Saturday, February 6, 2010

of kits and goslings

Last night I visited in a friend in the nearby town of Shaftsbury. Mel and her family have been watching Bean Blossom, Benjamin, and four new French Angora kits for me. They've also been raising the goslings that Saro hatched before thanksgiving. The deal was she would happily watch the animals but would either keep the rabbits or the kits if a litter was born. Her teenage son Ben wants to learn more about what goes into raising animals, which I think is grand. I was stopping in to drop off the pedigreesm see the kits, and pick up the three remaining goslings. Two of the original five already had new homes, but the three left were still freeloading. Her new dog was giving them the eye, and they were now a canine liability, so it was time for them to move on. Mel has done more than enough for me already, and I was happy to take them off her hands. The trio would come back to the farm until I could find them new local homes or moved to a new farm. Honestly, I was thrilled to have them back in my arms.

To be in her beautiful farmhouse drinking coffee near her woodstove while her new Lab chewed on a rope toy on the floor-felt wonderful. As we sipped our coffee and went through some fiber books I brought over, I couldn't help but look around her 160+ year old home. Mel was living my dream. A loving family, her own farm, a good dog, and a barn and truck outside the door. I used to look up to famous graphic designers and Iditarod mushers as my role models. Now I look up to people like Mel. Everyday people who made their lives what they wanted. People who raise children, go to work, and come home to make sure the pipes don't freeze. Fame or fortune doesn't prove self worth to me like it once did. There is nothing more extraordinary than what happens every day when people choose to be kind. Amen.

When the truck was loaded, and hugs given: I drove home to Sandgate. The back bed was loaded with bedding straw and feed bags from an errand on my lunchbreak. A six-pack of hard cider was chilling between the bales. Up front in the warm cab I was singing with a backup of mandolins and banjos on the radio while three young geese honked in a box. I was wrapped in wool, from my socks to my scarf. In the Vermont dark, my Ford's headlights beamed across the birches and faded red barns. My eyes scanned for deer and suicidal cats. My head was warmed by the Jacob hat. I had just spent an hour with the animals of my farm being selflessly watched by a friend. Soon I would reintroduce children to their parents—to the place they were born where I held them as babes in one hand.

The concoction of emotion was thick. The drama of wanting this farmhouse and the nearness of it all makes my heart race. But the peace of this life as is, and how far I'd come to feel this way, was so comforting. The fact I was already a farmer—yet so scared and uncertain—made me break down and cry as I winded up the notch to West Sandgate. I want to know how this story ends so I can begin another. Sometimes it's too much.

It is hard to cry very long when your passenger seat has french geese children in it. Their honks made me smile.

I wish I had more to update you on, but right now it's a waiting game. Waiting for the score to rise, waiting to weigh all the financing options, waiting to show the farm to my parents when they come to visit next weekend. They're happy for me, but want to see the place for themselves. My dad has fatherly concerns about insulation and fuel consumption and my mom is convinced if I buy my own working farm I'll never meet a man. Both are valid concerns, but the house is sound and believe it or not—I've met more decent men since getting involved in agriculture than I ever did in the city. Between sheepdog trials, workshops, clubs, and trips to feed stores, you get to tip a lot of hats.

And last, thank you to everyone who helped out last post. Your many small efforts have saved this process. I am now prepared (at least on my end) to step inside this new farm. My own farm. There are still obstacles to overcome, such as getting approved for that loan, home inspections, and the logistics of transplanting all the animals—but as far as being sound in the bank - I am. I could not have done it without you, and I thank you with the echoes of a thousand future lamb's heartbeats.


Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

Don't overly fret, Jenna. You too will have your old farmhouse warmed by fire and surrounded by family, friends, dogs, and music. (and all the other critters too)

February 6, 2010 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

girl, you write for my soul

February 6, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Speaking from experience, a farm man is the best. Thankfully, I've got one and know many. Not a one of them would be a bad catch.
Hard working, dedicated, and grounded in their beliefs....did I say hardworking.

February 6, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Jenna, nice situation. I hope your parents like it!

February 6, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

The great thing is that you're still appreciating the great moments in your life! You've done what you can, and with a smile on your face. I believe you'll find your way, one way or the other!

February 6, 2010 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I happened upon your blog a month or so ago, and have totally gotten caught up in your dreams. I don't know you, and probably never will, but I'm rooting for you with everything I've got. I look forward to following your journey. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

February 6, 2010 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

Keep on foot in front of the other, and you'll get there!

February 6, 2010 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Katou said...

You are such an inspiring young woman and your determination brought you were you presently are and are going to.

