Thursday, June 16, 2011

dispatch from bedlam farm

Jon Katz, nearby Washington County author and dog man, wrote this about me and the farm last night. It's a friendship I hope will continue to grow. There aren't a lot of shepherding, blogging, authors around here.... I read this and I was touched.

He says I need to slow down, and I agree. I can't wait to slow down. But right now to get where I need to be I have to push a full canter. I'll trot and walk when I can see that pretty goal not far from my saddle.

The following is from
. The photo of the pony is his as well.

"Stay Tuned” for a life affirmed. Cold Antler Farm, Jackson, N.Y.

Jenna Woginrich and I share the realization that in this country, you just have to be crazy to go and buy the farm.

I almost cried when I watched Jenna Woginrich’s beautiful little video of her year struggling to make a go of Cold Antler Farm and I would highly recommend it for many reasons. For people who dream of a farm. For people who struggle to live on one. For people struggling to live their lives and fulfill their dreams in a country driven mad by greed, fear, insecurity whose political system seems spent, whose spiritual life is drained, and whose national ideology is now protecting Corporate Profiteering.

I didn’t cry for the country, or even for Jenna, who will, I am sure, succeed in her dream – she has the strength, drive, creativity and craziness to do it – but also for me, because talking to Jenna the other night (she is a fellow obsessive and came over for dinner and to obsess on sheepherding with her rocket-dog Gibson) reminded me so much of my first years on Bedlam Farm that I almost couldn’t bear it. I too was alone, knocked on my butt by a brutal winter, broke, overwhelmed by a surplus of energy and a lack of common sense or sanity, and an appetite for chaos and drama that left with with a divorce and a world-class nervous breakdown. I can’t imagine how or why I survived.

I am surely not saying this will happen to Jenna who seems to have a near genius for doing way too many things well at the same time. That can lead to big trouble. Jenna’s experience – and her endless rushing around to more things than even she can remember – hit so close to home that I avoided her for a couple of years, I’m embarrassed to say. Everything I heard about her made me very nervous.

When she talks about her tough years, I just shiver. I mean, you just have to be crazy to do this. We both laughed at the idea that we have found Perfect Lives. People always say that about me, also, but I don’t see too many people bonkers enough to do it.

I’m glad Jenna and I got to talk. When she left, Maria and I both turned to each other and wished aloud that Jenna slow down soon. She is a treat to know, even though she makes me feel glad I am not young anymore. I am so glad we connected. She is smart, funny, and a really fine writer. She will make it. We share another trait: we are ferociously determined. I told her that I know there are many writers much more talented than I am, but not too many that are as willful. It matters.

Jenna has a crackling, popular blog – I heard about it all over the country on my book tour – and this she put up a beautiful video of her tough year at Cold Antler farm in Jackson, N.Y. handling sheep and a full-time day job and chickens and a dog and pony and being nearly done in by a brutal winter. She is a homesteader and a fierce advocate for the life of the individual. This is something that bonds Maria and I together. We both know that it is a hard path.

Jenna writes about a lot of things for a lot of places, has a genius for inspiring people and pissing them off (bless her) and has already cranked out two books (a third is on the way) about her life on Cold Antler Farm. So many people seem nearly dead in their lives. Jenna is alive.

Her blog will touch a familiar chord for those of you who have suffered me for more than a few years. Give me the shivers, gives me the chills. We are very different, we are very much alike. We have both brushed against that dark place that Joseph Campbell writes about, when people set on on their Hero’s Journey and head off into the wilderness and defy almost every conventional expectation about life in America. She probably won’t have any money in her retirement fund either. It’s a good thing. Looming disaster encourages productivity.

Good for you, Jenna. At 28, you are just getting cranked up, and you will learn to slow down and focus or you will not. I think you will. I will surely be nagging you, rooting for you, and giving a shout out to you for living your life, standing down some nasty fears, working brutally hard, following the great American tradition of Thoreau by showing that individuals can still live in America outside of the Corporate Gulag, and shining your light for everyone who hopes to live out their dreams in a world sometimes shrouded in fear and confusion.

Check out her video. You won’t regret it.


OpenID dogear6 said...

Thanks for posting this. It's wonderful to see his perspective on what you're doing as well as his encouragements and cautions for you.


June 16, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

See Jenna, there are a lot of people cheering you on and appreciating all your hard work. I'm glad you found a like minded person so close to home that you can turn to for help or just some reassurance. I have watched the video several times and I must say, it gave me such a warm feeling each time that I plan to share it with my coworkers today!

June 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

What a great essay, I LOVE it and relate to it completely - Looming disaster encourages productivity - PERFECT!

June 16, 2011 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

I think it's a good thing to have a like-minded advocate so close. A very good thing.

June 16, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna- he says it better then we could and since it's written by someone thats been there and done that, everyone will pay attention.
We think your blog and books are great. Do you even realize how many friends that you have out there all over the world that check on you everyday. When you laugh, we laugh and when you are down, we are down. Thanks for keeping us in your family.

