Wednesday, June 22, 2011

a community of wet

I left work in a hurry. It was pouring rain, the steady kind that had no plans of letting up. I drove home, Gibson standing at shotgun, and did my best not to speed. A big red truck in front of us was so impatient it sped up in a roar and passed two cars ahead of him in an angry jaunt that made me nervous. He was passing them on a sharp turn he could not see around in fair weather, much less a downpour. I looked over at Gibson, who was amazed at the noise and splashing ahead of us. "Someone better be dying or being born in that truck...." was all I said. Gibson lost interest as it pissed ahead.

I got home and pulled into the driveway, greeted by my two mallards. They were splashing in the big pool puddle they love so much. A place I suppose many trucks parked over the years. I honked the horn and they waddle-bitched away.

Wanting to get my hands dirty, feel sweaty, and be of physical use after a day of sitting at a computer—I went inside for my boots. I was wearing Chacos, my three-season footwear of choice, but I learned a few years ago that rain chores in Chacos just left you feeling the definition of squalor. Inside were wool socks and Muck boots. First good decision of the day.

I walked the dogs, fed them their kibble, and headed back outside to do the rounds. The rain kept slamming, but in a windless, empty way that didn't make you move any faster than usual. So I fed the wet pony, dumped more feed into the chickens' big feeder, and refilled all the rabbits' water and pellet holsters. I checked on my first doe's litter, the kits were about ready to be weaned. All seven were plump and happy, looking wonderful. I had some brand new WARE metal cages to move them into a pair at a time, and would allow them to range on grass soon as I figured out a movable contraption. Here, it is the best way to raise meat rabbits, on grass. I'd figure the logistics later.

I turned around in the barn to check on the Pumpkin broody hen in the wooden baskets. She was sitting differently, hovering? Chicks....Has to be chicks. I thought to myself and lifted her up as she snapped at me. Under her were two just-born babes, still damp from the egg. One light and one dark. The fact I was finding them after a day in an air-conditioned, sterile, office was not lost on me. Balance is everywhere if you take the trouble to notice it.

Chicks under wing of their mother, it was time to feed the stars of Cold Antler Farm. The sheep would get a bale, of course, but I wanted to walk it up the hill and feed them in the shelter of their shed, which is now falling apart in ways I can not repair. I think I will have to build a new one, or get an expert on hand. But for now, it stands strong and I hoisted that bale up over a shoulder and carried it to the flock. Using my own technique of removing twine without cutting any, I freed the hay and scattered it in civil piles. The front wall fell down, the particle board rotted off the nails, my double coat of paint was useless. It was covered in mud and sheep scat, but I lifted it up and set it against the back wall anyway. The chompers didn't even crane their heads to watch me vallet their new three-sided shelter.

I was soaked, but smiling. My hands covered in mud, hay shreds, sheep poo and dirt. I had accomplished my sweaty goal, and took a minute to look outside the barn door at the rainy place I was not only living in, but a member of. We were the community of wet. I was happy. I had waited all day for this.

I thought of coworkers coming home from the office and making that silly sprint indoors to avoid the rain. Rain was an inconvenience, something that ruins plans and makes for bad hair. I was thrilled the already over-grazed pasture was getting some water. I needed the grass to not turn to dirt for just a few more weeks till I could buy the supplies and start pounding fence posts. I thought about this as I wiped the sheep crap on the pants that not an hour ago rested on an ergonomic desk chair. I was more than embracing nature. I was practically compost.

Going through this list of repairs, witnessing births, planning deaths, and building fences in my head: I thought about a few recent conversations me and my friend, Jon, had been having. We've been talking about who we were, and how we're perceived. Jon thinks that above all, I am a writer. That if the farm was gone, I would still write, always write. I insist I am a farmer, and that if given the task to write forever and never raise food again, I would shrivel up into a miserable snakeskin in the fetal position. "Farmer" regardless of your stipulations or definitions of the term: was who I needed to be, who I already was. My happiness is tied to self-reliance, growing food, and raising animals best I can. But how I sing about it, is writing, and he's got me pegged there. If thrown into a jail cell I would write about that.

