Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the one thing

Imagine a peaceful white farm house covered with snow. Imagine the smoke swirling from the chimneys, the sheep chewing cud on the hillside, and the sun setting over the mountains in a way that turns the whole world a rich purple and navy blue. Can you see the warm yellow light of the life inside? The glow of a wood stove, and the friendly face of a dog in window? Can you picture the way the snow has covered everything in a fondant of smooth frosting? Perfect as a wedding cake? Pure as a newborn lamb?

Got that scene in your head. Great. Now, imagine a pair of loud, honking, obnoxious geese carrying on in a totally illogical crisscross of paths, leaving giant green turds on your Thomas Kindadian Doorstep. Welcome to Cold Antler Farm: where nothing is perfect as it seems.

That doesn't mean it's not perfect.

Folks write me and tell me how much this place is something they envy, or something they wish they could have. I tell them if I can do it (a single woman on the equivalent of a teacher's salary with iffy credit) then anyone can. It takes some financial juggling, a lot of help from experienced people, research, and determination, but you can certainly get a little land and some chickens if that is what you want from the world. In the greater scheme of things, it's a pretty attainable goal. But I have found far above money, or location, or determination becoming a farmer requires one thing above all.

Love.

I have been told I write far too romantically about my life here at Cold Antler. Well, darling, that's because this is a romance. I am head over heals for this place. I love it. I love it and all its many imperfections, grief, and complexities. I love the beautiful things like a snow-covered farm and I love the messy things too, like those damned geese. I even love the goose shit they paint on my front step, because a life without goose shit would mean a life without geese, which is beyond comprehension at this point. I mean, how do people without geese even know when their mail's here?

And I strongly believe loving this lifestyle—whether that means a goat in your Seattle backyard or 40 acres in Swoope, Virginia—is the the only way to be successful. And by successful I don't mean a thick wallet, I mean a life that makes you happy, surrounds you with good food, and builds community and a sense of place. If you are truly in love with the idea of producing your own food and caring for your own livestock, then it will happen because it simply has too. You won't be able to be content until you do, you'll give up what you have to give up. You'll take the leaps and risks that you need to take, and you'll sweat and work until you can't see straight or feel your hands through the calluses. You'll do it because it sustains you. Because the lack of it will become a cancer.

I still feel it—from the moment I wake up grateful to the moment I fall alseep worrying—I am twitterpated. And as long as I'm in this relationship with sheepdogs and hillsides, chickens and fresh eggs, gardens and corn rows, and hats made from backyard wool: I'm going to let that undercurrent rise up. If you're in this too, then you can only understand. And if you can;t fathom how anyone could love goose shit: then make room for the people who do. They are legion.

35 Comments:

Blogger Justine said...

Maybe the goose poop is your christmas gift and them honking is them caroling... well its a thought. :-) keep on loving the life because we all love to hear about it!

December 15, 2010 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Can I get an Amen? Great post, perfect summation of what makes people like us tick.

December 15, 2010 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Amoya said...

Your life is so different than mine, but what makes yours special is that you love it. What makes mine special is that I love it. I love living on an urban farm and watching chickens run around in the middle of a city. People to often live through others,without appreciating there own life. Live in the moment,appreciate what you have and o what you love.Thanks for your blog its great and I will keep reading:)
http://www.singleparentingvoluntarysimplicty.com/

December 15, 2010 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Jenna, I love how you love your home-keep doing what you are doing and we will all enjoy the journey! How about CAF cards for the holidays? That snow pix in the previous post is beautiful. Karen from CT

December 15, 2010 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I have been following your blog for months and never commented, but I feel like I know you by the way you write and by the way you feel about your farm. My husband and I finally surrendered to our barnhearts and purchased and moved to our own farm in May of this year. Like you, we have had many adventures and wonderful successes, and we would not have our lives be any other way. The only question that ever arises is "Why didn't we do this sooner?" I love that your blog posts are like little love letters to the life that you lead and the farm that you love, and I am grateful you have the gift of artfully expressing what many Barnheart folks feel! I think your blog entries would make a wonderful book -- Have you ever thought about doing that? All my Best, Teresa from Oak Tree Farm

December 15, 2010 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I would love to print the blog, as a book. Just gotta see if my publisher would like that. I think the argument they have is, why would you buy a book you could read online for free?

