Saturday, May 29, 2010

a real farm?

I mailed my first mortgage payment yesterday. I sat at my desk, wrote the check, and put a stamp on it. I have never been happier to hand out that much money. I actually woke up worrying I forgot to mail my rent check the other day, still not used to owning a home. When I realized I didn't ever have to mail my old landlord rent again, I stretched out in bed grinning like a moron. This morning I know the place is mine, at least for the next month!

Gibson's snout is still covered in marshmallow. Last night my friend Steve hosted a bonfire with some music and fish tacos. By the time it grew late and we were all out with smores and drinks, Gibson decided his taste of the iconic treat would be more fun to roll in then devour. I'm not here to judge. I'll wash it off with a warm dishcloth when he's more tired than he is now.

People have emailed me asking if the blog will continue now that I bought the farm (that never sounds good, does it?) and the answer is a resounding yes. While I may have reached a goal, the work is just getting started. Cold Antler is in its infancy right now, we're just barely breaking sod on our first year. There are fences to raise, barns to build, and livestock to acquire. I am in the first stages of getting Gibson his own flock of Scottish Blackface ewes from (who I hope will be) our sheep herding instructor. I have a small flock of heritage turkey poults coming for coworker's holiday tables. The season has barely began folks and I have so much I want to write about. I want to write about getting my first production flock, learning to shear, lambing, marketing and building a business. I want to chronicle all of this turning into something bigger than anything I could imagine now. The blog won't end until people stop reading it. (Please keep reading. I like writing.) I want to make this into so much more. It's so much to me; the wool, dirt, and words.

Every once in a while someone will say to me something like "I know you have sheep, but I was at a real farm this weekend looking at wool and..." or something to that effect. They don't mean it in a demeaning way. They know I work hard at my small freehold. Yet hearing that phrase "real farm" can't help but make me cringe a little inside. What makes a farm real? The fact that the people who own it, work on it full time? Having business cards and a sign on the back of your pickup? I'm not sure what validates reality for them. But to me, Cold Antler is definitely a real farm. I grow food for myself and customers, and this weekend several coworkers will be cracking CAF eggs into their pans and have ordered turkeys and chickens. It may be bartering and handshakes deals right now, but where else can a gal start but at the beginning?

As far as I'm concerned, if you have a backyard with veggies and a few hens, and you not only consume it yourself but others do as well (friends, neighbors, your community) you are a real farm. You are a producer. You are feeding people. You are real. Stickers on the side of your truck are optional.

50 Comments:

Blogger MollyKnits said...

I have a sticker on my truck. It says "Harley Davidson!"

You are a real farm.

May 29, 2010 at 8:35 AM  
OpenID Stephanie said...

The idea that you'd stop blogging never crossed my mind. The blog is just another one of your crops! And of course you'll have more to write. Things will change, not just with the farm but with you. You'll see things differently as you gain experience, and every year older makes us all look at the world a little differently. I'm looking forward to following your journey!

May 29, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Well said Stephanie! I enjoy having a part of your harvested wisdom when I stop by for a few minutes. I have learned a lot from what you have written, and have been inspired to try things I normally would never have thought possible! You are most definately a real farm... even more so since you take the time to share with all of us. Thank you!

May 29, 2010 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Leah said...

You're blog is one of my favorite things to read : ) You are a really great writer and your lifestyle really provokes me.

Glad to hear that according to you, I live on a farm! Haha :-)

May 29, 2010 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

You reminded me of a post I read a long while back that really stuck with me...

http://sharonastyk.com/2009/09/24/is-it-a-farm-yet/

Now I better get out there and plant my tomatoes.

May 29, 2010 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger anniebeez said...

Of course you have a real farm! I wish I was lucky enough to have a coworker to order fresh meat from!!I'm so happy for you Jenna-your farm purchase has become a reality in really lightening quick time. You should really be proud of yourself. I am always inspired by how hard you work!I love to read your blog everyday! Now I'm off to the garden patch!

May 29, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Alot of people equate real farming with monoculture operations. I work soley on my small farm- sometimes floundering- but many a person look at this as not a "real" farm. If you love agriculture/animal husbandry and work your balls off, in my book you are a bona fide farmer. I am proud to say I am. Small farms are gonna be around forever, as long as there is passionate people who live/work outside of the box. I am also raising heritage turkeys! Love the read.

May 29, 2010 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

A real farm...Amen! That garden picture is beautiful. Our first garden is nearly in. My children are so very excited!
I'm seriously hoping the garden gets my daughter to eat green vegetables without fuss or being hidden in a smoothie. ;)

May 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Summermelonfarm said...

A REAL farm for sure! I always tell my kids when Jenna gets something (or someone) new on her farm.
I hope you blog about it forever and I will be a faithful reader forever. :) Thank you for sharing your journey with us all, Jenna.

