Sunday, February 21, 2010

a stuck truck and a new book

Every once in a while something happens here that makes me feel kinda tough. Something simple and dirty, but after it's accomplished I feel like I could sign up for a rodeo. This morning was one of those circumstances. I got the truck stuck. And I got it out.

I was so excited to meet the mortgage broker this morning I jumped into the Ford and pulled it into reverse. The snow had other plans. The slush got caught under the tires and turned to hard-pack ice. Suddenly it started slowly sliding sideways down the hill towards the trees. Before it got too far, I slammed it into park, and hopped out to see the damage. The car was fine, but really in a bind. The little 2WD beast had been buried in a drift up front, and the back wheels were spinning. Already late to meet my broker - I left it for dead and hopped into the Subaru with my file folders. I'd deal with it later.

Wayside was buzzing, as it is every weekend morning. A mix of farmers, skiers, and locals who were in to pick up their Sunday Times. I met James (the guy making this all happen) and we talked for a while. I asked a million questions and signed all the application papers at the old roll-top desk in the back the country store. The main table was full of familiar faces gabbing over the news, so they set me up in the small office section to do our business. It felt quirky, but fitting, to be applying for a home loan at Wayside. The country store has been part of my solid footing since I moved to New England. I've met friends here, brought dates there, cried, danced, and laughed I was signing the papers for my own farm loan. The 30-year USDA-backed fixed rate mortgage (which by law can't go above 5.5%) is what was at the end of that dotted line. I sucked in the air around me, exhaled, and signed away. When the paperwork was done, we shook hands and I headed home to a laid-up truck.

It was on. I was getting my girl out, and I was going to do this myself. I grabbed a shovel, rock salt, hay, sand, and the old tire chains my dad gave me as a teenager. It took some muscle (and considerable time) but after I dug it out and set up the back tires with the chains—I revved it into reverse and she popped out like the pin of a grenade! I hooted and hollered in the cab. I slammed my fist on the dash, laughing like a drunk. Rightly so, because today I cheated at my own game and won. I got myself into trouble, and then out. Just as recent as a few months ago I would've left it in the ditch till a neighbor could pull me out with his tractor, But today I wanted to save myself. Maybe it was the mortgage papers, or maybe it was the fact some of these neighbors want me gone—regardless, today I was my own tow truck and it felt damn good. I crossed my arms in the front seat, leaned back into the seat, and grinned like a fox.

Oh, Big news! A new book just hit the shelves called The Profitable Hobby Farm, How to Build a Sustainable Local Foods Business by Sarah Beth Aubrey. I bought it last weekend because I am in the beginning, business-planning stages of Cold Antler Farm. I want it to grow from a homestead that feeds me into another source of income. I want to market wool, eggs, and eventually meat and vegetables from the farm. This book seemed geared for people like myself: folks already starting out, but who need some guidance making a homestead into more of an income. So I bought it, set it on my pile of research, and went on with my life.

Then, the following week at the office, an email came in from Sarah Beth, the author of said book. She wanted to thank everyone who was a part of it, and to contact her if they had any issues or needed more information. Then it clicked: Holy Shit. I'm in that book! When I got home I flipped to the last chapter and there I was! Me, Sal, and everyone here at Cold... as well as interviews and stories about beginning my life as a small farmer. I had completely forgotten I was interviewed for the project (which then had another name: Town to Tractor). Now I'm on the books as a resource and example for folks who want to make a lifestyle change. How about that? An auspicious little nod for a girl on the way to buying her own chunk of earth to do exactly what the book's about.

There are a few mistakes in the book. For example it says Cold Antler is in Arlington, Vermont instead of Sandgate. And there's some section about dogsledding that wrote I hook up the dogs by their collars (ouch) to pull me on our kickled. (I assure you, we use properly fitted x-back racing harnesses.) And I think she thought Diana Carlin (my Idaho mentor) was also my landlord - but anyway, all of this is inconsequential to the intention. It's a fine book, and should be helpful getting Cold Antler off the ground and start helping make the future mortgage payments. Fingers crossed.

P.S. Now that I am in the home stretch - I will be removing the donation button from the blog. The point of that button was to allow readers to contribute to making Cold Antler into my own farm, and that is what is finally happening. I want to thank everyone who kicked in a dollar or two, and in some cases more, to help save for the future of Cold Antler. But I feel my savings are set, and would not feel right accepting any more farm-buying donations. Any gifts that were given remain in the savings pot, and were used for nothing else, but it's time to help someone else. It's not your job to help pay for painting the kitchen or putting up fences. We're here guys. We did it. I could not have gotten here without you. I thank you with all I am.


Blogger Moose Nuggets said...

Oh! Is it time to congratulate you yet???
From a "waiting for spring so I can farm The Little Farm on the Tundra" farmer in Alaska!

February 21, 2010 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

No no no. Just signed the application papers! No congrats till closing! And I have no idea when that is.

February 21, 2010 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger MistySeptember said...

Good Luck! I've been praying for you! I need to look into the USDA loans. Hmmm lots of googleing in my future :)

February 21, 2010 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger René said...

You're on the down slope now. From here on out it's just waiting and then signing your name more times in 30 minutes than you've done in the last year. Seeing you on the home stretch to finally getting a place gives me a lot of hope for being able to do the same for myself in the next few years.

February 21, 2010 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Did it MY way said...

Your "New Life" is about to begin. Good luck, you have earned it. Never give up.

God Bless.

See Ya.

February 21, 2010 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Fingers crossed for you. You're almost there!

February 21, 2010 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Snyder's Homestead said...

Rock on Jenna!! Can't wait to come up to visit!!

February 21, 2010 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

Your on your way, girl!

