Wednesday, March 16, 2011

big plans

My morning started with me leaning my arms over a metal stock fence with a cup of coffee looking at sheep vulvas. Not exactly what I expected on my graduation day from my 4-year Graphic Design program, but pleasant enough. It wasn’t easy holding the mug. My right hand had been slammed into the sheep shed wall while administering Selenium shots this weekend. Now a black and blue mark like a large shadow marks the back of my hand. Since this side of the Mississippi lacks natural sources of selenium and haven’t been feeding much mineral in the frozen months, it was an important pre-natal care step. Selenium adds muscle tone and strength to ewes, helps stop prolapses, and fights white muscle disease. It took four of us to inject all five mommas-to-be. Myself, my friends Othniel and Yeshava, and Diane all took turns filling needles, catching and holding sheep, and letting them go one at a time. Liset still feels so frail compared to the others. I worry about her all the time.

I'm often asked by my non-farming friends and family what my plans are for the next few weeks? It’s a conversational segue, a totally benign question, and yet every time I hear it a little flicker of panic shoots up my spine. I have learned that my farm-related answers like lambing! or setting up the brooder for 84 chicks are not what people expect to hear. To them farm events are home-maintenance. It’s like saying I have dusting and laundry lined up for the afternoon. They want to hear about events off the farm. Things like dates, shopping trips, travel, vacations, furniture purchases, movies, parties, anything involving commerce, clothing, and culture. Pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a grain bucket.

My answers usually disappoint. I really don’t go anywhere. I don’t want to. My whole life right now is 6.5 acres, due dates, books, a garden, and this world of chickens and freezer pork. I like to cook and listen to music, play some when the work is done, and when I do leave the farm it’s for things like local friends and neighbors parties and events. We’re almost hitting a full calendar year here in Jackson and the only three nights I didn’t sleep a couple dozen yards away from sheep and chickens were the nights I spent in Pennsylvania with my family over Christmas. So travel is out.

I do buy things, but 85% of it is related to the farm and the other 15% is spent on little whimsical things of my own amusement (i.e. records, antiques, Fireking mugs, expensive coffee shipped from Portland, etc). I have yet to drop a couple hundred bucks on furniture or fashion: mostly because the farm needs fences and field shelters. Clothing is worn till it frays apart, and then I buy second hand online or in thrift stores.

I just got an email from a friend saying her company was sending her to Sweden. I cringed at the idea of being that far from the action at Cold Antler. If someone handed me a plane ticket to Bali for a Yoga/Spa weekend during lambing season I would poach it on Craigslist for a new shed with jugs and creep feeders. I’d buy the winter hay. I’m already in Paradise. I don’t want to be distracted from it.

I forget what it was like to not have all these animals and plans. I really mean that, too. I don’t remember what it was like to have nothing to do but go to work and then come home and feed and walk Jazz. I do remember never sitting still. That dog and I were all over the city of Knoxville, at every Farmer’s Market and Street Fair. We explored constantly, never static. So I’ll start dating (but won’t be blogging about it) and going to things (iron and wine concert in April!) but these things are holidays in a very filled-up life. This first year on the farm: learning the process of lambs and wool mills, markets, ad sales, and working on another book are all dancing along with learning to manage an old farmhouse and all it’s care and feeding.


Blogger MIB said...

I know what you mean. We're on pins and needles, waiting to start our third season of lambing, and I said to my husband last night, "Can you imagine how empty spring would be without lambing?" (As if commuting two hours a day and working full time isn't enough.) And I try to remember what we did before--I know starting seeds seemed like a big project--but it's hard to remember, and to tell the truth, I don't want to go back.

We had a new sheep experience this past weekend, though--our first broken leg. Our poor little ewe Keddington has to wear a splint for the next month, so anyone who's inclined, please send good thoughts her way!

March 16, 2011 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

my sentiments exactly! I especially loved the "cringe at the thought".
I know the feeling exactly. I fret fret and fret...but I LOVE it!!

March 16, 2011 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Being out and about isn't for everybody. My husband and I are homebodies and we like it that way. His sister, on the other hand, is always doing something with the family, and if they aren't doing something, they're planning something, even though they have twenty-six acres and animals to take care of. Way too much extra-curricular activity for me.

I think that it's pretty cool that at your young age, you know what makes you happy and you pursue it. There aren't a lot of people who can say that they followed their dream, you know? But you can.

March 16, 2011 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

"I'm already in Paradise. I don't want to be distracted from it."

I can totally relate to that. Well said Jenna!

March 16, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger mgamroth said...

My husband is on vacation with our son skiiing. I'm at home working and tending to our hobby farm. I've called him several times in the past 24 hrs just to let him know, "Daisy had her lamb!" Very few know how exciting this is.

March 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Same here. I have a three-day business trip next week and have been freaking out about it for two weeks already, and I don't even have any babies due! I've been making my dad, who will be staying here when I'm gone, drive 90 miles each way, twice a week, to practice bringing the horses in. My happiest weekends are ones when I don't go anywhere at all.

March 16, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Cat K said...

