Friday, July 1, 2011

trotting south

The solstice is now trotting south behind us, and each day it gets darker a little sooner. We're in a mild spell here, days in the low 70s, and at night I wear my dad's old cotton sweater in the farmhouse. I am being reminded daily by light at texture that October isn't just a noun anymore: he's on his way.

Last winter was bad. Poor preparation, bad decisions, a snowfall that made Idaho look like the Swedish scene on the It's A Small World ride. It's July 1st and I have already ordered 2 cords of wood (first coming Saturday), and set aside funds for the chimney installation for the new wood stove. I now have a 4WD truck. I will be going into the winter with a small emergency fund, a barn full of hay, a new stall for the pony, and a rebuilt sheep shed for the new flock. A lot has to be done, but it will all get done. After all, this time last week my entire hoofstock had a half acre and hay. Now they have a wilderness.

On a totally separate note:

While this blog is a very personal story, it certainly isn't the whole story. I keep a lot of my life off the blog, and sometimes it gets bigger than even this farm. I'm in a bit of a rough patch right now. A lot of changes are happening at once, all of them making me seriously consider what the next steps should be. I can feel myself getting quieter, gears grinding, mind reeling. The emotional stress on top of feeling more tired than usual has me learning to slow down. I am trying to make a new rule for myself about one day a week of rest, no farming beyond basic chores and no travel. I am so grateful for this work when I feel down like this. In a world where uncertainty seems to be the rule, knowing you have to feed a ram lamb at dawn is a nice way to fill up your dance card. Keeps me level. Keeps me busy. Keeps me smiling.

Anyway, all this will pass. Winter will come and i will be ready. I'm going to bake a pie in my living room while snow falls outside, you just wait and see.


Blogger Tracy said...

Hope everything works out okay for whatever you have going on.

July 1, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger SaffronYellow said...

Slowing down is good! Don't be afraid to really experience and explore your feelings - even the hard ones. Letting go of attachments to things we can't control is important, too. Sometimes that helps. Remember - we are all pulling for you whatever direction you go!

July 1, 2011 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I think your one day with no work is a great idea. It's great to give your body and mind rest once in a while.

July 1, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Ruby said...

I am loving your story. It is more enjoyable to me than reading "Little House in the Big Woods" was when I was young. Whatever thing you have going on right now, I wish you peace. FWIW, it seems to me that your little farm is exactly where you were meant to be.
On an unrelated note, I grew up using one of those food grinders you have pictured to help my mom make ham salad. I loved cranking that thing.

July 1, 2011 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger City Sister said...

It's nearing 100 degrees here, yet I am also thinking of cord wood and wood stoves getting quotes to clean the chimney and winterish things, yet trying to enjoy the summer while it's here!

July 1, 2011 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Teresa H. @ Oak Tree Farm said...

Whatever you are facing, personally, I hope all will be well for you. Take good care of yourself! There's a wonderful quote by the ancient mystic, Rumi, that goes, "What you seek is seeking you." You are in my good thoughts, Jenna~

July 1, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

You'll deal with whatever life throws your way - if it's meant to be it will happen, if not you go on to the next - I'm thinking woodpiles and two more cords of wood too - winter will come but enjoy your day off a week while summer is here!

July 1, 2011 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Hugs to you. I am still recovering from one of the bigger personal struggles I have had to deal with in quite a while. It took some adjustments on my part (physical and emotional) and lots of healing thoughts from family and friends. I'll think I'm through the worst and then I'll have a day like I had yesterday (where I cry all day). Personal struggles are difficult, regardless of their origin. I know that for me, they're a real kick to the pride. It's the Universe telling me that I am, in fact, only human. :) I'm sending good thoughts your way, Jenna. Enjoy your day off from everything on Monday. :)

July 1, 2011 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

My response was going to be pretty much just like Treehugger's. It's been the weirdest, hardest year for me (so far) in a long time. There must be something in the air.

Just know that you have more than readers here - you have backers, supporters, cheerleaders, friends (at least inasmuch as we can be via the web). No one expects you to share the private details of your life, but if you need some friendly voices in the chorus, we're here.

July 1, 2011 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I'm glad to hear you'll be resting one day per week. You've been burning the candle at both ends for a long time. A weekly day to fiddle, read, bake, etc. will do you good.