February 21, 2010 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, full out congratulations may be premature, but you've taken a huge step forward.

I'm hoping someday soon to order Cold Antler yarn (or raw wool for my spinner friends to convert to yarn for me).

(BTW, I seem to comment both as safirasilv and as Teresa Noelle Roberts. Same person, too many blogs!)

February 21, 2010 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

What a story with all the drama any
individual could wish for, and hopefully the story with all the drama will continue for years to come!!!
I wish you health, joy, peace, & more as Cold Antler Farm moves on...
The writing still is just absolutely AMAZING!!!

February 21, 2010 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

No Jenna, we thank "YOU" for being who you are. We are just along for the ride. And I think I speak for everyone who comes here...we so enjoy the ride immensely!! I pray and root for you every day that you get that farm and bring it back to life. Make it do what it was intended to do. I see lots of sheep and a feisty border collie in your future. We live, or at least I do, through you girl. How I wish I had the drive that you do. Take care young wise one and may God bless you from above.

February 21, 2010 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

last spring, I pulled a friend's car out of a soggy rut in the lawn with the tractor. I had only been driving the tractor for a little while but I felt like the coolest kid ever! my friend was super impressed! It is the best feeling ever when you conquer the impossible.

February 21, 2010 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Jenna, you are most welcome.
And here's hoping for a quick closing and a new chapter of Cold Antler.

February 21, 2010 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger ashley english said...

hot damn, woman! i'm EXCITED for you! thrilled! delighted! and every other superlative of extreme delight! you're doing it, and doing it well (and now, i'm thinking of l.l. cool j., which, has absolutely nothing to do with you..i digress...must be the cider and the day spent with friends and their 8 goats...).

hats off to you, dear friend! here's a description of the type of women i relate to, yourself obviously included: one who can find her own way into and out of ruts, truck or otherwise!

February 21, 2010 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger C.J. said...

Listening to Simply Folk on Wisconsin Public Radio tonight, you immediately popped to mind during Patty Stevenson and Craig Seimsen's in-studio performance of "Red Wing Boots." A bit of an anthem for those with a proclivity towards workshirts, boots and dirt. I admit their music is just a bit too folkidy for me, but this is a fun, kick-up-some-dirt tune. I couldn't find this song via an internet search. But it will be posted tomorrow on Simply Folk's play list at

February 21, 2010 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Sense of Home said...

Last winter I was stuck 3 times with my car, it was very frustrating, and yet at the same time empowering because I was able to get myself out. Glad to hear you got yourself out, it builds confidence for the next time, and there will be a next time.


February 21, 2010 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger mySavioReigns said...

So proud for you, Jenna.

And, that's pretty funny you were in a book you bought to help yourself. Lol, irony is a funny thing.

February 21, 2010 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

I picked up a copy of that book a few weeks ago - while I was skimming it at the bookstore I recognized you. :)

Good luck!

February 21, 2010 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Story said...

Fingers crossed!!!!

February 21, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Hunington said...

When the time's right, you should consider having a rowdy BONFIRE party at CAF and let it all hang out. Invite your loudest friends (the kind that would park their trucks on your neighbors precious "lawns"), play loud Roots music, and drink hard cider and rotgut liquor until everyone gets really loud and obnoxious, and say goodbye. What are they going to do? Evict you? Complain? I'm not one for payback -- just suggesting a little good fun poke at the Pedants on the way out, and give your Vermont friends the perfect party to remember you by.

February 21, 2010 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger DeeCee said...

This is so exciting! I am so happy for you.

February 21, 2010 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Oh yeah- a PAR-TAY is a great idea! You should let us all know when it is so we can raise a glass of something to your good fortune and hard work.

As for getting yourself unstuck- you will be just fine on your farm, I know it.

February 21, 2010 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger dogear6 said...

Jenna - I appreciate your honesty about the donations. However, you will have unexpected expenses come up. I'd still like to make a donation but I was waiting to get my paycheck.

It is possible others might want to still make a donation.

So. . . put the button back?

February 21, 2010 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger Leiflet said...

Tell that author to kick you a free book! Jeeze... what a weird way to find out you've been included in someone's (unchecked...?) book.

Oh well-- the thought that counts. Glad you're more famous!

February 22, 2010 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! So pleased you got the mortgage.

Getting a 2wd truck out of a ditch is a good skill to have. Growing up in the north, I learned the principles of getting cars and trucks out of ditches before I learned how to drive.

If I may make a suggestion for future stuck in the snow covered ditch situations:

Carry a nice long piece of plywood and a big bag of kitty litter in the back bed. Sometimes it's better to bring the ground to the tire. You can wedge the board under the tire that's spinning and get the traction needed to get out of the ditch.

Keeping a couple of bags of litter or salt in the back bed will also weigh you down a bit, helping with the traction.

These are the things that come in handy when you take a turn a little too tightly on a freezing night after dark. ;)

Carry a big bag of ki

February 22, 2010 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger ~ Janis said...

Just found your blog. Looks like I have a lot of reading to catch up on.
If you are looking for beef cattle for your homestead, I have some gentle, free range ( on 600 acres ) grass fed, happy Vermont cows that would be a good fit for you.
Take a look:

May you continue your homesteading sucess,

February 24, 2010 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

My first reading of your blog (arrived by way of Starving off the Land) and you had me with the blizzard, dogs, exhilaration, pizza. I'm in Bend, OR after 32 yr. in NE. Love OR but NE is in my DNA. Margaret

February 24, 2010 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

You're on the home stretch now! And congrats on getting the truck out, self-sufficiency comes in many guises.

February 24, 2010 at 10:56 PM  

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