June 16, 2011 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

What an honour to you. You deserve the praise and admiration. And as others have commented, you have a following that is cheering you on every day - I'm included in that group.

June 16, 2011 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Notes from Teresa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 16, 2011 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Way to go Jenna.

June 16, 2011 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Wow! What a great friend you have! But like other people have posted, we are here for you too! Thank you for including us on your journey. I don't know if you really have any idea what you have done for other people...I had my first dulcimer lesson last night and all because of you! Thank you Jenna!

June 16, 2011 at 12:12 PM  
OpenID embo830 said...

Katz is an author not a farmer. He lives on that farm here and there and claims to be a farmer, someone who knows the land, but a farmer does not have time for blogs or writing books. Farming, animals consumer all time. Eating local is an honorable thing and you should be proud of that. The many farms in Washington County have so much to offer. Local cheese makers, lamb, poultry, local milk is sold to drink. An Alfresco dinner is held in July every summer at the Salem, NY courthouse with 100 percent five course local food. The local farmers can't look at Katz and give him props as he tries to pass himself off as something he is not. He writes about dogs and his knowledge only goes so far. He may have a few sheep but that is not a farm, and truly using the dogs for farm work on a LARGE farm has so much more to it. Look at local goat/ sheep farms in Washington county and you will see some amazing use of sheep dogs, farming, local products etc.

June 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

embo930: Does that mean I'm also not a farmer? Because I write books and blog about it?

June 16, 2011 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Also, Joel Salatin, Wendell Berry, and Gene Logsdon are authors.

I think saying "if someone does this, then they can't be validated doing that" is not fair, and certainly not true.

But to your point about working dogs on big farms, you are damn right! What a thing to see, and I hope to visit many of them, and support them!!

June 16, 2011 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Awesome for you, Jenna! What does he mean, he "almost" cried?? Whatsa matta with him!? ;)

Love his description of Gibson as a "rocket-dog!" Going off at top speed, in every direction, maybe? Perhaps you two are a better pair than you realized, hmmm?? :D

June 16, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Jenna, read this on Jon's blog last night and thought it was wonderful. . . . such support! I'm so happy that you, Jon and Maria have found each other. We all support you in your efforts.

June 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

What a lovely homage.

June 16, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

From one ambitious chick with big dreams to another: good luck and be well! Keep on keepin' on, Jenna!

June 16, 2011 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna- i would assume that you have not read the jon Katz book about euthanizing his supposidly best friend border collie or you might decide that this is a friendship you don't need,-check out the reviews of the book on

June 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Shockley said...

I watched it also-Its awesome where did you find my bike?

June 16, 2011 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Jamie Elfrank said...

Wow Jenna, this is wonderful! What a great friend you have found :)

June 16, 2011 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

Two words:

Kick ON!

June 16, 2011 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger Lana said...

Katz is a major fraud in the Border Collie community. What he said about you was lovely, but i would be careful to admire anything the man says or "knows" about working Border Collies.

Lana Rowley

June 16, 2011 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

First thought when I saw the picture was - I guess she won't need that brand new Dutch door for Jasper. Wrong farm I'm guessing.

June 16, 2011 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Now what a lovely hats off to you that is! Here's to all the crazy Barnhearters out there!

June 16, 2011 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Hell, why slow down while you've got the energy to go. Life will slow you down soon enough. Live full tilt while you can.

June 16, 2011 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

CJ! I laughed right at my screen!

That's not my farm or horse!

June 16, 2011 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Wow, what a wonderful post about you and I think right on the money. I too wish you would slow down some. You are young, give it time.

Oh, and I like the comment about Gibson being a rocket dog.

June 17, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger redbird said...

Good stuff by Jon. What I think I like about what you have going is that you seem to be a person who follows your soul's inclinations. Its a wonderful thing when one realizes that nobody else knows what's best-Keep at it!

June 18, 2011 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

What a wonderful piece about you and CAF. You must feel so honored, and rightly so. Be sure to take his advice about slowing down to heart. You make all of us mother hens worry about you. ;)

June 20, 2011 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger bree said...

I read Jon Katz daily and have all of his books. Jon is first and foremost a writer; that's why he's so good at it. I don't ever recall Jon say anywhere that he is a farmer. In fact he says the obvious; that he is NOT a farmer. There are certainly a lot of Jon Katz haters out there. To me that says that he is doing something right. He is being honest and leading an authentic life. As far as his putting down his border collie Devon aka Orson, it was his decission and one that made sense to me. I was recently bitten by a family member's large dog. The dog has bitten several people and will bite again. The dog should be put down but the owners are unable to make this tough and right decision. In the meantime they put everyone who comes into contact with their dog in danger. I thank Jon for making me aware of another great blogger/writer, Jenna at Cold Antler Farm.

June 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM  

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