He's right. I am a writer. I'm right, too. I'm also a farmer. In that cell I'd also be hoarding food scraps to make compost, drying tomato seeds on the windowsill, and making pots out of plastic cups. I'm both, and will remain both long as I have any say in the matter. And I say that with a big ol' swollen heart, barely kept inside if it wasn't for the fiddle strings, baling twine and crow feathers keeping it politely behind my ribs.


Blogger City Girl said...

I love the rain. Especially when I am working outside in the garden and it begins to rain, and I barely notice it as I continue digging or weeding or picking. A light rain doesn't bother me; rather it makes me feel like part of nature.

June 22, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Pretty awesome...thanks for the video, she looks like a good mamma.

June 22, 2011 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger PMcNemar said...

An absolutely beautiful entry. I definitely agree with Jon. You are a writer. You write so beautifully! I can also tell that you are most certainly a farmer. It sounds like you had a wonderful day.

June 22, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

I just came in from feeding horses and chickens, but stood outside with my dogs for a few extra minutes in the downpour, and marveled at the perfect silhouette of the huge old elm tree in the fading dusk. Light like that isn't possible without the rain to suffuse the glow.

June 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I'm betting you'll be so enamored with the hen raising chicks that you won't brood anymore yourself. When you watch the hen closely and see how she teaches her chicks how to forage and how to avoid being vulnerable and all the other chicken stuff, you'll wonder how brooded chicks ever figure life out. I just love watching my girls with chicks.

June 22, 2011 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

Jenna! That last line is a poem in the making! Your big ol' heart indeed! I'll be hoping that earth stays soft until you can put your fence posts in!

June 22, 2011 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What are pumpkin hens? Never heard of them.

June 22, 2011 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Darce, that was beautiful!


thank you all for the kind words! Lots of heritage-hybrids here. Half Silver fox rabbits, half pumpkin husley chicks!

June 22, 2011 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Not to toot my own horn too much, a fairly decent (and almost correct) article about my rabbitry was in my local paper recently. I am offering you the link so that you can see the photo of my rabbit tractors - 2'x3'x4', 1x2" wire on top and sides; 2x4" wire on the bottom. So far, really good!

June 22, 2011 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Sounds like this couple is trying say the same thing you are.

Scroll down to their video

June 22, 2011 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

"I was practically compost." Vivid picture, and it made me chuckle.

June 22, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Michelle, awesome!

CJ, I will check it out

June 22, 2011 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Campbell Kids said...

An honest and pretty piece of prose. Thank you for sharing, Jenna.

June 22, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig said...

I love the visual of making compost and planting tomatoes in your jail cell. I hadn't ever thought of that...let's just hope the justice system feeds the inmates heirlooms!

I'm enjoying reading about your very long days...I don't know how you do it all. :)

June 23, 2011 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Can you break up your pastures more and keep the sheep out of certain areas so they can grow? If you are haying, you know they are getting decent nutrition.... Had to move my sheep due to the amount of grass they chowed down on too.

June 23, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 23, 2011 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Drummond Farms Alpacas and Woolens said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 23, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger jim said...

not sure what the above post on boycotting women has to do with CAF. I really don't care what this guy's opinion on anything is. My grandchildren age 13 follow Jenna's CaF blog so it's good that it is a basically a great blog with little profanity telling them about a young adult that is building a great future with admirable traits that they can relate and look up to.

June 23, 2011 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

And God smiled.

June 23, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Don't worry about the troll, Jim. I'm sure Jenna doesn't feed trolls, so we won't, either. It's just some sad, maladjusted, bitter person who wants a forum to rant ~

June 23, 2011 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sorry Drummond Farms, I deleted your post by accident when I was deleting that crazy anti-woman comment.