May 29, 2010 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Great post!!! Such encouragment for those of us just getting started on our own "real farms"! ;o) We just moved to a farm this past week and we are loving it! Planting veggies today and getting our first laying hens next Thursday! Wahoo!!! As alway, Jenna, you are my inspiration. Keep writing! I'll keep reading! :o)

May 29, 2010 at 10:44 AM  
OpenID ditchthegrid.org said...

You are my inspiration, Jenn. We got our first flock of chickens this spring. 25 roosters and 10 hens. Come July most (if not all) of the roosters will become food, and the hens should begin laying not too long after that. Often, when I think of my goals in agrarian life, I think of your journey and Cold Antler. As real a farm as they come. :)

May 29, 2010 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Carrie in Wisconsin said...

First off, I have veggie envy from that picture. They look gorgeous! Second, what a great post! I will never stop reading this blog, its the bright spot in my day usually. And that bit about people cracking CAF eggs into pans just made me hungry for eggs, and long to have chickens of my own. Soon I hope.

May 29, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

CAF is more "real" than 250,000 acres of Monsanto Soybeans.CAF's biggest crop may be the inspiration the blog plants around the Planet. While there maybe fences around a chunck of precious land in Jackson, a much larger portion of CAF can not be fenced. That part really excites me.

May 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Missy said...


As far as I'm concerned, if you have a backyard with veggies and a few hens, and you not only consume it yourself but others do as well (friends, neighbors, your community) you are a real farm. You are a producer. You are feeding people. You are real. Stickers on the side of your truck are optional.


AMEN!!

Not to criticize the people saying it, but there has to be a better term for the larger farms. Small farms, like yours, usually have less people working them - so there seems to be waaay more blood, sweat and tears going into them. You have come so far, Jenna. I love reading this blog, and sometimes you make this gal cry a little with how much love you have for your very *real* farm. Keep it up! You are on your way to what you want to achieve.

May 29, 2010 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

What a great post. I always thought of your farm as a real farm, even at the place you were living at when you wrote "Made From Scratch". Oh I found the book and got it out of storage finally :) :) :)
I still live in an apartment and you definitely give a city girl reason to hope :) :) :) I love what you are doing.It's super cool. All of my friends who own homes now say it's the best feeling :) :) It's great that you can have sheep on your property now :) :) :) Do you want to eventually leave the 9 - 5 job? Or will you continue to do both? No matter...it's your choice and it's nice to have the freedom to choose :) :) :)
I'll continue to read your blog. I like your writing style. It's smart and it makes me laugh, too :)Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Greetings from Oregon :)

May 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Wow, look at all the people you've inspired to remove a little sod and replace it with something edible! Did you realize you're a soldier in this real-food revolution?

I've only had my own small place for 4 years now, and am just now feeling that I've made it mine. Of course, I haven't dripped nearly as much sweat into it as you have. Even so, it's the garden, the new trees and the raspberry bushes that really make it feel like home.

May 29, 2010 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Jenna, of *course* CAF is a "real" farm, and you are a *real* farmer in every sense of the word. Part of what makes you "real" is your own reverence for the land and the animals and your loving stewardship over it all. I'm reminded of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, who was "real" *because* he'd been loved so much that his fur was rubbed off. I think you and CAF qualify in that sense, too. Have a great weekend!

Pauline in Ithaca

May 29, 2010 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Even if you had remained at the cabin, you'd have still had a "real farm."

I can relate. When I got my concert harp after playing the Celtic (smaller) harp for many years, some people said, "Oh, you finally got a real harp!"

Like you, I knew they meant well. But the music I made (and continue to make) with that small harp is no less real than the music made on any other harp in the world.

Here's to REAL!

May 29, 2010 at 2:55 PM  
Blogger Eveland said...

Ahh to pay the mortgage. It's amazing that this is your home right now. Any improvements, any changes are yours. You don't leave them behind to a landlord.

I been at my home for 6 years this June and I'm surprise that I can make that payment every month.
My goal now is to own it in the next 10 years. A big goal specially since 2010 has been a lean year in reference of work. But my home is creating opportunities to earn some money. And I haven't bought chickens yet. Next year. This year eveland farm is back to grow corn and vegetables. The battle with the squirrels continues.

If I'm a farm in Brooklyn, You're a big farm.

May 29, 2010 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I read somewhere that according to the IRS, if you've sold $1,000 worth of whatever (produce, meat, etc.) produced on your property (it did't say whether you had to own it or could rent it), you could claim your occupation on your tax return as a farmer.

I think that when the government considers you a farmer, you're a farmer, and ipso facto, your place is a farm (be it rented or owned).

And I would further venture to guess that if you're trading your produce for something else, as long as the value was $1,000 and you claimed it on your return, that would work as well, although most people who barter don't claim a peep of it.

