Thursday, July 8, 2010

a hell of a year

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't part of the joy of farming the mix of low points and high points you achieve along the way" That was my friend Kevin, talking to me over the phone from his air-conditioned apartment in Philadelphia. I, however, was dripping buckets of sweat by a pasture in Washington County. I was trying to assemble an electric fence kit I picked up from Tractor Supply to save what was left of the deer, groundhog, and rabbit eaten dried up pumpkins. I wouldn't put up this kind of fight for anything else in the garden, but pumpkins mean October. You fight for the things you love.

"Yeah...but when the low points drastically outnumber the high points, you realize you might be doing something wrong..." I was frustrated. I made up some excuse about getting electrocuted and got off the phone. Between the heat wave, falling behind on etsy orders and writing projects, the loss of half my turkeys and new laying hen pullets, the garden's decline, the dead rabbits, and the fact I wasn't seeing straight due to having spent the last two hours after work in a dramatic heat wave: things felt bad. I was exhausted. I was coated in sweat, hay, and smelled as bad as the invisible fence I just sprayed around the edge of the pumpkin patch. I instantly felt bad for having snapped at Kevin, and guilty for having the audacity to not be grateful I was having these problems in the first place. It's just that sometimes, you feel beat.

And when you're exhausted you seem to only know how to pile the negative things into a rucksack and carry it around with you. I could have easily told Kevin I was outside on a beautiful day. That I had a healthy pair of breeding turkeys, a newly fenced sheep pasture, a freshly mowed lawn, a 4th of July spent with good friends from Boston, and sheepdog trials this weekend. I could have told him how healthy the remaining free-range rabbits were, and the geese were getting pretty new feathers, and that the new hens I bought the weekend before were settling in fine. But something about a heat wave and dying pumpkins makes me grumpy. I don't know why exactly but I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I blame the heat with lack of thunderstorms. I couldn't get the fence to work either. Ugh.

I also don't mean to make it sound like I'm some sort of prisoner in my own prison. I adore this place, this work, and this life. But when I click back to this blog last July, I can only see an amazing garden, a laughing goat, healthy rabbits, no broken sales or looming deadlines, and less stress. Or at least the illusion of less stress.

I'll snap out of it, I'm sure. A poor mood does nothing to benefit me and certainly nothing to benefit anyone else. I just have to focus on what's ahead that I'm excited about, and slowly work towards those things. I realized that this morning when I was about to step out of the shower. On the hook just outside the curtain was a wool hat I knit, and a rusted orange towel. Together the colors and wool made me think about how all this tension ends with the pleasures of Autumn. I actually got a little jolt of excitement when I saw them together, and it reminded me that no matter how moody or distracted I might be in the fog of July: in a few months fall will be here. And when it comes, I'll be ready.

Hopefully, with at least one farm-grown pumpkin.

I turn 28 on Saturday. It's been a hell of a year.


Blogger Rosie said...

Do not forget that last year you did not own a farm and that you have had to work hard to get "re-established". Count your lucky stars you are where you are and don't look at what went wrong, but how far you have come and where you are going! Lessons learned.

Hang in there, the weather will change and if there are few pumpkins this year, next year there will be more because you will be more prepared.

One step at a time grasshopper.

July 8, 2010 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

But at least you're not puking your guts out...or worse...from food poisoning!

Happy birthday early. You gonna celebrate by going to the sheepdog trials? Sounds like a good way to do it.

July 8, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

no flartus, i did that in may!

July 8, 2010 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger sheepkelpie said...

No a/c makes it a whole HE** of a lot worse. Even my gps, inveterate farmers, with no hot water, and no tv- they had one a/c in the bedroom. If you can, get one a/c for your bedroom. Your dogs would much appreciate it. AND you would sleep a whole lot better. There is no loss of pride in succumbing to mother nature.

July 8, 2010 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

I came home to find 3 of my 4 laying hens dead yesterday. Actually, I only found two bodies. I felt sooo bad. I understand and empathize with you. Hang in there, and continue to take the actions needed to produce what you know will make you feel good.

July 8, 2010 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'm not anti AC! it's just that no one up here has them, it's so rare that it gets like this.

I'll take my mom up on one for next summer.

July 8, 2010 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger sheepkelpie said...

Drive over to Albany and get one chicky, it's a long summer yet.

