Monday, March 8, 2010

long deep breaths

The farm does not care about bad days. It simply does not allow them. If all I want to do after work is crawl under the covers, cry, and fall asleep to a Gilmore Girls marathon and Tylenol PM—I can't. My emotional state is of no consequence to sheep that need hay, eggs that need collecting, geese that want feed, or dogs that need a walk and their supper. You can't take drugs that knock you out in case something goes wrong in the night, life a fox in the coop or a coyote near the flock. There is no elbow room for selfish acts like broken hearts, office stress, or celebratory nights away in hotel rooms. There are also no snow days, rain checks, or even the occasional sleeping in. The farm demands I am the best possible self I can offer, at all times. The luxury of a personal life is useless.

I am so grateful for this it shocks me.

I had a horrible day. Sometimes the stress and responsibilities of a raw life still in the furnace cake like mud and I can't get clean. I'm not a manic person, and am pretty level in my emotions, but some days the world's too big and I'm too small. That's what happened today. I sat at my desk in the office and plowed through as much work as possible, then ran as fast I could in the company gym. I sprinted for nearly half an hour trying to beat the funk in a race. I got back to my desk and listened to my favorite music, emailed my best friend Kevin just to talk, and planned a special dinner for no reason at all. Nothing worked. I was a slow dog. I had been defeated in honorable combat. 5PM came and I had to fight back the tears as I walked to the truck in the parking lot. It was complete exhaustion. The house, deadlines, stress, money, movers, car repairs, mistakes, loneliness, confusion, distractions and reminders... I just wanted to go hide. I wanted to be useless.

But the farm had other plans for me. I came home to a mud season sunset at a place that needed me. Had I any doubt s about my necessity I could just close my eyes and listen to the bleats and crows—animals needing care. Within minutes my mood started to lift. I went inside, kicked off my Chuck Taylors, and changed into rubber boots. I grabbed the leather leashes and called to the dogs to me. They sailed from the other room, tails wagging and heads buried deep into my chest. I hugged them like I had not seen them in years. I don't know how any of you are getting through this life without dogs. I don't want to know either.

We, a scrappy pack of three, walked the muddy roads of Sandgate. They sniffed and searched the trees for crows and I took long deep breaths. I returned from that walk feeling a little lighter, my lungs less shallow. I fed them a supper of kibble, eggs, and some cheese curds and returned to the yard for wood chopping and afternoon rounds. I carried the sheep their new mineral block and heaved it like a bowling ball into their pen. I dished out scratch grains and hay, replaced water, and collected nine brown eggs still warm from the hen I rudely set aside just moments ago. Soon I was figuring out plans to move them all to the new farm, getting lost in the future of Cold Antler. I forgot everything else that seemed so important an hour ago. As I caked real mud on my boots, the metaphorical kind fell off. I smiled a little. I couldn't help it.

Had I not had these hungry mouths and trotting paws I would have came in the door, fell onto the couch, and decided I was too tired to be of any use to the world. Instead I was thrown into action and sunlight, forced to care for others and come out of my shell. The farm abhors self pity, ignores anxiety, and refuses to condone depression. A few chores and I am fine. Get me in the fresh air and around a community of my animals and before you know it I am picking up my fiddle and cooking up a dinner fit for a queen. I ate with gusto. I drank one granny smith hard cider for the hell of it. No regrets.

The place heals me because it needs me. In the end, that is all any of us want.


Blogger Chris said...

Wow. Being needed is a wondeful thing. :-)

I hope you have a better day tomorrow.

Blessings, C

March 8, 2010 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

Tis' the truth, for sure. Being one within the elements of animals and nature can swift kick you into happiness!

March 8, 2010 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Terrie said...

Lovely post. I can really relate!

March 8, 2010 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger small farm girl said...

Nothing energizes me more than a hard days work on the farm.(Although, I usually have to take a nap after the hard work. Hey, maybe it's the nap. Nope, it's really the farm)
Take care.

Small Farm Girl

March 8, 2010 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

It's funny how work can completely drain you, but when you get home and greet the animals, you are completely renewed. It is wonderful!

March 8, 2010 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

wholeheartedly agree..the same feelings were haunting me all through last week. I would come home and while on the ride home I felt totally and mentally depressed and exhausted. Later while tending the livestock and feeling the cold penetrate my soul,,somehow I would feel relieved. I tackled another day and it did not beat me. Also everyone was happy to see me and life is good!

March 8, 2010 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Miriam said...

I'm with you! What makes the difference for me is that physical work gets me out of my head, and I know from 47 years of living that what I do to myself in my head is often the greatest source of my stress. So getting outside, with the fresh air on my skin and the sounds of birds or frogs or geese in my ears, feeling my muscles warm as I work - that's the best way for me to feel grounded in the here and now instead of being stuck in a bog of "what if."

March 8, 2010 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger bellananda said...

right there with you, sister. i've been feeling entirely too overwhelmed lately myself -- being pulled in too many directions at once. i don't have a farm, or farm animals, but i do have two dogs, and there's something about coming home to those beings who are *so ecstatic* to see me no matter what, and then walking around the neighborhood with them, breathing, chatting with (to) them, chasing squirrels with them, running into the wind with them...they make everything simple and easy, and it's so easy to find joy when i'm with them. and then i can face all the things i have to accomplish during the rest of the evening with a somewhat quieter heart. :)

sb in kc

March 8, 2010 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

Sorry for your rough day, LOVED the post, know exactly what you mean.

March 8, 2010 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I admire your work and spirit. I hope for many great days in your near future!!

March 8, 2010 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

"I came home to a mud season sunset at a place that needed me. "

That line out a big ol' smile on my face tonight. THANK YOU!!

