Saturday, November 27, 2010

yuletide and holy barns

It is an ideal weekend afternoon here at the farm. Actually, the whole day's been ideal, like something ripped out of pages of some made-for-TV movie script sponsored by Hallmark. I started the morning with Gibson at herding lessons. He did well, better than ever before and so did I. We're a long way from being Jock and Wiston Cap, but we're learning how to become a team; starting to make sense of each other. Loading up back into the truck after our hour with Denise I realized I knew enough to start working Gibson with his Blackface ewes when they came. Denise encouraged it. She said the more he works, and the older he gets, the more dependable and mature he will be around the sheep. I drove away beaming. Gibson fell asleep passenger side within minutes, his head resting on my coffee mug.

We took the back way home. Instead of the straight shoot back to New York over the Green Mountains, we turned our wheels to make a loop that would land us in Manchester Vermont. I had some places I want to visit, to harvest ideas and pick up some important little things. I stopped at the Grafton Cheese Company and the Vermont Country Store. I wasn't there to shop as much as I was there to steal ideas for homemade gifts. I saw the idea of an Italian basket with homemade mozzarella, canned sauce, and pasta in brown paper, wrapped in a bow. A day of canning and some simple cheese making and thrift store baskets could easily whip up a beautiful artisan meal. I made a mental note for future dinner parties. I left with a small wheel of their Maple Cheddar, which might be the best thing to happen to scrambled farm eggs since cast iron. I swear.

Next stop was the Vermont Country Store. It was starting to snow as I pulled into the lot. The store was packed so tight you could barely move, but I did manage to get the one item I needed to send my sister as a belated birthday present. (I'd share what it is, but since she reads all this nonsense on here I can't spill it till after she gets my parcel in the mail.) Mission accomplished: I set out to the truck with my little paper bag and had to stop when the Season started to really hit me. Between the snow, the music, the smiling people buzzing for gifts...I got my first real taste of Christmastime. The yuletide spirit was alive and well in Weston, Vermont. I sang carols to my sleeping dog the rest of the flurried ride home.

I got back to the farm and tended to the animals. I am amazed at the productivity of the new hens I bought Thanksgiving morning. I collected ten eggs today, browns to white from the new Reds and Leghorns. I fed the pig leftover rice, tofu, and broccoli from last night's stir fry and she gobbled them up with her pellets and corn. I turned on her light and fed the rabbits as well. behind me the hay was stacked up twice as high as me. As I turned my back to the hay to feed the pig, a Barred Rock burst out from a nest seven feet above the barn floor. She scared me with her post-egg cackle! I thanked her for showing me the new cache of the day's eggs. (I had been checking that spot for a while now. Glad to see it finally was enticing some nesting.)

When I moved here the barn held a few garden tools and plastic Christmas ornaments. Now it was a living, breathing barn again. Lit up at night with a warm light while a pig eats her dinner, a hen lays an egg, rabbits chomp on their pellets and winter feed stacks above where my arms can reach. I look up at the cobwebs in the heat lamp's glow. At the fresh hay Nelson cut this summer, a July pasture caught in time. Every bale of hay is a still life. A memory of a summer gone, sustaining us till spring. I still touch them with reverance for what they do, and what they are. Above me the old wood sings stories about the barn's past. The Sistine Chapel has nothing on a this place.

The sheep got a bit of hay and fresh water, the snow hitting their backs and making them seem even warmer in their thick wool. Sal always seems to know more than a sheep should know.

Outside a light snow has covered the ground with a layer of harmless white. Just enough to make the naked trees look like they belong again. The wood stove is lit, and puffing smoke above the white farmhouse, making my little corner of the world comfortable to those who drive by up the sharp hillside road. There's a pine wreath with a red bow on the door, picked it up from a guy selling them from his pickup near Peru on the ride home from. Inside the oven is the big fat rooster I harvested when my friend Taylor came to visit a few weeks ago. The house is filling up fast with the smells of his garlic-herb rub and olive-oil soaked skin browning in the oven. Coffee I made for the road trip this morning is reheating on the top of the wood stove. Why use electricity for what's already free?