People have made working farms out of less acreage than you have, and most family farmers have to subsidize their incomes with part or full time jobs away from the farm, so don't think you have to give up your day job to be a farmer.

May 29, 2010 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I love your attitude, always have. We're all rooting for you, and want to hear all about it, so don't stop blogging. I'll be here to read it.

May 29, 2010 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Justine Capraro said...

I think your blog is an inspiration to people who live in a city (like me) who want a (real) farm. I am very happy that you will continue writing. I get all sorts of helpful information for when I do decide to start my farm. Just for the record I think (and I believe everyone here will agree with me) anybody who works the land and reaps the benefits is a real farmer and works a real farm.

May 29, 2010 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Justine Capraro said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 29, 2010 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Amen to Fins & Feathers. Monoculture behemoths aren't "real" farms. They're outdoor food factories.

May 29, 2010 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

You are a farmer. You have a variety of food sources that you are growing and processing yourself and you provide for others. I consider myself somewhat of a farmer. I have laying hens and sell eggs.I have replacement chicks growing and will off the roos for meat. I have a breeding pair of Silver Fox rabbits who will be producing meat for the freezer. I also have a large garden which I hope feeds me through the winter. I'm a farmer too. We are small scale artisan farmers/homesteaders.

May 29, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

I have a backyard garden and I share my production. Would you like some zucchini from California about August? I don't have chickens,just bunches of hummingbirds.
If you get tired of writing just some pictures of Gibson or sheep would be fine with me.

May 29, 2010 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Hey there Farmer Jenna! I was reading your post to my husband and he said, "hey I guess we're farmers too!" What a joy it is to eat the fruit of our labor and savor the knowledge that our grubby little hands toiled in the soil and watered and waited until the time was right. It's been a blessing reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your life!

May 29, 2010 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

You got it girl...what is a real farm? walking out into your garden and savoring a warm juicy yellow tomato right off of the vine! Waking up in the middle of the night to help protect your flock from coons and foxes, building a new hive when yogi comes visting. The farm this person went to was a fake farm. I am sorry. I do not believe that anything other than a family owned farm is a "real farm".

May 29, 2010 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

I have to agree with "Maggie in Tally", large agribusiness monoculture behemoths are really outdoor food factories and not farms at all. Here's to all "real" farmers everywhere. There are more of us than most people realize.

May 29, 2010 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Snyder's Homestead said...

I keep calling our garage a barn. I guess when I look out my window in my backyard and I see nothing but garden, I look beyond the small half double in the middle of a small town. Our farm is real...in our hearts and minds!!

May 29, 2010 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

JENNA,
IT'S ALREADY BEEN SAID ABOUT
YOUR NOT BEING A QUITTER!!!
KNEW THAT FROM JUMP STREET BE-CAUSE YOU CAME ACROSS AS A LOVER OF
INDIVIDUALS, ANIMALS, ETC.!!!
LOOKING FORWARD TO READING ABOUT YOUR CAF, PASSIONS, & A LIFE FILLED WITH ENOUGH DRAMA FOR ALL OF
YOUR READERS TO TUNE IN, & READ MORE ABOUT EACH DAY!!!
I SAY FANTASTIC, &
CHEERS WITH A HEALTH DRINK!!!
Ronnie

May 29, 2010 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger deborahwolfe said...

I think people confuse 'farming' and 'agri-business'.

May 29, 2010 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger WadeSolutions said...

Love the post & love the book! We rent a house on a city lot . . . doesn't stop us from growing our hearts out. We supply our family & this year are sending produce to a small local market. I was hesitant to 'play with the real farmers' because I can't produce the masses that they can in our little space. Your post makes me want to jump in there with both feet --- WE ARE FARMERS! Amen!

May 29, 2010 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Moose Nuggets said...

I love this one! With 48 chicks, 4 chickens, 6 turkeys, and a garden planted with plenty to share, it never crossed my mind that we weren't farmers! And before we even dug our first potato in or had a coop to house a bird, my two year old said it best, "you know sumthin mama? I'm a farm girl."
THAT'S what makes a "real" farm.

May 30, 2010 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger Luisa said...

Thank you writing this blog. I discovered the link last night to Cold Antler Farm from Wooly Moss Roots, and just finished reading the entire contents. Wow! The idea of owning a farm has been on my mind for the past few years. I'm moreso interested in vegetables and fruit, and wouldnt mind having animals to harvest fur - not for eating. The one point that stands out is that you always had your eye on the goal. You started out on a smaller scale and stuck with it, congratulations on your new farm! Luisa :)

May 30, 2010 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I seem to have the opposite problem. People keep saying I have a "farm" and I keep correcting them - "No, no" I say, "We just have acreage with some livestock on it."

