Friday, November 19, 2010

write it down

There is a fire in my wood stove, and between that and two glasses of homebrew...I am very warm tonight. I just ate a simple dinner of pasta and red sauce—then with a slight buzz and a full belly—I pulled my fiddle off the shelf and played a few Irish tunes to light up the room. In a little white farm house in Jackson the Scartaglen Slide and Man of the House trotted off my bow while the dogs wrestled on the kitchen floor. I did a little dance with them as I fiddled and hopped about as the fray of teeth and my laughter tore up the peace. It was quite a sight.

What a life this has become! I'm wearing a warm hat over my pigtails. It's made from the wool off the sheep in the pasture outside. There are eggs in my fridge from the birds in the coop and chickens I harvested in the freezer as well (a rabbit too). Besides meat I've made bread, sauce, jams, cheese, beer, cider and pies. There is honey in quart jars I pulled from a hive, and a truck in the driveway. I have a fine pair of geese. I even held one of their just-born goslings in my palm this time last fall. I've grown a garden full of vegetables and held pumpkin in my hands big as bobcats! I've hunted pheasants and shot at foxes. I've heard coyotes sing in the pale moonlight and watched them from the edge of a sheep pen with a crook and a lantern. I've caught a native trout on a dry fly and I know when a river is angry. I've raised rabbits. I've wrote books. I've sewn clothes. I've ridden a dogsled in the blue glow of a winter sunset, and I know how it feels to bottle feed a baby goat during a spring rainstorm on a porch. I can now sit high in a dressage saddle and do a posting trot with a 16 hand horse, and do it quite passingly. A little black and white rocket of a dog runs about as I write you now, and he's the future of this farm: my business partner, Gibson the border collie. We have a CSA in the works, us shepherds, and soon we'll be sending out packages with wool and thank you letters to our inaugural subscribers. There are sheep on the way you know? Those ewes will be heavy with lambs and I'll bring them into the world this spring.

Tonight my plans don't involve any hot dates (though a few might be in the works) and certainly nothing like a night on the town, but this is a night on my farm. Cold Antler Farm. A place that didn't even exist in a gasp five years ago and tonight, tonight I'll be reading about the proper bedding and pen set up for a pig. Tomorrow I add a little swine to the mix. It seems as normal a decision now as deciding which fabric softener at the grocery store. This is now my everyday life.

I've been told by people on this blog that I am a goddamned fool. I must be. Only a fool would be living like this, doing all this, and dancing with dogs to tunes no one even knows anymore. You can call me whatever you please. I'm not changing a thing about this messy life. I like messy. It suits me.

Listen, I don't have much money, and I'm nobodies Daisy...but I'll be damned if I'm not happy tonight—I feel like the wealthiest beast in the world. And you know why this all happened? It happened for two simple reasons and I believe this with all my heart. I landed here because:

1. I always believed I would (not could, not might, but would).
2. And because I wrote it all down.

Something that stuck with my in college was a blip I heard on the radio one night. A person was telling someone on NPR that if you want something to happen with your life, you need to get out a pen and paper and write it down. He said that only 2% of people with goals actually take the time to write them down on paper, but out of that 2% studied—90% achieved their dream. Something about the certainty of pledging it to yourself made it realer to the people he observed. I wanted to be in the 90% of that 2%.

So when I knew a farm was something I wanted. I sat down and wrote out exactly what I hoped it would be. I wrote about a hillside outside my window, about the sheep, about the black and white dog by my side. I drew a pickup truck parked outside, and a veggie garden alive with a lush bounty (Okay, not everything transpired) but the point is most of it did! I carried that piece of paper with me until it naturally disintegrated into scraps. It was my totem, my prayer. And I think because I physically held it on my person I could never forget it was there, and always being on my mind forced myself to always strive towards it.

That said, it's not a magic trick. It wasn't exactly like it fell into my lap. Nothing was given to me. I had to earn it. I had to wheel and deal, beg, borrow, or steal myself to make it happen, but it did. I pulled it off paycheck to paycheck, a little at a time until it rolled into something so epic it wore me down and built me up again. Somehow got a mortgage, a collie, a truck, land, and raised a barn. There are fences outside and a CSA on the books. Thanks to the help of many hands, my amazing parents and siblings, friends, blog readers, thoughts, prayers, and (I think) this daily diary online my aspirations went from a pipe dream to a steam engine. If it was something a girl from Palmerton could get, you can too. I promise.

