Saturday, July 23, 2011

exercises in resourcefulness

Mowing the lawn at 7AM on a Friday morning was a new experience. It's nothing special—possibly one of the most mundane summer tasks there is—but to do it instead of going to the office felt scandalous. It was like I was playing hooky. By the time it was done (and the rest of the farm fed and watered) I was soaked in sweat. This heat wave has been hovering over Veryork and it's playing Varsity. I have not been running in a few days, and instead, consider existing my workout in this heat.

The insurance guy came and denied my roof claim. He said it was shoddy construction, and not the weather, that caused the warping. But it seems there are some handymen at Orvis who can help. And while they refused payment, I don't think they should be surprised if a power washer shows up at their house...

Cathy Daughton and her boys Seth, Ian, and Holden came over for lunch. They brought BLTs, a bag of chips, watermelon, and a pitcher of lemonade. We sat in the house and munched and after a bit headed down 313 to jump in the river.

The river was fantastic. In this heat the Battenkill became a colorful shanty town of tubes, rafts, boats, and floating coolers. It seemed like everyone who had the ability to be on the water was, and as we ducked and swam in the 'Kill, people floated by on tractor-tire tubes and Huck Finn styled rafts pushed by long sticks. A lot of Bud Light saw it's last moments that day. It was a parade of whimsical refreshment. I could not believe it was free.

I haven't been swimming in years. I don't even have a suit anymore, but I did have a nylon/lycra tank top and some non-cotton hiking shorts and it worked just fine. The river had areas you could sit or stand in, and the water was so clear I could see down to my toes even at 4-feet deep.

Something about that river changed everything. It was still 95 degrees in the shade, but after we had been spying on crawdads a few minutes the outside air became wonderful. At 5PM when we got back to the farm for a cookout (very fancy meal of hot dogs and mac-n-cheese) and fishing in the pond. Tim joined his family, and brought along some serious spin tackle, and the boys caught some nice bass on rubber-worm rigs. Watching them reel them in was better than a movie house.

We ate under the big maple tree, and Tim and Cathy talked to me about their plans for their land, Firecracker Farm. Feeling blessed and inspired, they will be producing a lot of food on their five acres, and this fall, planting a cover crop of rye, slaughtering a steer, getting pigs, and harvesting from their gardens and laying hen's eggs...Not a bad start. Plans for raising meat birds, turkey, and rabbits are swimming in their souls. I can not wait to see what they create. It will be nothing short of wonderful.

The day wasn't all sunshine and ponies though. The blow from the insurance guy was making the whole Staying-home-on-Fridays' gig a little touchy. And the carpenter I am hiring to rebuild the sheep shed requires half the sum to get started. I have enough saved to get through all this, but it will mean figuring out a new book deal or some sort of cushion to get through winter. I read somewhere that choosing to become a writer is a lifelong exercise in resourcefulness.

The vet came late in the afternoon to check on Lisette and her lamb. She handed me some Corrid and instructions, and was pleased with Jasper, which made me proud as hell. When Jasper arrived he was ratty, shedding, and meek. Now he's a galloping soul, strong and kind. He is good (well, not violent) with the sheep and lets me put that stupid harness on him. I feel lucky to have him. Just looking out the kitchen window and seeing him there makes me think I landed in some other time and place. But it's just here, a little backyard I am calling a farm out of stubbornness and direct intentions. I don't think farms are built any other way...

32 Comments:

Blogger doglady said...

The "Kill" sounds wonderful. When I was growing up we always went to a very large, deep, cold pool in the White Creek stream in North Hoosick. After spending the afternoon in that pool it took until bedtime to feel the heat again.

July 23, 2011 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

Sounds like the universe balanced out for you. :) The "Kill" imagery reminds me of the Tennessee mountain streams. We're an ag culture around here, so the rivers are muddy with field run-off.

Longing for some clear mountain streams in my life -- a place of perfection. Seems you've found yours. :)

July 23, 2011 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Alicia said...

I concur with doglady: The "Kill" sounds wonderful. During my college years at Johnson State College, in Vermont, my roommates and I made use of a refreshing large, deep, cool stream just down the road from the apartment.

July 23, 2011 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

I'm concerned that your carpenter wants half his money up front. Maybe that's standard practice where you are and nothing to worry about, but down here in Kentucky I've never had to pay anything until the work was done, even on a roofing and guttering job. My parents-in-law did pay a workman half his fee partway through a job and then didn't see him for a while. If the money he wants is for materials, I can almost understand that, but I would want to pay the supplier directly to be sure the money is going where you're told. Supplies can be expensive, but reputable workmen should be able to get credi,t if they need it, from the suppliers until the job is done.

I may be hyper vigilant (I don't even pay myself at my contract jobs until I've done all the work for the month) and you may already have checked this out, but I couldn't not say anything just in case. You've had so many hurdles already. You deserve honest workers on your hopeful farm.