Tonight I starting a new memoir called Fiddle, by Vivian Wagner. The story of a woman who hit a musical-midlife crisis and decided she needed to learn to play this instrument. (I can relate to that.) Her story goes from inspiration, to lessons, to 8,000 miles of traveling America with her instrument. Visiting that fine four-stringed music everywhere from post-Katrina New Orleans to Appalachian music camps. I'm hoping Vivian's story lifts my own playing to a new level. And that I have to put down the book to saw out some Old Joe Clark. So here's to a night of good food, good books, good music, a quiet farm and tired and happy dogs.

Stay warm tonight, darling. It's cold outside.


Blogger Cindy said...

Way to go Gibson! You too, Jenna. I hope Santa brings you a video camera. I would love to see Gibson in action with his own sheep. Glad you were able to catch the Christmas spirit in your travels today. There has been a decided lack of good will in the comments lately. Have you thought anymore about going to the Young Farmers meetup? Never can go to too many Christmas parties. BTW, that is the largest chicken I have ever seen in a roasting pan. You aren't going to need to cook the rest of the week.

November 27, 2010 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

Miss Cindy,

I agree. Goodwill has gone hunting. Or maybe folks are starting to feel comfortable enough to say what they think in real time. The problem with posts are you can't always hear the voice. So yes - stay warm. Here in So Cal - for us - it is pretty, pretty cold.

November 27, 2010 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

He was huge!

I had a big dinner, and set aside the white meat in the fridge for later. Some parts had strains of pink in it. Is that normal? I did follow the directions and let it roast for over two hours, and the juices ran clear? But parts around the neck were still a little red and inside the cavity was red too. Anyone cook a lot of birds and know if it's okay?

As for comments...Everyone is welcome to say whatever they'd like. I never delete comments. If you see a comment that was deleted, it is because the person who wrote it (the comment's author) removed it.

November 27, 2010 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Nope Jenna the neck isnt done sounds like blood to me but you can pop it back in by itself and cook it up. Did you soak it in salt water? Gramma always said you need to soak chicken/turkey in salt water cause they dont hang long enough for the blood to get out of them. And I guess it tenderizes the meat too. Gramma would have known, she had a farm. You can always put the carcass on to boil and make your own broth for chicken soup this winter too. I do that all the time and it would take care of the red too...

Since its just me and my hubby I always end up freezing left over turkey and using it in casseroles later on in the winter. Cats like it too ;) but this year we got a smoked turkey breast and I'm sorry but I'm not sharing lol.

November 27, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I didn't touch any parts of the bird that were red, just the white meat on the breast and a few potatoes and carrots that were also untouched by the red.

November 27, 2010 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Jenna, get yourself a meat thermometer. The red is not a good thing. I like the kind that you stick in the meat when it is raw and has an alarm when it gets to the right temp.

I have been trying to figure out the comments, and I think the way you write, the reader feels a conection with you. Jon Katz has the same impact on me. The only other author I have searched out on the web. I can't imagine that these people
would respond this way if your blog was on a shelf at Borders.

November 27, 2010 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I do have a meat thermometer. I stuck it in the breast and thigh, and it read 190, and when I pulled it out the juice was clear. I didn't think to turn it over and stick it in the neck area...

November 27, 2010 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

You can't please everyone, is all I can say.

November 27, 2010 at 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, your rooster looks as large as my turkey was! Yes, as others have said, cook his carcass up some more before you eat any of the red/pink parts. He'll make great soup.

Thanks for the heads up on the fiddle memoirs. I'll have to check that out, since I was 58 last year when I began your fiddle challenge. I can probably relate. Can't wait to read that story!

Loved the story of your day and your warm barn full of animals.

November 27, 2010 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

You're pretty calm about the comments. I would just say though, that it is a mature and intelligent thing to do to re think your position now and again. It is hard, and humbling, to approach the propostion that maybe you were wrong. Or a bit wrong. Or that there is another way to look at it. I think if someone thinks you are wrong to consider that you may have been wrong (??!!) they ought by rights to make a counter argument, rather than name call. But that's just my view. I might be wrong ;)

November 27, 2010 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I think people forget that I'm not a website, but a person. They say things here online they would never say to me in person. I read them and usually feel like crap when I read them. They make me doubt myself.