I'm always amazed that you not only work a regular job and tend a farm, but that you so faithfully post daily as well. It's a lot to do, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your life with us, your readers.

July 1, 2011 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

just wait and see; after all your prep, this will end up being the mildest winter on record or something.

July 1, 2011 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger E said...

Remembering to take time for yourself is a good thing.

You might like this from Vermont: Broadband internet by horse (

July 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger georgie said...

Sometimes we try to do more than we physically or mentally have time to do. Jon gave you great advice and the day of rest is an excellent idea! One day of a week to just slow down, relax, visit with family and friends is very restorative.

July 1, 2011 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hang in!Like you I am building a farm and I am doing so alone M-F. The economy is such my husband travels M-F out of state. Iam tierd and latley feel broke,I have blogged about being in a "Funk" but its just alot of work,before and after work for one person. I have placed an add for a live in intern,for help. Have not yet had any takers. You might consider an intern of some type. Exchange a room or CSA share...

July 1, 2011 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Zelda said...

Regarding your emergency fund, financial guru Dave Ramsey recommends the equivalent of 6 months net income in any emergency fund. We did this a few years ago and I am so happy we did. It took a lot of self-denial, but knowing that we can now could replace our car, our roof or handle several months of unemployment or a big vet bill has freed us from so much worry.

July 1, 2011 at 11:31 AM  
OpenID said...

Last years winter lessons are just the ones you will not have to re-learn this winter. There will be more to come.

July 1, 2011 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger shannonstoney said...

In one of Eliot Coleman's books, he says you should always take one day off a week. It's hard to do when there's a lot to do, but otherwise, you get burned out physically and mentally.

I set a limit on the number of hours per week that I'm going to spend on my farm and garden. It looks messy, but too bad.

July 1, 2011 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Lorlee said...

I recommend, in addition, to your day of rest, 20 minutes a day meditating. I do the laying down version and it is simply laying there and paying attention to your breathing. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a good source on "mindfulness" stress reduction. Good luck.

July 1, 2011 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You've covered so much ground already, it's good to stop and rest a bit and appreciate all you've accomplished while you're thinking about the future. There's world enough and time enough to do all the things that you dream of. Life is short, but it's wide.
Things have a way of working themselves out, if you give them some time.

July 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM  
OpenID jessieimproved said...

Take solace in your lifestyle choice when everything else starts to get you down. You're trying your best to fulfill your dream - something a lot of people can't claim to do.

July 1, 2011 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger vcassie88 said...

Jenna rest is good, get a recharge. Even God took a break after six days of work. I envy your emergency fund. That is the way to go, someday I will have one.

July 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger vcassie88 said...

Jenna rest is good, get a recharge. Even God took a break after six days of work. I envy your emergency fund. That is the way to go, someday I will have one.

July 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

well, the plan is to "earn" the fund. Right now I have about a month of living saved up.

July 1, 2011 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

its like a quote from my new favorite show says; "winter is coming" (yay game of thrones lol)

July 1, 2011 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

Hey, Jenna. I just read an ARC of Barnheart. Loved it! You are resourceful and resilient and I wish the best for you.

July 1, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

You do waaaay too much. All those workshops & stuff...crazy. And maybe a few too many animals/species. I know how tempting it is. Just bought 4 turkey poults to raise for the holidays. I think this brings the poultry population to about 50 or so, in half a dozen pens.

It's good to do a lot if you have the energy for it, but don't overdo it.

July 1, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

RW: the farm is not the problem, nor is it the source of any complaint. But thanks for your opinion.

July 1, 2011 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger L said...

Dear Jenna,
We're all sending you the most positive of thoughts. If I were closer, I'd offer to help with your sweet ram lamb and other chores. But until we can be neighbours, take care of your self.

July 1, 2011 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Aila said...

Jenna, I'm sending good thoughts your way and hoping that everything works out the best for you. Everyone is always willing to give advice (some of it very good), but the reality is that your life is so much more than what is on the blog and in your books. In the end, it's about what's best for you. I know that all of us readers are grateful for the glimpse of your life that we get to see, but the act of sharing that much with the world can be draining. I hope that you get the rest and recharging that you want and need! Best wishes.