If we ever were to meet and I were ever to ask you about your plans, I would hope with all of my heart to hear about lambs and feeding, and shed building and butchering. It's difficult for me to choose a favorite between reading about your farm adventures (in the amazing way that you write) and going to a movie (which I LOVE!).

And thanks for the lambing video yesterday--it was so fascinating and I am so excited for you!

March 16, 2011 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

It's hard for people to understand Barnheart and the extent to which it can infect people. We really are happy lugging 50 pound bags of feed through the store or staying at home on the weekends to take care of the new chicks. People are almost disgusted with me when they find out I have a master's degree in accounting and would much rather farm. I hear too often that I'll never get ahead farming. I don't care about getting ahead. I just want to live within my means and be happy.

March 16, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger City Sister said...

It sounds like an interesting way to start a day. Good luck on the next few days, can't wait to see what comes.

March 16, 2011 at 2:40 PM  
OpenID dogear6 said...

I can take your blog, make a few changes and have it describe my life. What do the husband and I do on the weekends? Explore. Take pictures. No movies, concerts or fancy dinners (unless Cracker Barrel has a special going on - NOT).

How do I spend vacations? Seeing family. When my daughter was little, I went to see my sister. Now that my daughter is grown, I see her. I don't have enough vacation time to do anything else.

And no, it's not as cool as what other people do with their time and energy, but it's my life and I enjoy it.

And if I ever meet you and ask what you're up to on the weekends, I want to hear about the latest happenings on the farm, the latest crisis you solved, and what animal is doing what. If I'm your friend or family, I want you to share your life as it is.

March 16, 2011 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

For whatever it's worth, thank you for writing about your experiences. It's a bit of balm for someone with a bad case of barnheart :)

March 16, 2011 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

I couldn't agree more! A friend asked me to go to the beach for spring break this week and I said "No". I had stuff that I needed and wanted to do around the farm. I like being here, being home. I don't want to travel. And while I can't quite say "Paradise" yet (we're still renting), we're looking for our own place; so hopefully soon.

March 16, 2011 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think your life sounds wonderful! Be proud of who you are!

March 16, 2011 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger jules said...

I understand Paradise completely!

March 16, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Going out is overrated, lol. I'd much rather be at home as well!

March 16, 2011 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Good plan Jenna - dating is not something that needs publicity - when you have something to announce we will be eager to hear but you are wise to draw the curtains. It's your story to tell or not to tll. Sounds like this weekend will be a fun one - lets hope it's a little warmer than it is right now - I need to lug more wood tomorrow if it doesn't rain or snow.
Hope lambing goes well - you are as prepared as you can be - good luck!!
Warm thoughts to you.

March 16, 2011 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Homebodies unite! I could have written your post damn near word for word. I hate being away from my home and my animals. I think about them constantly, and I long for the sound of our streams. They are a lullabye.

Becca, I hear you girl. My parents don't think much of my farming either. I have as much of an education as you, and this is exactly where I fit in and nowhere else. My parents, however, are still waiting for me to get a "real job". ---Sigh---

March 16, 2011 at 6:37 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

I so understand what you are saying. I hope we help make up for the lack of understanding you get from others. We are hanging on your every word and every plan! I wish I had a family member nearby that was doing what you are doing, so I could lend my support in a more tangible way.

And I am happy to hear that you will keep your dating life private. Not that I wouldn't be interested in hearing about it, but I would imagine being blogged about might scare off some otherwise great dating prospects.

March 16, 2011 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

You know where you want to be, and you are there, and that is precious.
Last weekend I caught myself thinking, what can we (boyfriend and I) do, where can we go out? Then I thought of you for some reason, and thought that all this going out stuff is just filler. If I had found my real passion and place like you have, I would want to be there all the time too.

March 16, 2011 at 7:17 PM  
OpenID tinepgh said...

I'm with you- too much to here- vacation makes me a little crazy!

March 16, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Lemmy said...

Oh yes, BIG plans, like weeding onions, patching jeans, and scoopin' chicken poo! Seriously, Jenna, THANK YOU, for sharing your barnheartedness with the rest us. I appreciate it SO much. At the risk of sounding dorky, reading your blog makes my weary suburban soul brim with hope and joy. THANKS!

March 16, 2011 at 7:24 PM  
OpenID clemscritters said...

When I am old and ready to give up the farm, I will send my flerd to live with you if you'll have are a true farmer.

March 16, 2011 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

I agree. It already sounds like paradise. Why would you need to go any farther? ;0)

March 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

Miss Jenna, Janet gives good advice which you already seem to know. Blogging a farm life = good. Blogging a personal life = not so good. It is one thing to get advice for sump pumps but way too confusing for personal things. So good on and have a great weekend.

March 16, 2011 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Lacy said...

dudes you addicted to stumptown??? I have a hook up I can try to get you some on the cheap...I will email. (also I completely understand)...I spent the whole weekend painting my apiary & reading about bees while my friends all got drunk & partied...lame! for them! At least I knew who I woke up to the next day ;) a snorty pug named lola....

March 16, 2011 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Lissa B. said...