December 15, 2010 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Online for free may be so -- but a book would reach a broader audience -- and the movement toward local, sustainable agriculture and livestock and organic practices is growing by leaps and bounds. And, even though I can read your blog, I would be first in line to buy it in book form. Books are precious things, and I am not among those who see the destiny of books as a dying medium. I believe you have something important to offer the public here - a message about farm life that transcends the "caricature" notions of farming that become entrenched by people's distance from rural living and traditions. So, if you need me to send my vote to your publisher, just let me know. Teresa

December 15, 2010 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Sense of Home said...

Well spoken!

-Brenda

December 15, 2010 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying the wood stove so much. There's nothing like the pets laying in front of the stove on a stormy night to assure you all is well.

Oh, and Tommy Kinkade is from my home town of Placerville, CA. Please don't hold that against the rest of the GREAT folks that live here in the foothills. Want some Kinkade plate art for the farm?

Double Oh- I think I love your geese photos the most ; )\

Tripple Oh- The reason I'd buy a book from your blog is you can edit and organize it by topic and events rather than date and I WOULD GIVE THEM AS GIFTS.

December 15, 2010 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

I read The Town That Food Saved and loved it. I'm now reading Deeply Rooted by Lisa M. Hamilton. She speaks a lot about what you write tonight.

December 15, 2010 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I would so love a book too but I also want to come here every day and read more. It's become a habit now. One of my guilty pleasures. Even though I do alot of the same things Jenna does it's always nice to read about others doing this.

Finsandfeathers, we lived in Placerville til I was 8. My sister was born there. I was born in Trona, Ca. I had no idea T. Kincade was from there also.

Jenna sure does paint a beautiful picture with her words. And it's looked like that here in N. Ga. for the past week. I am ready for summer!

December 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Aubrey said...

Beautiful post. The blog as a book sounds great. The books Twitterature and Sh*t My Dad Says started as twitter feeds, and Stuff White People Like started as a blog - it could happen ... In any format, thanks for creating such a wonderful place for all of us to visit.

December 15, 2010 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger CallieK said...

Hey if that whiney girl from Julie and Julia can get her blog published (and have a movie made about her) yours should be a shoe in!

speaking of books I asked at my fave seed/plant/local goods store if they would consider stocking your books. If you get a message from Colette at Urban Harvest in Toronto I hope you can work something out- you'd love her store!

December 15, 2010 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Mama said...

I love it. We have chicken poop all over our back deck and yard. But we love our chickens and love our fresh eggs. Can't imagine a life without them. Now if only I could have a cow within city limits...

Merry Christmas Jenna!

December 15, 2010 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hey Jenna I really enjoy the way you write you have passion for the life you live, and you are so generous to share it with us.
if someone does not like the way you write they do not have to read it, is that not correct? may they need some goose crap on there door step..

December 16, 2010 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

At this point in the season with all the rain we have been having, I am knee deep in a slurry of goat and chicken poop and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love this life and couldn't imagine myself without it. It has given me a sense of purpose beyond any 9-5 job I have ever held. Though I follow many farming/homesteading blogs, I find myself checking in with you more than any of them and I'm pretty sure it's because of the schmaltz. Keep it up. As reader and writer, we have a relationship and what's a relationship without a little romance?

December 16, 2010 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Not long ago, you wrote a post asking people when you would feel that this place was home. It's home, Jenna. It's home.

December 16, 2010 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Here's to goose shit and dog hair! Here's to life like we want to live it! ... cha ching Jenna!

December 16, 2010 at 1:29 AM  
Blogger ward said...

As this somewhat risk averse "digger" begins to take the plunge myself, I find inspiration in your prose. I have enough chickens and have spent enough days; Augusts and Januarys in the beds to know it isn't all that "romantic." I've stepped in enough chicken shit, been awaken by guineas in the morning enough times to know that they are but minor irritants to the life we are building.

Thoreau was a Romantic and Helen and Scott Nearing, in their own way, painted a "Kinkade;" a radical and clear sighted "Kinkade" of "The Good Life." After reading each I was driven down this path. And isn’t the image of a calling “romantic?”