So if you are someone who wants their own land, wants their own farm... I ask you to sit down and write what you want tonight. Write it all down, fold it up and put it in your pocket. It might take five years before you're in your own kitchen dancing with a border collie—but hell, those five years are coming no matter what—might as well have a farm at the end of it all.

And keep dancing in your kitchen. It can only help.

38 Comments:

Blogger Duck said...

I think I'm going to be doodling all night now. ;)
What a neat concept!

November 19, 2010 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

It worked for me too. A small place near forests, canyons, beaches, mountains and deserts is all I ever wanted. Here we nest!

November 19, 2010 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

You forgot that you've drank coffee at Lee and Joan Wulf's kitchen table and caught trout from one of America's finest trout riverson a dry fly. Did you get a chance to meet Jan from the Reno Orvis store a few weeks back?

November 19, 2010 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Thanks Jenna-
Was feeling A LOT discouraged tonight, about filling my homestead with Jacobs and chickens, about building my writing career and getting to earn a living more in line with my values, about the loneliness and my impatience and the sometimes overwhelming frustration of it all. And then I read this post. Like a beacon on this dismal night I'm reminded by your success that the struggle is so worth it. I'll be spending the hours of my weekend when I 'm not at work filling the pages of my journal with poems and sketches about my future sheep, the yarn I'll spin and the words I'll share with Northeast Ohio someday. One day I'll join those ranks. Thank you for reminding me why I shouldn't give up.

November 19, 2010 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

THIS is far and away my favorite post you've ever written. The very best thing is reveling in the knowledge that you're doing what you're meant to do...perhaps BORN to do. I literally squealed with glee when I read this (and I'm not a squealer).

And speaking of squealers, I also squealed over the PIG! I CANNOT WAIT to hear more about this. Pigs have been on my to do list since we moved here.

November 19, 2010 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger LMC said...

WOW. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I'm a single girl living in debt in an apartment in suburbia right now, but dreaming of having a farm like yours. This was just the encouragement I needed. Thanks.

November 19, 2010 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Oh, almost forgot.

There's nothing like making muled cider or muled wine on the wood stove. And be sure to cook a pot of soup or stew too! Just realized we only share that experience when the "power" goes out... cooking by oil lamp light. Tonight that seems like a huge waste of opportunities to make memories.

November 19, 2010 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

LMC, when I wanted to buy a farm my credit score was around 500 and I had no savings account. Numbers don't matter if you are certain this is yours. The first thing you need to do is walk into a bank and ask what you need to do to qualify for a mortgage.

Three banks told me to leave before I found a realtor and broker who would work with me. I used the USDA-backed loan which let me buy a farm with no money down. I saved all I could, paid off my cards, and had the keys to my own place within 5 months of getting my eviction notice.


I have never missed a mortgage payment since. I won't. Means to much to me that I got here.

November 19, 2010 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

You are a fortunate person indeed. If I were a single person, I'd be a knocking on your door.

I've raised pigs most my life, if you think Finn was crafty - get ready.

I always start my piglets inside until they get used to me calling them for feeding (that's the only way you'll catch 'em if they get out). I make sure that they always have dirt and sod in their pen from day 1. They'll get a lot of minerals from it. After that, the best place for them is outside.

If you have any land you want cleared or turned over, put your pig on it - they are the best soil turner there is.

Do yourself a big favor and teach it how to drink from a pig waterer. If you don't, it will be tipping over or splashing all their water to make a mud hole. Final unsolicited tip - the old saying pigs don't like hay is BS. They love hay for nesting and eating.

90 days sounds awful short to me, I generally keep a piglet from May to December but I do all my own butchering, curing, and smoking and I don't have any cooler to hang it in. I shoot for a 250 to 300 pound pig for the freezer.

Oh, and if it's a male, make sure it's castrated.

November 19, 2010 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

Well, I am somebody's daisy and I've taken your advice! I know it will happen just as you are living proof that it can. Blessings to you and yours on Cold Antler Farm. G'night!

November 19, 2010 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

CJ, thanks. I think this first pig will be going to Miami (that's what Nancy at Wayside calls the Slaughterhouse) under 200 pounds. I'll be making a proper pen for her out of two walls of a barn and cattle panels. From what I am reading they calm down as they get older?