July 1, 2011 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

It's all unfolding as it should. You are young and there are so many paths to take sometimes it gets hard to choose. What a great dilema, huh? :-) A pro-con list always helps me focus, but the best advice I ever got was "if you don't know what to do, don't do anything different". Thank you for sharing the farm with us, it's a joy to watch it grow.

July 1, 2011 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Just taking a stab at it here... One of the hardest things for me to learn at your age was to not take my job too personally. Its not who you are and your worth isnt tied up in how well you are appreciated or not there. Its just a job and if people (bosses) are buttheads, make like a duck, (water off your back). The most important thing is to get that paycheck and let the rest go. I think its an american myth that our job has to fulfill us and be important. Your life outside is richer and can feed your soul. Corporate life makes no sense and I made it too important for many years and brought me nothing but unhappiness. One day you will get to the point where your writing and teaching can support you and youll make a break. I did at 42, Im alot poorer but happier being self employed. Hang in there and take comfort that you have sweet dogs and other friends to welcome you home, and the peace of the countryside to balance the rest of your stresses. Im sure when things are hard it doenst feel like it but you are a very lucky girl. Take care of yourself, have a snuggle with your fur babies.

July 1, 2011 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Tora Consolo said...

I'm a reiki practitioner Jenna - and I have you in my thoughts everyday - slowing down is always good - and getting a chance to ground yourself again is even better. We've got your back even if it's vitually.

July 1, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I know what you mean, Jenna. My husband and I tend to go at warp speed here on the farm all year long. But working so hard here at home doesn't phase us at all. It's the stressors of the outside creeping into our corner of the world that can be so intolerable sometimes. I've always been so grateful to have my farm because some days it is the only sense I can find in this world. I agree wholeheartedly that when you have an animal to feed or a garden to tend the other stuff just falls away. Aren't we lucky to have a whole world outside our door that needs us and gives us so much? I don't think some people who live in different circumstances can relate and that alone can cause friction sometimes. I echo the other sentiments that you have all of our support and deep appreciation for all you give us, your readers, every day. Enjoy putting your feet up on Monday!

July 1, 2011 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Boundaries are good, down time essential, and bumps in the road make us stronger, right??! (it took me a long time to figure that stuff out and I still sometimes forget!)

Keep that ram lamb and that perspective around—wishing you the best whatever comes your way.

July 1, 2011 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Well said Village Queen~ I know you will be fine Jenna, you are a tough awesome broad!

July 1, 2011 at 5:46 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

May you have a clear mind and a calm heart when it comes to making decisions. One of the things I love about your blog is that along with the hard work and many challenges, you never forget what a privilege it is to live this life so freely. Best of luck to you on all fronts.

July 1, 2011 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Whiffletree Farm said...

Helen and Scott Nearing ("The Good Life") saved their Sundays for music. Sometimes they would have people over, sometimes not. I like their 4 hour a day "bread work" ethos because it makes you work super hard for those four hours knowing you don't have to do it all day.

July 1, 2011 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

You are right about this next winter. You will be ready because you have learned how to be prepared ahead of time. I learned that lesson when I moved to Alberta. Now I am obsessive about weather forecasts in the winter so I can do what needs to be done before it becomes a problem.

July 1, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Well Jenna, I've thought for a long time that you try to pack too much into the two days you aren't at work. Glad you are going to slow down and smell the roses of your journey.
I have a cord of wood for the winter to stack in the basement. Yes, October will be here soon enough and we'll all be planning for next spring's planting.

July 1, 2011 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger jim said...

life has a lot of roads, not all paved, count your blessings-[you have a lot]-and do take a day of rest-like the Nearings idea of music, friends or just nothing- don't say i will, figure out how to make it happen-you have come so
far--enjoy the fruits of your labor. you have more friends then you can count on this blog alone and they are all in the wings, they cover almost all areas of expertise and they share it; Just lool back when you were having Winter and water prob's-you had everything from Engineers, plumbers and construction guru's checking in. You belong to all of us as we do you. Hang tough girl and get some rest.

July 1, 2011 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Gordy said...

