before, this new place kinda took us all in and showed us how to calm the hell down. What? You're confused? Oh, well, you probably saw us there and just didn't realize it. Remember when we didn't pick up the phone (even after twenty rings) because we were in the garden? Or that time we gave up a weekend to make a chicken coop? Or last Saturday when we spent the whole day at that indoor farmer's market talking to the people at the wool booth we'd never met before, but felt like we knew while you kept telling us the movie was starting in thirty minutes... That's where we left to go. Sorry we missed the previews, we were talking to our neighbors.

You can spot us pretty easy. Our men aren't afraid of facial hair and our women have been known to grab goats by the horns. Our children go barefoot, so do we. We're the quieter ones, in the corner, feet propped up on a second-hand coffee table in a fourth-hand wool sweater. That's one of us, right ober there, see him? The one with the guitar slung over his back, and the black dog following his bike? See him now? He's the one with the saddle bags on the back wheel overflowing with a half bushel of tomatoes. No, he's not a tomatoes fetishist, he's canning today. He'll be eating fresh organic marinara in January pulled off the larder shelf. He'll let the black dog lick his plate when he's done. Yes, I'm sure. He's from where I'm from. We know our own.

See, where we come from people aren't scared of dirt—not even mildly abashed by it. My people will spend an entire August morning with a potato patch. We'll also spend an entire October night in front of a bonfire with some home brew and guitars. My people know how to darn a sock and bake a loaf of bread. They know how to cast on and be cast away. Sure, we'll join you for dinner in a restaurant, but we'll probably opt for pasta. Where we come from food animals know what sunlight feels like and have felt grass under their hooves. We don't eat the animals from your place. We saw what they saw before they died.

We're not from around here, but you'll see us everywhere. We're walking down the streets of Montreal, Chicago, Seattle, and L.A. We're waiting for a Taxi on the Lower East Side. We're mucking out the chicken coop, chatting at the farm stand, jumping on the back of our horses and riding the L. We're everywhere and right next to you all the time, but we left that place and now we're gone. None of us are going back. We thought about it. It passed.

HOOOO! You should see this place. Man, it's so beautiful. I mean a Wednesday afternoon at 3:47 is fall-down-the-stairs stunning. We learned to see this. We watched the fireflies come out on the porch and missed the new CSI. Truthfully, we barely look at the television anymore. It's a side effect of the new place—there's just so much to do and we're scared if we let ourselves get distracted we'll miss the fireflies. We can only take so much tragedy, you see.

And hey, this place we went to—it's yours too. To be perfectly honest we're getting a little tired waiting for you to show up. Yeah, what you heard is true. The work is hard and the hours long, but I promise it's the best quiche you'll ever taste and the coffee is wicked good. When you're ready we'll show you how to hop the fence like we did. It starts with a mason jar or a day-old chick in your palm and the roadmap kinda unfolds from there. Somewhere past the cloth diapers and the raw milk we're hanging out, yes there, over past the used trucks and beat tractors. See the bikes and carts along the barn? Keep going and you'll find us.

We know when you start coming to our place you'll get it. You won't want to go either. And hey, we'll wait, because we've got another saddle in the barn. We planted an extra row of beans. We put aside a few spare jars of tomato sauce and let the hens know there's more breakfasts on the way. We'll make room. There's always a place for you at the table.

(And just between you and me, If you want to get on the black dog's good side, let him lick your plate...)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

land on all fours

I am fairly certain my days are numbered here at the cabin. Over the past few days I've been in touch with neighbors and trying to get in touch with my landlord. I took the whole day off from work yesterday to be available to meet her and she never showed until late at night, I tried to meet with her today and she was busy. I wrote an eight page letter explaining my love for the property, care for the animals, and even offered to buy it. It doesn't matter. I get the impression she never wanted this land to be used for agriculture but allowed me to do it and now regrets her decisions. I already have found a new home/foster for Finn, the rabbits, and the goslings. I think (but am not sure) that is all that has to leave right now.

The silver lining is how much this has motivated me to buy my own place. Over the past few days the emails, comments, phone calls, and help have been amazing. I actually read some of the emails from readers crying, both because I was so touched and because everything I thought was okay is being changed on me. I broke down in Wayside crying to the owners because everything has been falling apart. The up side is so many people are pulling for me, want to see me land on all fours. Thank you so much for your concern, emails, favors, offers, and so much more.

I am announcing right now that I am on track to get my own place. Probably won't have to leave my current location till spring (I hope), but in the meantime I will be scrimping, saving, repairing old debts and getting myself approved for a mortgage for my next home. The people who have been sending little donations my way, have been adding up and I am taking the lump sum from my readers, to the very last penny, and using that to open a special savings account just for a down payment. I'm going to walk into my bank, start up that new account, hand the bank the check and say. "I'm going to buy a farm." Done.

We're going to get through this.

Monday, November 30, 2009

the rabbits too...

I need to find an adoptive home for my breeding pair of angora rabbits if the breeder I contacted does not want them as barter.(Originally it was agreed that a kit would be exchanged for the adoption of Joseph, I am trying to see if she'll accept the pregnant doe.) If she does not want the doe, Bean Blossom and Benjamin will need a new home. Ben will be shorn and have his short coat, but Bean is in full wool coat. Both come with pedigrees and are free to a good home. Email me if you are interested.

This is not a good week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

a very sad night

Without going into any detail: I regret to announce that I need to find a new home for Finn. It's a long story, but out of my control. It was not my decision. If anyone out there in the New England area wants a trained, kind, wether please email me at Jenna@itsafarwalk.com. He is free to the right home. Finn is not disbudded, but is leash trained and started pack training and was doing wonderfully. He'd be a spriteful and fun addition to any herd. He is up to date on rabies and tetanus shots and as far as I know has no allergies or issues.

This has me very upset. I cared for him very much.