November 19, 2010 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Lovely post.

"Writing it down" worked for me once upon a time when I wanted my own house. If only I had a vision now of what I wanted...and if only I could get what I wanted without giving up everything else...

November 19, 2010 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

They definitely get more docile as they get older, but they are very inquisitive animals and love to get their snout under whatever they can and lift. They are also extremely smart and once they learn how to get out you're better off putting them in a totally new pen than trying to eliminate their escape route.

I've used the slaughterhouse over by you, it was many years ago, they did a good job but the processing is so simple I just can't justify the cost. I put my pork into the freezer for about $1.50 a pound doing it all myself. If I had the land to grow the feed, it would probably be less.

The only downside to having a pig is your compost pile suffers greatly. Pigs will eat just about anything you would normally compost. At least if you keep them in a pen you can compost the bedding and manure.

If you decide you want to do the butchering yourself let me know - I'd be happy to show you how I do the whole process.

November 19, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Thinkin' Out Loud said...

I for one do not think you are a fool! I also wonder why those who think you are a fool even read your blog. If you can't support a good effort you shouldn't bother typing!

November 20, 2010 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Joe and Jeannie Family said...

The Lord has blessed you for sure. What a neat life you lead. I can hear the thankfulness in your words - keep sharing what you know. And, research why the Lord has blessed you so - Proverbs 19:21.

November 20, 2010 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Dancing with dogs is one of the joys of life. Your peace and happiness really came through in this post. Thanks for sharing the joy. My best friend has been married to the perfect man for her for over 30 years. She has always said that it is because she wrote down what she wanted, and prayed over it. She told me to, and I never did. She is happily married and I am single.

November 20, 2010 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

One of my favorite entries written by you. Beautiful, poetic, inspiring and knowledge based. I love it!!

November 20, 2010 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Nicely written post! Keep on keeping on!

November 20, 2010 at 8:46 AM  
OpenID greenearthgoodies said...

Atta Girl Jenna...

You sent your intentions out to the universe and it worked. Almost always does.

I too am living my dream and I also attribute it to the fact that I believed it would happen and I also write my goals and dreams down.

The universe answers.
:) Jenn @ GEG

November 20, 2010 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger sgtt37 said...

jenna definitely agree with you about writing down goals. case in point i wrote down i wanted to learn to play the fiddle and last weekend i found one that suits me and my budget--but now i have a question--what were the dvd/cd that u recommended for learning to play it?

November 20, 2010 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Bringing up Baby said...

Awesome post Jenna! I love your fire and devil-may-care attitude, I share that feeling but sometimes it is hard to keep that going. I love hearing encouragement from you!

I think it is awesome that you are reveling in the life that you have worked so hard to create - it is an amazing feeling and without boasting you have managed to convey the pride and satisfaction wound up in that. I am being far less articulate than you, so I will wrap up by saying: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! :)

November 20, 2010 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Love reading your blog! Very inspirational. I'm going to start putting pen to paper more often on what I want.

November 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Thanks, Jenna -- just what I needed to hear for some things that are brewing in my head and life. Keep up the good work!

November 20, 2010 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thank you for this. We just started on this path with 3 acres in Virginia. Your blog gives me inspiration and reminds me that if I do the work, I can get where I want to be.

Thanks!

November 20, 2010 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger eliav said...

you are a hero!

November 20, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

Hey Jenna,
I know those tunes and I play them and dance with my dogs.

It's the coolest life style on earth.

November 20, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Just heard Scartaglen Slide for the first time and it is a song that is perfect for the start of the winter with mist, rain and snow.
Thanks for writing this fantastic post.

Have a great weekend.

November 20, 2010 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger leafonatree said...

Inspiring. Thank you. AND... congrats on living your dream!

November 20, 2010 at 2:35 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

sgtt37: The book/CD is Wayne Erbsen's "Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus" and it is great. I've been working on it since June 2009 and have learned so much. Recently found myself a local fiddle teacher who is terrific and helping me take it to the next level and really learn to play by ear.

This is all thanks to Jenna getting me started (and thanks, again, Jenna!) I'm 59 and have never played an instrument, taken lessons or learned to read music. I'm learning slowly because I'm older, but I'm learning and loving it.