July 8, 2010 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Sheepkelpie - I have had 4 Erindale Kelpies. Currently dogless but will be looking for one again.

SF bay area

July 8, 2010 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Affi'enia said...

Hey hun. The bad things fit in rucksacks so much easier than the good. But it's the good that you rest your feet on after a hard day. Autumn is in sight I promise you.

And Happy early Birthday as I'm not around on Saturday!

July 8, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I can relate. I finally pulled most of my crookneck squash up a few days ago after it simply would not thrive, and I was in a grumpy mood all afternoon! It's too hot to replant, too, so now I just wait for autumn and fall crops. BUT -- I think our bad moods about these things just mean that we take them is more than a hobby or pastime for us. It's food, it's our way of life and therefore, it's important -- and it sucks when we suffer setbacks.

July 8, 2010 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Geek 3000 said...

You're in the sucky part of getting started. It takes a lot of doing the wrong things (wrong for your home, it's different at every house) before you get all the kinks worked out. This is our year 8 of raising chickens in awful raccoon territory. Each year we made more and more ridiculous adjustments, one particularly bad month involved being woken about 5 times a night to go shoot raccoons, and yes that was a month long event. Anyways we did things right and wrong every year and collected the right ways. After 8 years, we have it down, for our house at least! The dog lives outside now and patrols the property. Anytime a predatory comes by she freaks out. haven't had a sleepless night since! Good luck, and don't worry, you'll get it worked out.

July 8, 2010 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Happy Early Birthday Jenna!!! Hope it's a good one!!

July 8, 2010 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

It is totally the heat and drought. It makes all farmers axious and grouchy. Nothing like losing tons of work to make you question your choices. But we just get right back on the horse. A little wiser.

July 8, 2010 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Astrosquirrel said...

Buck up, Jenna -- all hallows' is coming, and pumpkins will bring you joy; even if it isn't YOUR pumpkin, it's still a pumpkin, and pumpkins = happy, right? By the way, I feel terrible about my comment on 7/7 re. "survey says" -- believe me, I hear ya re. heat-stressed plants! Love the rucksack image...that's why I keep reading: you turn a mean phrase, girl. Happy (early) birthday!

July 8, 2010 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I live in upstate new york as well (near Westport, Essex County), trying to live the farming dream. The heat is unbearable, the goats have parasites, the garden is sad ....all normal stuff for farming, but I feel your pain, believe me. If I get one more deerfly bite I think I'll ... :) sometimes you just have to remember you love it because day to day it's HARD! But I think maybe that's what we like about it! Happy Birthday!

July 8, 2010 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

You gotta vent and when it's hot there's nothing better than letting it out! Trust me it's hot here in Florida and I am praying my husband will agree very soon to move back north! He told me to wait on the coop so I'm hopeful. You, in all your farm girl glory are a breath of fresh NY air! Especially with the hardships. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy and reading your posts bring reality to homesteading. When you take stock of your 27th year you can be proud of what you accomplished this year!

July 8, 2010 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger taylorgirl6 said...

I was recently bemoaning the fact that I didn't get any pumpkin seeds planted this year (and it might not be too late), but nature had to get the better of that complaint. Two pumpkins have sprouted up out of the compost top-dressing some ornamental grasses in the front yard received. No, you can't ever really know with pumpkin volunteers (or cucumber or squash etc) just what you'll get, but seeing those yellow trumpet blossoms is enough for now.

July 8, 2010 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain girl. We all have those moments, and the heat and humidity will bring me to the brink faster than any thing else. I've been down that road, of questioning every decision, deciding I'm doing everything wrong, think about giving up. But, tomorrow is another day, the heatwave will pass. You'll figure out the darn electric fence, you'll reinforce your shelters to keep your hens and bunnies safe, over time. Give yourself a pat on the back for sticking with it. You've come so far, and are an inspiration to so many, this too shall pass.

Happy early go put your chair in a river or a brook or a pond or something, have a cold drink, and remember how much you've accomplished in the last year. Cheers!