July 23, 2011 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

Your jump in the river sounds like just what you needed. It reminded me of my childhood when my mom and her three sisters would take me, my brother and cousins back in the hills of Wilkes County, NC to swim in the creek. Every now and then a water snake would swim by, but we learned to avoid him as much as he avoided us. No child should grow up without the experience of swiming in a river, creek or pond. I take my grandkids "creek stomping" and they love it. I'm sorry for people who don't get to experience country life either by living there or having friends or relatives to visit. It sounds like you have the finest kind of neighbors and friends.

I'm sorry the roof is a $$ drain. It's a shame the almighty dollar has to get in the way sometimes. Makes you wish the barter system was still strong, like years ago.

Diane in North Carolina

July 23, 2011 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

The carpenter is a friend, he needs the cash to take the wood from his farm to the mill and get the other supplies. He's charging me 1/3 less than other folks around here for a 10x12 run-in shed. So I am happy to give him the money to get started! I need it before October!

July 23, 2011 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I hate to ask since you didn't offer the info up for free, but did the vet check Sal? I know you had posted that you were worried about his limp....

July 23, 2011 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Ann, in upstate NY and New England, it is common practice for small contractors to ask for 1/2 the money up front to purchase materials. Our population base is so small that everyone knows someone who knows the contractor so anyone who absconded with the money would never get another job. In some places, there could be other forms of retribution too.

July 23, 2011 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

We talked about Sal, and she agreed that something when systemic since his limping nearly stops after the Pro Pen is injected. I think he will be okay!

July 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger CJ said...

Are you a farmer or aren't you? Tell the carpenter building the sheep said you've changed your mind and build the damn thing yourself. Use your Friday's to work on it and consider the money saved your pay. Your publisher has plenty of books on building sheds.

With all you've done since I started reading, you can certainly build a sheep shed. Plan it out so you use dimensions that lend themselves to standard lumber - 4' X 8' or 4' X 4' sections so at most you have to cut a piece of plywood or chip board in half. Get a simple carpenter's level if you don't have one. This is good time to learn some construction and you'll save yourself tons of money through the lifetime of your farm.

Build walls laying on the ground and use Jasper or a gin pole to lift them into place.

Just remember plum and square and the rest is what suits you.

July 23, 2011 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I don't want to build the shed. The world of construction, on any level, is hopeless with me. I would rather hire a person who knows what they are doing, and know when the snow is pounding it, it is safe and so are the animals inside.

I don't think it has anything to do with me being a farmer or not, but knowing where my strengths, time, and energy should go.

July 23, 2011 at 10:14 AM  
OpenID notherethenwhere said...

Well, the insurance claim is a drag, but I'm sure you'll figure something else to manage with, especially with so much resourcefulness under your belt already. Sounds like a lovely rest of the day, though - food, friends, farm, and fishing - what could be better?

July 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

Re: CJ; Re: Jenna's response.

Spoken like a man; responded to by a woman. Oh this world we live in - how do we do it? But CJ I have to say - Jenna's carpenter (if he was the same one from earlier posts) seems to do really fine work at a friend's rate of pay.

July 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger - said...

Sorry, I agree with CJ (and I happen to be a woman, ladybughomer). I'm not a farmer, but the first five days of *my* summer vacation were spent doing just that - building a shed. A 10x21 foot metal shed that had a gazillion screws and lots and lots of parts and confusing directions, and yes, I had a bit of help (one other person), but I did it and am glad to have accomplished something of that magnitude! (I kinda thought that's what your Fridays were going to be used for now...farm work and writing?)

And sadly, I'm not at all surprised that your insurance claim was turned down, but sounds like you've got some great help there to get you patched up and ready for the cold - good luck with everything!

July 23, 2011 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

Sounds like the perfect way to spend your Friday. The roof news sounded awful, until you mentioned your Orvis help.
I agree with you re: shed work. If it is something you aren't skilled at/dread and your friend needs the money and does good work-have him do it! A win/win situation.

July 23, 2011 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Pat Woginrich said...

Go back to 5 days at work while you still can. Very bad decision

July 23, 2011 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger jim said...

have mixed emotions-good jobs are hard to find and that extra day will or did pay a lot of bills-however, only you know your financial status-if they hire someone to take your place, then your return door would have closed.Weigh this carefully and remember that you have a mortgage plus the normal crisis's to deal with----good luck with your decision [ this will also impact 401k's,pensions etc on down the road]

July 23, 2011 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Your river sounds heavenly, wish I could be there today with a cooler. A river can work wonders on a hot day for sure—down in my neck of the woods it’s wonderful to go to the reservoir parts of the Salt River like Apache. Just diving in and drifting is so refreshing, I’ll jump into anything 33 degrees or warmer.

July 23, 2011 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Wow, so much advice coming at you! Welp, one thing I've learned (and re-learned many a time) is that there's not just one right decision. Hire out or do it yourself, 5 days or 4, life will go on and chances are, you'll be just fine either way.