Jenna, I so love this post and no, you are no fool. Your method of obtaining your goals is considered by many to be the best. How can anyone be foolish doing what they love, working towards healthy goals and jumping in fearlessly and with passion? You are so alive! Many people are just going through the motions and letting life happen to them....then they aren't happy and wondering why. So sad.

Congrats on the piglet. I do love some pork.

November 20, 2010 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

Great advice and thought....I linked you in my blog and so admire your ability to say it with words!! You put it exactly for me and I love knowing there is someone out there that feels the same and is truly understanding it You see my world so well!

November 20, 2010 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Thanks for the encouragement Jenna.
I am on my way. I am headed to Oklahoma to help a friend with her cattle ranch and learn to become a "grass farmer". I know there is a ranch in my future and with your story and knowing what you went through with the USDA loan, I KNOW IT IS HAPPENING FOR ME TOO!
I am so excited and packing while I am writing this.
Thanks so much for your lessons.. and helping me to focus on the life style that I want. I know that has helped it to come pass.There is a working kelpie dog in my future.

THANK YOU

Keep up the great work!

Rosann
SF bay area
Califonria (until I am packed)

Soon to be a Okie in Ada

November 20, 2010 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Robbie Grey said...

"I'm not changing a thing about this messy life. I like messy."

A wise man from South Africa once said; "We're all messy..." I treat that as a one of my mantras.

This was another pretty post. The words were placed together quite nicely...

November 21, 2010 at 2:53 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Setting your intention and writing it down is a great way to manifest your dreams! What also works very well is a dream board, with pictures and quotes, or anything else that makes your dream more tangible and visible. We have one in our kitchen(along with a notebook where I write down all the details that we may not have visuals for) where we can see it every day. Since we've put it up we've seen some very important dreams start to become a reality!

November 21, 2010 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger dogear6 said...

I'm really surprised at people calling you a fool. Unless they are family (sorry, but it's hard to get around that), why do they think you care what they think? If they think you are that foolish, they don't need to bother reading your blog or following your life.

I swear some people are nasty just to be nasty. No one is making you do this - you do it because it fulfills you and (yes, this too), you enjoy it.

There has been some good debate in the comments and that is healthy. Different viewpoints bring value and you've gotten good advice (and followed some of it too).

You're doing fine. Put on your game face to the naysayers and remember that you are achieving what you want in life. I doubt that they are.

November 21, 2010 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

Really enjoyed this post for so many reasons. For one thing, it read very much like slam poetry, especially the second paragraph -- so full of delicious words and such great timing. For another, you have yet again inspired me to continue chasing my dreams. I don't want to be a full-time farmer in the middle of nowhere, although I would like to end up living on a less busy street! I want to at some point be part of a vaudevillian circus troupe that tours mostly the small ocean and mountain towns in British Columbia, Canada, where I am lucky enough to live. Even if this isn't what I end up doing for my entire life I will still be satisfied if I get to tour for a month.

Another of my favourite posts of yours was the one about only focusing on being "one hour better." Such wisdom.
So, for my next trick I shall consider how to save up for a decent melodica. Portable breath-powered piano!

I stumbled upon your blog about a year ago and have been following new posts as well as catching up on old ones ever since. I've tried to comment before but for some reason I was never able to log in to something and it just didn't work out and I was too lazy. Hopefully this will figure itself out.

Much love from the luscious rainforests on an island off the west coast of Canada...

~Ivanhoe

November 21, 2010 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Regina said...

I have just finished your book 'Made from Scratch' tonight and I am incredibly impressed, and hopeful that the world is not full of fools and idiots. Thank you for this beautiful post and thank you for being a beacon of hope amidst incompetence, ignorance, and dependence on an impossible system.

November 24, 2010 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Hi Jenna - I added some thoughts on 'writing it down' here
http://hedgerowfireside.blogspot.com/2010/11/writepray-blog.html

November 27, 2010 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Jenna
Finished Barnheart this week. As with all your books loved it. 5 acres rundown homestead will be mine May 1st. Thanks for the infectious can=do attitude. I am posting my dreams on the bathroom mirror so kids and I see our goals several times a day.Love how you rally support of community. If any of your northern Illinois readers want to help me reclaim a farm on weekends this summer they can contact me!! I could use the help.(farmingal48@gmail.com)
Thanks!

Have fun with pig.

April 14, 2012 at 9:03 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home