Your dream farm is finally within reach. Bravo!

The only way I had to help because I'm far, was to send some money and I did that earlier this morning.

I don't know if other people have a hard time to send in their comments like I do. Sometimes, I get tired of trying and I quit.

When all this is settled and you and your critters are installed at the farm, we'll pray and send vibes your way for a "Mr. Right" knocking at your door.

Like we say here in Québec, "lâches-pas"


February 6, 2010 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger The Lil Missus said...

Oh my husband and I are both cheering you on loudly from our house in Michigan!!! We just finished reading your "Made From Scratch" book (I read it first and, after hubby stopped looking at me like I was from another planet, he read it too and fell in love with the ideas in it!) and are SO excited to get started!!!!! I actually posted about it on my've been SUCH an inspiration to us and I just so wish that we lived closer so we could come help you out to return the favor!!! You've helped us really catch the vision of what we want our lives to be. Thank you so very much! You are one of the bravest people I've ever "known" and I just know that with your pioneer spirit and grit that you're BOUND to succeed!!! Prayers going up for you and yours!

February 6, 2010 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Jenna, your posts often make me spontaneously and silently weep . . . not from sorrow but with hope and happiness and anxiety and longing. I've been checking your blog compulsively (bloglines is not fast enough) to see what the news is, and I've got every finger crossed that the lenders get on board so that you can "buy the farm" (but not in *that* way).

February 6, 2010 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Tora: said...

Where would we be without our dreams?

February 6, 2010 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I just know it will all work out! When you get the place, let me know. I'm only about 3 hours south of you and could come up and help insulate, paint, plant gardens, etc.

February 6, 2010 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

i feel your going to get it. (psst... and remind mom that if the man you meet is cool with the farm, well then he is the right man! otherwise why waste your time :) )

February 6, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Sled Dog Action Coalition said...

Iditarod mushers don't deserve admiration. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia,ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race.

During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

On average, 52 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running.

Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

The Iditarod, with all the evils associated with it, has become a synonym for exploitation. The race imposes torture no dog should be forced to endure.

Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition,

February 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Umm..Margery, I'm fairly sure Jenna's Iditarod comment was metaphorical...yikes. Besides even if you took it literally, she's saying she NO LONGER looks up to them.

February 6, 2010 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger sheepkelpie said...

When you come to know that your spiritual home is not tangible, then, and only then will you find solace.

February 6, 2010 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Jenna, just in case you haven't heard of this, Cornell offers an online class for beginning New York farmers--focuses on business structure, taxes, etc.

I just enrolled for the course beginning March 5. I don't have a New York farm (or even any farm) yet, but it still seems like there will be good info for any beginning farmer.

February 6, 2010 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger me said...

If I weren't clear over here on the other side of the country I'd be right beside you helping you move, WHEN you get the house (not IF!!)...
We're pulling for you, Jenna!

February 6, 2010 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Story said...

Tell your parents not to worry. You'll find a sweetheart...owning a my way of thinking would just sweeten the deal...nothing better than woman who owns her own farm...go jenna!

February 6, 2010 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger helena.heliotrope said...

I've been reading your blog for about two months. While I anxiously await Made From Scratch to come out in paperback, I've been perusing your archives.
It is incredible to see how far you've come in achieving your dreams, through faith and dedication. And it's such a inspiration to see that one can have a job and a small farm at the same time.
So I'm going to kick you $3, because you're awesome, because I can't support your book until payday, and because I really want to see some awesome moving in posts!

February 6, 2010 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Just remember to breathe once in a while. The waiting part is probably the most stressful, but you'll get through it. Hang in there.

February 6, 2010 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger littlegreengardengal said...

Here's hoping that everything works out. As the saying goes "this, or something better"

As another single gal I would just second the sentiment that owning a farm won't keep you from meeting the right man. (Although I know it is a Mom's job to worry.) When you meet him he will be someone who shares your interests, at least enough, and who likes you for who you are. And part of who you are is the farm.
You never know when you will meet your spouse. For some people it is 30s or 40s. I just don't believe in waiting to pursue the rest of your dreams until whenever that day happens, because putting off all your dreams just makes you unhappy.
Live the life you want to have as much as you can each and every day, and other than that all you can do is trust that everything else that isn't in your control will work itself out.

February 6, 2010 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

What a beautiful testament to "process." And if a man can't relate to and fall in love with you at your most personal passionate (i.e., working your own farm), he ain't worth having around. Believe me on this (though I have harps, not a farm).

February 6, 2010 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Jamie @ Woodside Gardens said...