March 8, 2010 at 11:51 PM  
OpenID thatsthelife said...

that was a lovely, lovely entry.

just what i needed tonight, thank you :)

March 9, 2010 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger Joleen said...

You're beautiful.

March 9, 2010 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

Sounds like a great day Jenna--you rallied from the pits of a horrible day right back into your cozy nest, the circle of life all in one day. Good for you!

Still waiting to hear on the new farm, I think everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for you.

March 9, 2010 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Jen R. ( said...

This was a beautiful post, and I know exactly what you mean. :)

March 9, 2010 at 8:42 AM  
OpenID localnourishment said...

You have beautifully illustrated why the tidal wave of depression is a modern problem, and one of its best non-pharmaceutical cures.

March 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

What a great post - I really enjoy your writing.
(can't wait for another book!)

March 9, 2010 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

life can eat up sometimes but if you can strip it down to the bare essentials you can heal. I lost my turkey hen to a wild animal(racoon/weasel) the other night which I found quite depressing (she had just started to lay...)and that mixed with all of the other stresses of being in a relationship, children, our messy world, it knocked the wind out of my sails for sure. But yesterday I picked myself up and sowed seed into the greenhouse greens bed with my kids in the warm sunlight.

March 9, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Another lovely post....and I understand completely.

March 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Take out "farm" and insert "kids" and that's kinda how life over here is. Though we still want the farm too. :)

March 9, 2010 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Beautiful, Jenna. Isn't it amazing how our passions require the hardest work from us, but never leave us totally depleted the way life's pile-ups of stress and drudgery do? I don't have sheep or chickens in the yard (yet), but I do have a harp that needs to be played for people, and I have done so through exhaustion, illness, injury, stress and life's worst. But the kind of exhaustion that comes from having fulfilled my life's purpose is the best kind there is.

March 9, 2010 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger E said...

So true. I think this is at least part of why we do what we do. There is something endearing about being needed and appreciated.

Doing it all by yourself is hard, tho. Maybe later you can find a backup neighbor to share chores with. There could be times when you really aren't there or just can't do them. This isn't worry or fear mongering, just taking precautions so your animals won't suffer.

But surely you can sleep in - no milking, no newborns. Sheep and chickens really won't suffer from breakfast a couple of hours late once in a long while.

March 9, 2010 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger cpcable said...

Really, really well said. Having an honest purpose summons up strength from within us that we never knew we had.

March 9, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Lil said...

You just have to get the farm. Have to. This post shows why in such eloquent, wonderful words. Maybe we can march on USDA headquarters and demand they approve your loan. :-)

March 9, 2010 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger MT said...

Wow. Good one. Thanks for sharing that one. You not only got through the shit - you gained the perspective and presence of mind to write about it.

Peace on you and your dogs (and your other beasts, too). - MT

March 9, 2010 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Paula Campbell said...

I love your descriptions haven't we all felt the world is to big and we are to small at some point in our lives... The animals must be like those posts in drawings that are meant to show depth and brought things back into their proper perspective and "size"...

March 9, 2010 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Brambly Thicket said...

Oh, how I needed to read this. I have 2 small daughters, 4 dogs, 3 cats, bees, (and soon chickens), and gardens that all need tending and loving. I also have a career in the arts that doesn't need me as much as I need it. I tend to get out of whack tangling with that part of my life when the home part makes me the happiest. It is nice to reminded to reassess my priorities and joys as spring is creeping in.

March 9, 2010 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger deborahwolfe said...

Amen girl sister girl friend!

March 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Conny said...

So glad the farm healed an otherwise bad day. :>) Dogs are always happy to see you. I love that about them.

I was waiting for someone to say exactly what Crystal did - because that's what I did reading the post. (Crystal - you were right: we are a bit alike. Your comment on this post made me smile.)


March 9, 2010 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Jen Chandler said...

I agree with you 110%! I long for the responsibilities of soil of my own. Knowing you have to take care of creatures that have no other way of getting cared for, getting my hands dirty and scraped, exchanging office attire for "real" clothes and rubber boots...sounds like heaven to me.

Glad the farm could help you feel better!

March 9, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I have kind of the opposite problem- I was laid off in September and still can't find work, and it's being busy creating a farm out of a quarter acre backyard that's keeping me sane!

I wish most people who can't find work could be doing the same because I think it would help them on so many levels- there is something about putting others' needs, whether they're plants, dogs, chickens, or children, that put your needs into perspective. It's nice when the working world doesn't need you that something else does.

March 9, 2010 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Story said...

may the loneliness seep away....

March 9, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Melanie J. said...

Girl, your blog is a tonic, reminding me that motion defeats depression as surely as fresh air and purging a chock-full apartment of the un-necessities of life. Thank you again!

March 9, 2010 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Gypsisoul said...

I just loved this post, i coulda been your words!

March 10, 2010 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

Amen, sister! Take it from one lonely farm girl living on a mountain in Oregon (who has begged her tree farmer husband for just ONE dog), you're right about the dog. I miss having a dog. I'd love to have TWO yellow labs...but evidently that's not going to happen. Supposedly, they're "too big". His choice is a border collie and I said "fine"...let's get one. Now, it's "we travel too much". *sigh* Enjoy your pups. I, thankfully, have the ten hens who get me outside on rainy days. I write about them from time to time on my blog, Thinking About It (


March 12, 2010 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger KimT said...

I think you just discovered a new form of therapy. You should advertise! A lot of people could use a good day of hardwork to lift their spirits!

March 12, 2010 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Tamar said...

I think we sign up for what requires the best in us because then we have no choice but to give it.

March 12, 2010 at 5:30 PM  

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