By Drummond Alpacas:
Last week it was time to turn the compost pile and as I started to work it started to sprinkle. Well, the sprinkle turned into a downpour. The nature of the the day was one of an endless amount to be done before dinner, so I kept on forking over the pile. The rain was a wonderful addition and not a "stopper" for me. After six months of Winter it felt cold, refreshing, and so fun to come into the house soaked and have three youngest kids say, "Wow, what happened to you?". My answer, I was just outside working and boy did it ever feel good. Yes, I had alpaca manure on my pants, arms and I started the day in a wonderful way for which I am so thankful and blessed by God. Thank you for your lovely post, you are such a beautiful writer and we are blessed because of you Jenna.

June 23, 2011 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

I just got back from my 2 1/2 mile walk and it started raining about a mile from home. I purely loved it. Being outside in the rain reminds me of my childhood when Mom would let my brother and me run around in the warm rain, sit down in puddles and get so wet we'd have to practically drag our wet bodies and clothes into the house. Rain has always been my friend. Rain made me happy as a child, happy whenever it rained the week my husband and I got married, rained when my first and second children were born. Rain is a renewal of life for me.

How utterly beautiful that your sweet hen's first biddies were hatched when it was raining. I like that she's a good moma and that you're going to let her raise these young'uns.

Yep, you're a writer and a farmer. My kind of friend.

Diane in North Carolina

June 23, 2011 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Drummond Farms Alpacas and Woolens said...

No worries, Jenna. Thanks for reposting my comments, I wish I had to gift that you have and was able to paint pictures with my words. Blessings to everyone.

June 23, 2011 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Building A Better Life said...

Hey Jenna,

I love the rain, it makes everything smell good! I don't mind being out in it either. :)

I just wanted to say that we (my son and I) picked up your book "Made From Scratch" about a year and a half ago. While I have always intended to farm, it really inspired him. He's 11. Occasionally I still read it to him while he's falling asleep.

And now we have 5 acres - paid for - in MO! But no house. So we'll be building (because I don't want a mortgage we're doing it ourselves using alternative methods) and farming and target practicing all at the same time. I can't wait!!


June 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

I agree with Jon, your gift is your writing. You are very fortunate to have found it and be able to cultivate it ;)! Hey, now THAT'S a good one!

June 23, 2011 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Michelle, I've read the newspaper article and would like to know more about how you make outdoor hutches work in the winter. I couldn't access your website. I'm guessing there are others who would like to know more about your methods.

June 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awww! I love babies! All of my kids enjoy watching your videos with me ;)

June 23, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger vcassie88 said...

Gotta love a little rain. Here in Hawaii it rains a lot when the sun is shining and creates what we call pineapple showers, just a light mist with the sun shining through, oh and lots of rainbows. The thing I don't like about the rain is the mud, it just sticks everywhere.

June 23, 2011 at 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your repost of the Ben Hewitt piece on "Faking It - What Is A Farmer" is perfect here. What is a farmer depends on what you define farming as.

Was my great-uncle a farmer? My great-aunt worked to pay his feed bills. He never modernized, prefering to use his draft horses and indifferent to how much money he made. But he did it full-time. Her paycheck was what put the roof over their head though.

Jon Katz is definitely a writer first and he says as much in his blog. He is also tremendously prolific.

I think you are a farmer, writer, and graphic (web) designer. All three are a piece of you.

You are a prolific graphic designer. You kept your job when the economy turned down. Clearly you don't just show up for work and take up space.

As a writer and farmer, you are very competent, but not as prolific simply due to lack of time. You use your time differently than he does and you have different goals. It's not right or wrong, it is a matter of choices.


June 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger kylieps said...

Once again, beautifully said. Often I will sit down to read your blog and realize you have said what's in my heart.

July 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

whenever you timepiece the hen closely and see how she teaches her chicks ways to forage and ways to stay away from becoming vulnerable and all of the other chicken stuff,
What can we do when we have many boring free time? How about try to get access to the online games? When we talk about the game, we need to talk about the WOW Gold. As the WOW is the world's most famous online game,all of us knows that we have to get the Cheap RS Gold to save money !

December 13, 2011 at 1:14 AM  

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