I think I'm afraid that if I admit to having a "farm" it will raise everyone's expectations. Thanks for this perspective.

May 30, 2010 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, please never stop writing here. I look forward to reading about what you are doing. I have a "real farm" too. Had sheep but traded for cows. Have milk goats. feed lots of people with what I grow here. I am married to a truck driver so I feel single most of the time. I do it all on my own here. I can't wait for a new book also. Keep doing what you are doing and grow with your farm.

May 30, 2010 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger jodi said...

Thanks for this post. Makes me look at my garden differently now.

May 30, 2010 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Great post. Silly me, it never occured to me that you would stop blogging. Your adventures are just getting started!

I agree wholeheartedly with the definition of farm. We live on small acreage but have sheep, veggies, orchard and chickens. My kids will be the first to tell you they live on a farm. They get it. So do you.

May 30, 2010 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Taryn Kae Wilson said...

I really love this post. I can relate to it so much. After I read it, I headed out to the garden. While my husband and I were weeding, I told him about this post and how I had always held back from considering our place a "real farm."
I always called it "homestead" or might be brave and venture to call it a "mini-farm." lol.
But I look around me at all the hard work we've done with our hands and all the food we feed ourselves and neighbors, family, and friends from this land. I am proud to declare this is a real farm!
Thanks so much for the inspiration. Your blog is a constant source of joy in my life.

May 30, 2010 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

You have a real farm and are a real farmer. Webster defines a farmer as "a person who cultivates land or crops or raises animals." The scale of operation isn't included in the definition.

Please keep writing, your journey is a journey that many would like to take but don't for some reason or another. Others have followed similar paths and love to walk with you.

May 31, 2010 at 1:39 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Thank you for writing this. I always feel like because we're little and just starting out that I'm taking liberties in calling what we have a "farm." I DO have a barn, a garden, a grapevine, a field and a full chicken coop though, so that should count! :)

June 1, 2010 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Joleen said...

Cold Antler Farm is ABSOLUTELY a real farm and don't let anyone tell you different! I live in a city condo on the third floor with a 10'X12' balcony and even that is my 'homestead.' I'm eating salads from the lettuce growing on my balcony in a pot and watching for the tomatoes and other vegetables in pots to start producing this summer. Yes, I need to depend on friends for fresh laid eggs and a ranch outside the city for some grass fed beef and free range chicken. Our 'farms' come in many shapes and sizes, but they're all REAL farms!!!

June 1, 2010 at 12:45 PM  
OpenID ladysaphira said...

With chickens, rabbits, sheep and veggies I can't imagine why someone wouldn't consider you a real farm! I don't even know that providing food to others needs to be a qualification. Is someplace with dairy, veggies, eggs, and meat not a real farm because they only feed themselves? Feeding themselves is more then most americans do!

June 1, 2010 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger joie said...

You're such an inspiration, Jenna. I hope you feel better SOON! We've just decided to go ahead and raise chickens (layers) in the village. We're not in an ag zone, but the building inspector said, "people do it all the time--if your neighbors don't mind.". My husband sat down and talked with both neighbors, and we're a GO! Let the farming begin!

June 1, 2010 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

It's high time the small independent farmers took back their place in the world, whether you've one acre or one hundred. At least they were real… as was their produce be it animal or vegetable. The small farm was something / someone you could trust. And it's trust we're lacking from these big boys that supply us today. Plow ahead, small farmers!

June 2, 2010 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Olivia said...

I agree, it's real! I love the way you put all that about producing and being part of your community! Way to go!
Olivia

June 3, 2010 at 1:27 AM  
Blogger joie said...

Our personal update on chickens... the neighbors got together and aren't okay with us doing chickens. Very sad--haven't been able to get to the farm, so we thought we could bring it to us. I guess not here.

June 3, 2010 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

3 yrs ago my husband and I moved across the country (Canada), bought 4 acres, and a donkey. We are both "city kids". To date we have a rabbit, guinea pig, dog, cat, (the donkey), and now 5 (was 6) baby chicks. I find your blog inspiring as we fumble through the trial and error of "farming". I so admire your tenacity and hardwork, as well as your simplistic view of life. So...please keep on keepin on with the blog...who else will I turn to when I'm feeling like I'm in WAAAY over my head!

June 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger My Edible Yard said...

Thanks, Jenna, for validating my farm. Actually, I usually call it my urban homestead since we live in a Florida suburb. We have not only a garden in our backyard with 12 chickens (8 chicks, 4 hens), but have just this year ripped up all the grass in the front yard to extend our organic garden. And we've added fruit this year ... blueberries, raspberries, grapes, mango tree and peach tree.

I'm having a blast reading your blog.

June 19, 2010 at 10:43 AM  

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