But I don't think there's a single mean person who reads this blog, just passionate people who see things differently. If you're a vegetarian who's been reading my blog for years and now I'm posting photos of birds I killed, about to go in the oven: I have become a monster. If you are an experienced farmer and you see me do something that could harm me or an animal: I have become a fool with a soapbox. And if you are reading this blog from one end to the other in a weekend, maybe I become irrational and awkward: because you just went through three years of my life in 24 hours.

I'm a person slowly learning how to do things, how to become a farmer. I make mistakes all the time and thanks to this blog many have been seen and corrected. I welcome the angry, concerned, and dissapointed because they always have a reason to be. I can learn from that reason.

This blog is documenting a person on the way to becoming who she is going to be. I'm not done yet. Like the chicken, my neck's still red too.

Be patient. I'll catch up.

November 27, 2010 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Jenna - you are an inspiration. There is something so deep-down satisfying about making food from scratch. I dug out my long-unused bread pans and made a loaf by hand for the first time in years. There's nothing like the smell of bread baking while I sit at my spinning wheel next to the woodstove after I've fed the goats, sheep and llamas, and tucked the chickens in for the night. And stood looking up at the bright stars over my little log house.

November 27, 2010 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I love it, Jenna, even how you said you feel about the most definitely are a person and not a website, like you said, and people grow and change and learn. That's part of what makes life wonderful.
Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

BTW, I have the same stove, and so does my dad. Do these come standard issue for farmhouses?

November 27, 2010 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Ms. Brenda said...

It sounds like your new farm is really starting to feel like home. I wish I was on your list to get homemade gifts; I'm sure they'll be useful, delicious, and or pretty. I tried crocheting a hat today; still needs some work. I missed the nasty comments, but hope they stop. I'm a vegetarian for 16 years now, but I don't find your posts offensive at all.

November 27, 2010 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger 6512 and growing said...

That is one enormous rooster. Also, I have that same oven. And also, I just checked Made from scratch out of the library!

November 27, 2010 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

This is going to sound stupid...

can you take some photos of the inside of the barn and post them?

Also, it's good to know a self described coffee snobette heats up the morning brew on the wood stove too. : )

November 27, 2010 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

Lovely post. I felt like I could see it all--and it actually made me envy you your weather just a touch, even though when I lived in PA winter was my least favorite thing.

Your photo of the chicken in the pan made me realize we have the exact same stove. Took me a second to figure out why the photo looked so familiar and yet not. :)

November 27, 2010 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Moose Nugget said...

I can not believe the size of that rooster.
I was reading and wondering when you were going to mention why you cooked a turkey!

I've cooked lots of chicken and pork that have been red and pink in strange spots. The soup pot will be good for that.

Incidentally, do you have a pressure canner? We make soup and pressure can leftovers for "instant" dinner- especially when we don't have room left in the freezer.

November 28, 2010 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Aisha said...

Sounds like a lovely weekend, gosh I envy you the ability to truly live and love what your doing, I would love to live on a farm, but for now thats still my dream, while I work this dream i've had since I was a child. Soon and very soon a farm will be in my future even if its only some geese and chickens, thanks so much for the inspiration.
Bright Blessings

November 28, 2010 at 12:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'll try and take some in-barn photos. It's hard because the space is tight and there's little light. But I will do my level best!

November 28, 2010 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

After reading about your day, it seems to me that you are pretty content, living your own life by yourself, on your terms. It's important to be happy on your own, and content with your own company, because when the right someone sees a happy girl, it's attractive. I mean think about it- wouldn't you be more likely to be attracted to a happy man, rather than a morose one?

So I'm glad that you seem to be enjoying yourself and your dogs, and your farm life in general. Happy Christmas Season!

November 28, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger E said...

Your neighborhood seems so full of interesting things.

We could drive for hours and not find half of the things you describe in one trip.

I'm sure you'll make great contributions to the neighborhood.

November 28, 2010 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

E! There's a lot of interesting things, sure, but those stores are between here and Greenfield, Mass. A two hour trip! Which is why I hit them on the way home from Denise's farm

November 28, 2010 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, that is the largest chicken I have ever seen in a roasting pan. You aren't going to need to cook the rest of the week.

Coach Outlet Online welcome you!

November 28, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

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