July 8, 2010 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

Your phrase "...and slowly work towards those things" is the most important thing you said in that post. I frequently read your blog and say to myself "man, she is trying to do too many things at one time" (resulting in your own frustration and the loss of your animals/crops). My suggestion - take step back, priortize, remember you just bought a house with several acres that requires more maintenance than you've ever had to provide before, get your fences up to protect the animal and vegetable lives currently under your care, and then move on to the next step. You don't have to do everything at one time. Maybe make a list of year 1, year 2, year 3...goals for yourself and keep it realistic! If you take your time, get things right the first time, and be patient you'll have a thriving farm with sound fences, safe animals, and gorgeous veggies in no time! I hope I don't sound snotty or like I'm lacking empathy but each time I read your blog, which I thoroughly enjoy!, I think to myself, " slow down" so I finally had to post my comments. Stay strong!

July 8, 2010 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Not even twenty-eight and she owns a farm.

I'm fifty and have to make do on a quarter acre, which is taken up by 1400 sq ft of un-air-conditioned house.

I was just thinking today as I hung up a load of laundry on the line that today would be a fine day to run through the sprinklers.

You're probably on a well, so go take a cool shower. You'll feel better.

I'll wait 'til Saturday to wish you Happy- some cultures think it's bad luck to do so before the event, so I tend to err on the cautious side.

Seriously- go get in some cool water.

July 8, 2010 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think everyone is in the grip of the same heatwave. It will pass!

And if I don't read your blog before Saturday, Happy Birthday!

July 8, 2010 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

THAT's why you're in a funk. Birthday. I have 3 kids, and my favorite child development expert says that around the birthday and the half-birthday there are usually changes. Sometimes big. Sometimes kids make a developmental leap but go backwards in other areas right before. I think the same things happen to "grown-ups" except we're not learning to read or do long division or jump off the diving board. You're making a leap, but slogging through the mud first. Oh. The same expert says that when the little ones are cranky, put them in water. Hang in there.

July 8, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, I know what ya mean. My heifer got into my big garden and I just let her go. I went ahead and put the goats in there too. The weeds were bigger than me out there. So I thought they could at least clean it up for me.

It's just HOT everywhere. 102 here in N. Ga. I'm afraid to use my well water because it's been so dry. No rain in a long time. So I'm using city water on my tomatoes and grape vines. Can't lose those!

I hope you get the fence up and are able to save your pumpkins. What happened to the turkeys? Now I am worried. I want to put mine out in the chicken house but might just keep them in the little house til fall.

Ya night need to find a good cold swimmin' hole and jump in!

July 8, 2010 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Relax. :) You are only turning 28. You have about 50 more years at least to get everything in shape.

You are an inspiration to those of us who AREN'T in a position to do what you are doing. Even when you have speed bumps, you are teaching yourself (and us) something.

I'm 35 and wish I had the courage to be doing what you're doing. No matter the sweat the the problems. You have a long, long time to get it right.

I know you have the blog, but make sure you are keeping detailed notes about the problems. When you get snowed in this winter, you can go back through all of the notes and make plans for the coming year.

July 8, 2010 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Emma said...

I think summer is like Mon and autumn is like Fri

July 8, 2010 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

50 years! that;s all!?!?!?

I better hustle!

July 8, 2010 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger melldot said...

I can completely relate this week, awful heat, 6 chicks and 6 hatching eggs stolen in the night, and two dead roosters. Some sort of creepy green worm eating my broccoli into skeletons. Sometimes we question what we do, but for me I know this life is in my blood, can't do anything about it, it is part of who I am. If I wasn't living this kind of life I would be denying a big piece of my soul. So like the old saying goes, "do what you can, with what you have, where you are" nobody, including yourself can ask any more than that. Chin up better things are on the horizon. :)

July 8, 2010 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger bonnie said...

New to your blog. Heard a interview you did with craftsanity and am very impressed with what you have been able to accomplish thus far.

July 8, 2010 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Happy Birthday to you dear. Not many 28 yr olds have anything near the life you have. In fact, most don't even know they want it yet.

July 9, 2010 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

My yoga teacher says that this kind of weather forces us to slow down and focus only on what's important. Sounds like you're doing just that.

It's tough to let go, especially when you have so many creatures that depend on you.

You are a remarkably accomplished 28 year old, and have much to celebrate this year. Enjoy your special day :)

July 9, 2010 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

While I'm sure you are, proud of all you have accomplished at such a young age. I continue to read your blog with admiration, hope, and interest. Keep up the good work - and Happy Birthday!

July 9, 2010 at 11:00 AM  

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