Give Jasper a hug for me and enjoy the freshly-cut lawn.

July 23, 2011 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Hire the carpenter so you can spend your time farming and writing, things you are good at and things you love. Life would be a drag if all we did was spend our free time trying to save a buck. The swim picnic sounded like the perfect way to spend a hot day.

July 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

My earlier comment really wasn't about the money or anything else than being self sufficient. To pay someone to do something you can do yourself, even if not to the same standard, just goes against my grain.

I learn best when I make mistakes and figure out how to correct them, maybe that's not the way for everyone but it comes in handy on the farm. Simple construction is a skill every farmer should have - animal sheds are a good place to learn. I have no doubt that Jenna could acquire the skill to meet this challenge if she wanted to.

To me, and based on what little I know about the situation, I would pay the carpenter to fix the roof and build the shed myself while he's there. I doubt he/she would mind a question or two as the two projects progressed.

There's the win/win in my mind.

July 23, 2011 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Lots of warm, fuzzy support from home, as you can see.

CJ, no offense taken! I just don't want to learn how to be a carpenter. I have a sense that a carpenter will come along. It's in my gut.

July 23, 2011 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

(and I love you mom, don't worry)

July 23, 2011 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger steak and eggs said...

I agree with Jenna on building a shed for the sheep. With a full plate on her hands getting someone experienced makes more sense.

Jenna, you didn't said who was building the shed. If it's the guy who built Jasper's barn door I know you will have something to be proud of. If not him I sure the person got will do a beautiful job. Love to see pictures.

Hope Sal gets well soon..

July 23, 2011 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

steak and eggs: a carpenter from Common Sense farm will build it with wood from their lot. I think it's Jeremiah, but not sure.

Sometimes living near Common Sense farm and trading with them feels Like I live in a James Howard Kunstler novel. Still waiting for Brother Jobe to walk out in a hat and black suit from that place...

July 23, 2011 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger greendria said...

As for the sheep shed, to DIY or hire it out, I faced the same decision about my chicken coop and how I decided was by calculating the cost of materials myself. Then I compared that to the quotes I got and realized I would have paid a TON on labor vs building it myself. But if you have a friend with a price 1/3 less than the competition, that may be hard to beat, especially if you factor in that your time is money, too. In terms of self-sufficiency, if the day comes that you MUST build something yourself, you will.

Also, I'm so glad I read the comments here, got a good laugh. It reminds me of how my mom "friended" my sister on facebook and now leaves all these comments on her page...gotta love it!

July 23, 2011 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Jenna, I accidently clicked back on these comments in my attempts to go back and copy Paula’s cucumber recipe and actually made the connection that it was your mom telling you to go back to a 5 day week. Experience raised eyebrows, non-requested advise, etc… on a regular basis about choices I’ve made and one’s I plan to make from my parents. We have very different aspirations and ideas for living, but love them dearly too.

You’re awesome to do what you want and carve your own path, and I’m excited to see what an extra day committed to you’re writing and other endeavors will bring you. Love the blog—I try not to be too outspoken in my commenting, but you are a very thought provoking person. Thanks for everything.

July 23, 2011 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

What redbird said. I'll leave it at that.

I think you are awesome and inspiring. Keep it up, Jenna. I'm rooting for you all the way over in Utah.

July 23, 2011 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

if you feel safer geting the shed doen by someone elce that is what you shuld do; always go with your gut.

i could build my own house and build most of the furniture that goes in it, put in most of the simple plumbing for bathrooms and kitchen, and make the quilts to put on the beds. i could, i have worked in all of the above, but i would never do it. one or two, ok, but not everything, i know my limits. and, i draw the line on electricity, i could do it, but it scares the bijesus out of me so i dont.

July 23, 2011 at 11:31 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Hey Jenna did the vet comment on Jasper's age? I was curious if he really is 10 (right?) or older.

And I think if you can hire someone for a decent price to build the shelter go for it. Why waste time and energy trying to build one yourself when that time and energy can go to something more productive? It's great to be self sufficient, but sometimes it's best to hire someone skilled at a job that can do it in half the time.

July 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Jenna, get used to parental advice - solicited or not. Doesn't matter how old I am or what stage of life I'm in, mom is always "giving direction" (her words, not mine). As my folks have hit retirement age, it's interesting to see how much more often they seek my opinion before making major decisions, or if they run into a problem dealing with their doctors or insurance company.

July 24, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Sorry about the roof.

I was thinking that your next book could be a "homestead cookbook." You've had so many great recipes on your blog, I've made your raisin bread to great raves from my office mates. It would be nice to have all the recipes gathered in one place, and you could put in sidebars about gardening, raising animals for meat and so on, and you already have so many good photos of your cooking that you could use.

July 25, 2011 at 10:25 AM  

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