Hi Jenna you have a lot of friends out here all with good advice I think we all agree on one thing that we all need to have a day to do nothing or whatever lets you recharge to be ready for the next day.
I have become addicted to reading your blog every day enjoying your stories. So I am offering YOU in trade for a jar of your finest strawberry jam a pickup truck load of locust that was cut down last fall. It is not split just cut in stove lengh. If YOU would like it you can reach me at

July 1, 2011 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Hi Jenna- take Gordy up on his offer of the cut locust- it's super hard and is one of the best woods for burning because it's at the top for BTU's per pound of wood. Plus, you may make another friend.

I'm ordering 2 cords for next winter, and I live in a milder area of Oregon. Is the firewood going to be your back up heat, or your main source?

Next early spring, you should think about devoting some of your acreage to a wood lot, and if you look into short rotation coppicing, you can grow your own firewood, and only plant once! That locust (especially if it's Black Locust) is a fast growing tree that's also great bee fodder- it has really pretty flowers they like. It's a great tree for coppicing, but can be invasive because it suckers, so it needs to be off somewhere. Locust is supposed to be good in fields because nothing else but grass grows under it, so it also provides shade for grazing animals.

Just something to think about. I'm glad that you're resting more, but I'm also glad that you have your farm to keep you grounded. Wishing all goes well for you.

July 2, 2011 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

You have come so far not through luck, but by hard work and determination. That steadfast attitude can get you through anything, Jenna. Trust that the Universe is conspiring in your favor. Sending ~healing~ thoughts your way.

July 2, 2011 at 5:17 AM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Sounds like you are making good decisions about the coming season. As a recovered work-aholic, taking that one day a week can give a person a whole new outlook on the world.

July 2, 2011 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Sending my best to you, Jenna. You could never know this but your blog has brought me through a very rough patch. You remind me every day of what is important in life and to find beauty every day. So I send you back the support that I feel I've gained from your writing, pictures and movies. You are a powerful woman, take care.

July 2, 2011 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger karen said...

Happy to hear you are going to take a day to slow down. Thanks for sharing all that you do, I will send good thoughts your way along with all the other friends from this blog. Happy 4th! Karen from CT

July 2, 2011 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Unfortunately, the only constant in our lives is change. It seems that whatever happened provided a wake-up call telling you to slow down a bit and reorder your priorities. It's not necessarily a bad thing. I daresay most of us have been in your shoes.

So take the time to rest. Think about things. I would do as another poster suggested and make funding that emergency fund a top priority - even if it means scaling back on your plans for CAF. An emergency fund helps take some of the scary out of life.

If you get knocked down, look deep within and find that attitude you had after a particularly bad winter storm last year - "Bring, it."

Hang in there.

July 2, 2011 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

Maybe that one day off can include off from blogging, too. Many of the blogs I read don't post as often as you do. Whilst it is GREAT for us your readers, it must be a drain for you. Have a wonderful 4th!

July 2, 2011 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

When does physical or mental activity become "work"? Only when you think the activity is work.

Ponies and pony carts are great but is the truck ready for winter?

July 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

Jenna - If I lived nearby, I'd give you a huge bear hug and take you on a roller coaster ride. Roller coaster rides always make me laugh and scream and forget my troubles. Your readers all see you as a strong and independent woman who can face any challenge that comes your way. I believe this to be true for you but I also believe it is not easy to do it alone. I wish you continued strength in your journey. I think about you often and cheer for you every day.

July 2, 2011 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger - said...

Just a logistical thought for winter - will two cords be enough? We heat primarily, though not exclusively, with our woodstove, and routinely burn between 12 and 14 cords a winter.

And while the farm may not be the source of your "complaints," sometimes having all those things to attend to in your daily life can add to the stress. I do agree with RW and think you take on an awful lot, particularly for one person! :-)

July 2, 2011 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I will have 4 cords, and supplemental oil heat this winter. It is a start towards an off-grid heating system.

July 2, 2011 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Jenna, are you talking actual cords or "face cords"? Because 12 to 14 actual cords would be A LOT of wood. We heat with wood only, and we go through 12 to 14 "face cords" over a winter.

July 2, 2011 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger jim said...

we burned4=5 real cords per winter in Pa when we lived there and we [heated solely with wood/had a pretty large farmhouse also-four cords should get you a good start and pretty much through the winter- what did you burn last year=trade the jam for the truckload of wood=thats a good deal for you=might want to throw in a loaf of warm bread with it.

July 2, 2011 at 11:17 PM  

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