Those of us on this path; we are building that good life. We are a mass, a congregation, a quiet, revolutionary movement just under the surface - and we are growing. Your words Jenna, propel many of us onward. And words matter.

Peace.

December 16, 2010 at 5:03 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

I so get you...

December 16, 2010 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Another "Amen" from the peanut gallery.

I think a blog book is a good idea. When I first started reading the blog, I didn't want to stop reading until I had read everything. If I had a book, it would have gone with me everywhere. It was the book that drew me into the blog, because I wanted to see what happened next. It is like having your favorite book never end. I love it!

December 16, 2010 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

"...how do people without geese even know when their mail's here?" Made me laugh!

Here's another vote for a book. The difference from the blog is convenience. If you edit it down to tighten up the story, focusing on these heartfelt paens to living with your food, and sprinkling it with carefully chosen entries focusing on, say, Gibson and his flock, you've written a novel.

And the only way anyone could read it otherwise is by going back through YEARS of blog posts. Very few people will do that, but they will read it in book form.

Like you need another project. :)

December 16, 2010 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Perhaps you could use your love for this life to help others in need. Farm Aid, and other farm charities serve a critical need for farmers, when through no fault of their own, find themselves needing a hand up. Why not put up a donation button on your website, to a good farm charity of your choice? Many are no so fortunate as you and your website could be a wonderful way to help others who need help.

December 16, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Amen, sister! It's funny how some of us feel the need to explain to others that, yes, we enjoy hugging chickens and getting slobbery kisses from goats and horses. I get enormous satisfaction from getting digustingly dirty caring for my farm. Nothing feels more pure or real to me. Thanks for such a great blog - love it!

December 16, 2010 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

What a beautiful way to summarize your life and the joy you get from it.

December 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

"Because the lack of it will become a cancer." Thank you Jenna. You put my heart into words.

December 16, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
OpenID littlerockyridgebarn said...

I am beginning to love my life. For a long while I was convinced I had it bad, and I was a nothing in the world. Just recently (when I started my bloggity bloggers) I realized that I have got it pretty good. I have two goats outside that look at me and go "maaaaaaam" (they might not me mom, but it's nice to think so) and a cuddly rabbit that likes to be petted every day.
PS: The reason my dad said I couldn't have geese was because of the poop!

-Autumn

December 16, 2010 at 10:32 AM  
OpenID myyearoffood said...

cheers to doing what you love!

December 16, 2010 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger wildflowermoose said...

Love the way you write. You write as you see life and that's how it should be. It comes across so honest.

December 16, 2010 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Jen Chandler said...

Marvelous post. My husband and I are still in the dreaming stages of the "life well lived". Thank you for the encouragement and the hope that you give here. And this post is wonderful. Even the goose crap ;)

Happy Christmas,
Jen

December 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger jules said...

"...how do people without geese even know when their mail's here?"

I love this!

December 16, 2010 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger lauriefron said...

How crazy - my sister lives near (and used to live in) Swoope, VA! I think your romantic approach is nice and optomistic - I like it. Helps more people appreciate the little things!!

December 16, 2010 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger miss lady*cakes said...

Jenna,
I own Made From Scratch, and refer to it constantly. You see, I am in the midst of wrapping up a very tumultous year, where the result of the requisite soul-searching was a deep fervor for voluntary simplicity.
The 'change'/'switch-over' happens January 1st, appropriately. The meantime between finals and said marked date is all prep-mode and mindfulness of what your book describes as 'one step at a time'.

This post was EXACTLY what I needed to hear, at the EXACT right time.
I'm ready.

A thousand thank yous.

'Tis the season.
Kendra

December 16, 2010 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Stella said...

I like goose shit;-) It's never really done anything wrong to me...(smile).
Nice writing!

December 20, 2010 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Oh, I love your post. I feel the same way, I could have written it myself----right down to the goose shit.

We are a small farm as well. New and just blooming. I love this life and would never trade it for anything in the world. I have never known peace like this before.

Congratuations on all you are setting out to do. You've got a sister down here in the Hudson Valley, and she's cheering you on.

December 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

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