My Husband and I used to go out all the time, b.k. (before kids). There was never a movie we hadn't seen, a restaurant we hadn't tried - we loved it all. But that was back when we were dating, both working and had nothing but time to spend with eachother. Now that we're married he works outside the home, I stay home and take care of the kids, the house and the "farm". We don't go out even a 1/4 of what we used to and I'm fine with that. I get stressed trying to take the baby out to eat and get so annoyed at movie theaters when people can't be quiet for the show. I turned into a crabby old lady and I'm only 29! But I think it's just that I like it here at home better. I like that it's totally quiet after the kids are in bed and the hubby and I sit down to watch a movie on the couch. I like that we can have dinner with the ultimate in local cuisine, right from our yard. I like that I don't have to worry about someplace being "stroller accessable" if I stay home. I like that I don't waste time in traveling all over the place and money on gas. I could care less what new movies are out now and that's just fine with me. I'm a happy lass!

March 16, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Lacy. I love, love, love their holler mountain coffee...amazing....

March 16, 2011 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger grinder said...

I have a home video of my now 14-year-old sitting in a little wooden rocking chair when he was about 18 months old (maybe even a little younger). He had pulled the chair up to the screen door and was watching the square of screen as if it were a great show and our street was a quiet one with birds flitting around and squirrels chasing each other. The breeze blowing his baby-fine curles. I believe that moment of peace defines the happiness of being completely content at home and even though we live in the city, we keep our bird feeder full, our compost crankin and eyes open to the natural world stealthly living in our midst. There is no need to vacation if you are in love with your home. Of course, we have a deep pull to nature and end up going north on our vacations which no one we know understands either. Thank you for your writing, Jenna, I find myself amazed at your commitment to write so much after your long days. You sure have recovered from a wild weekend pretty quickly. I suppose that's part of the blessing that the farm brings, no time to cry over yesterday, there are babies about to be born!

March 16, 2011 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 16, 2011 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger said...

Isn't funny, these folks that work SO HARD to get that big fancy McMansion on the overpriced little postage stamp sized lot in the exclusive subdivision and they heat and cool it with no one there all day and stuff it with expensive toys and then... they are hardly ever there?

They have to spend all their time working to afford it! And then they hardly ever get to enjoy it!

Give me a little moby lot and some gardens... or better yet a little run down bit of acreage and let me make it a sweet little haven that I can afford and enjoy and grow old on! Chicken TV is way better than anything on cable!!!!

March 16, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Jenna just remember the old saying "to each his own." What you described sounds perfect for me. Reading your blog is my evening treat after an 9 hour day at the office and 182 miles of commuting. The extra money I'm making though is going for my homestead. I just wished I could have started on it at your age. Instead I had a husband and kids and there was absolutely no extra to put away. I imagine ten years from now when your little farm is thriving and you are more comfortable financially those people that look aghast now when you share your day will look at you with something more akin to envy. Follow your heart because you have to live the rest of your life with yourself and your decisions ultimately. Take care, bruises are just badges of action ;)

March 17, 2011 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Oh, honey, I am so with you. My friends have stopped asking me what I'm doing over the week- they don't really want to hear about planting another row of Jerusalem artichoke or waiting for another doe to kindle or how many chickens we harvested. So we stand alone. Happy, but alone.

March 17, 2011 at 12:49 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Congrats on the graduation!

March 17, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
OpenID said...

Next time you're in town, pick up some Arnica gel. Great for those little (and BIG) bruises along the way. Just don't use it on broken skin because it burns like the dickens!

March 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

ANOTHER BOOK???!!!??? Can't wait!

March 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger LJ said...

I come to your blog to hear about what is happening on your farm. If you wrote about shopping trips and traveling and silly things like that, it would be a painful chore for me to check in and see what you are up to!

I'm young too. I love to stay at home and take care of the things I already own. I want a farm. I have a backyard which is not enough, and I don't care to travel or shop unless it is for gardening or immediate family. I'm excited my best friend is getting married, but I wish I didn't have to leave for 4 days when my garden will be in the most vulnerable stages where drying out could mean loss of baby plants.

You stick to what it is you like to do, girl, and don't make excuses for the awesome life you live. There's more to this world than stories of consumerism, and you have a whole online family here hanging on your every word!

March 18, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Rose Fisk (Craftsteader) said...

Good for you, Jenna! You life is YOUR life and why not be unconventional I too can find a lot better things to get with the cost of a spa vacation to Bali (though my spending may be weaving equipment). It's nice to hear about someone spending their time productively rather than enldess, useless shopping.

March 19, 2011 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger fletchers99 said...

Jenna, What brand of coffee do you order from Portland?

March 21, 2011 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger fawny said...

My husband and I are trying to do a slightly bigger veggie garden then we have done previously and just from seeds rather than purchased transplants. For us this is new and exciting! I work at a bank and I keep showing up to work with pictures on my phone of the seeds germinating and different garden related photos. I think my co-workers think I am mildly nuts every time I interrupt their discussion about Jersey Shores or Forever 21 to show them the pictures but I love sharing a little bit of it with them anyway! While I am not at an sort of farming level close to you, I understand your point exactly. I find it amusing though to see the different faces or reactions though.

March 26, 2011 at 8:54 AM  

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