Being someone who has worked a the veterinary clinics taking care of those Iditarod dogs, and as someone who lives right next door to Martin Buser, one of the most famous of said mushers, I have to chime in. Those dogs LOVE to run. If you hitched them up again after the Iditarod, they would happily take you all the way back to the starting line. Of course accidents happen, and occasionally a bad musher makes headlines, but overall, those dogs are loved and very well cared for! Martin would do anything for those dogs, and they love him fiercly!

February 6, 2010 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger melinamarie said...

Wow so much going on. I would like to comment on your mother's concerns. I hope that this won't be what prevents her from supporting your farm. I pursued higher education and my career rather than a settling down. I became a college professor in my 20's and put all my free efforts into my work. There were many days I wasn't sure I would ever find the one or get married. But you know what before I was 30 he came along. The right one will be where your path is meant to go. I think you are an amazing woman and that guy is going to love all the stories of the things that happened on your way to meeting him. You are an inspiration to me. I respect your bravery. I respect your values. I know your blog has led us closer to our dreams. Thank you for writing with such honesty and passion. It's refreshing to visit you in the digital world and hope to someday meet you in real life.

February 6, 2010 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger dogear6 said...

Jenna - my daughter is your age. She works fulltime as a software engineer and fulltime breeding mastiffs. Just like you, she has a dream too.

I'd rather she be single than unhappily married. She will never be arm candy (even without the dogs around). A man has to love her as she is, including the dogs and all their mess and work.

I am so thankful that your landlady gave you enough notice to try and work this out. She gave you a great gift and I am hopeful it will all work out.

So is this location in New York still close to your job? Inquiring minds want to know - sorry if it's nosey.

And here's my princess with her dogs - She's built this from scratch and is doing a good job of it.

February 6, 2010 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger AG Ambroult said...

how so very exciting to have your dream in your sights! Looking forward to reading more as this process unfolds...

February 6, 2010 at 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah! There will be plenty of time for husbands.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned Cougar Annie to you before:

Annie is a local legend around here, a survivalist and self-sufficient to the last. She outlived four husbands, and when one died, she simply put out an ad in the paper for another.

February 7, 2010 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger Eveland said...

Love comes in mysterious ways… I understand your mom’s fears. I have had them for myself as well but that doesn’t stop me. I bought my first apartment over 10 years ago and eventually I bought my home. It took me 3 years to find my place and because of the proceeds of the sell of the apartment I was able to afford it. With that in mind. Remember…

Your first property doesn’t need to be the last one. It could be an “in-the-meantime”. For me that first apartment, with barely a kitchen, was what I could afford back then. Not just financially but also psychologically. I couldn’t go from paying $600 dollars in rent to over $1,000 but I could go to $800… I then kept “upgrading” until here I’m.

When I went to buy my home, I thought about love… And sometimes I feel that it could be easier to meet someone if I only own an apartment. In NYC it’s a bit rare for a single gal to own a house. But I can’t live like that. I been here for over 5 years. One of the reasons that I bought this particular place was to create the space to have a family… If you build it, it will come.. I still don’t have “the family” but it has become an amazing place were friends come over and hang out, etc. They’re my family… even if it isn’t a husband and kids.

Love will come… you want a man secure enough to be able to handle any situation.. and if comes down to it you could buy another farm together later on..

Best of luck.. and believe me I still can’t believe that I’m able to pay my mortgage every month as I’m a freelancer living in Brooklyn.. But I do and you will. But you already know that.

February 7, 2010 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Leiflet said...

What?! Your mom is worried about you finding a man? :) But that sounds so unlike her...

Take heart-- there must be one Jewish farmer who's sick of city life and wants to get away from it all with a nice gal and her entire clan of farm animals. I still have faith.

February 8, 2010 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Daphne said...

Yah, I can assure you, from my own experience, that buying a house doesn't prevent or preclude marriage proposals after purchase of said house. More and more common now for women to buy their own houses before marriage and then either sell, lease it out, or continue to live in it post-marriage. I'll be leasing mine out if the deal goes through for a house on three acres Joe's under contract for. And three acres means chickens!!!

Good luck, I can sympathize that the 30 days or so before closing, and not being sure if it will all go through, and with inspections and whatnot is killer on the nerves.

February 8, 2010 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Trista Hill said...

Amen, Amy, about men, passion, and harps!

February 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger John from Taos said...

Oh, with all the things that will need to be fixed, you'll meet a man, all right. :-)

February 8, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Muffy Sainte-Marie said...

You're an inspiration! Good luck with the farm!!

February 10, 2010 at 1:56 AM  

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