Friday, October 21, 2011

the morning of the first day

Raven Pray Bishop has been my friend since freshman year of college. She and I found each other because I plastered the dorm with signs for a knitting club and when she arrived at the dorm number posted, we were all doing yoga instead. Unnerved by this fiber-induced stretch fest, she stuck around. She's stuck around ever since. For a decade she's listened to my stories, moves, farms, and man problems. She knows the entire story. A friend like this is rare, and I'm grateful for her.

Even though we retained our friendship, our lives didn't stay anywhere near the same trajectory. nearly a decade after that flyer was posted: Raven is a middle school art teacher on Maryland's eastern shore and I'm a writing farmer with a day job in upstate New York. This weekend was the first time we'd hung out in person in six years, and it was her first time ever being on the farm.

So I was excited to show her this life I cobbled together, have her meet the dogs, the sheep, Jasper and the flock and new pigs. Over the years these animals have become my world.

Raven was visiting with a friend and reader, Mikaela, who I had never met. The two arrived the night before and within moments of meeting her I felt comfortable and easy around her. I think friends of good friends make sense in the mysteries of human chemistry. So when the morning of the big day came around, both were willing to get up earlier than they had all year to help with farm chores. I asked them to meet in the kitchen at 5AM. On the dark morning we gathered around the percolator and Mikaela and I went outside to see to livestock.

I don't know if they ever spent a moonlit morning with sheep before, but both Mikaela and Raven seemed to not mind the hour, or the work, surrounded by the life and smells of the farm. In moonlight, under clear skies, my sheep seem blue tinted and warmer than during the day. We stood on the hill, overlooking the farmhouse and the geese we just let out of the coop. Raven put her hands on her hips, as to say "So this is where you went" and didn't seem upset by it at all. Neither was I.

The morning was a flurry of odd jobs, setting up stations and workshops, baking quiches and bread, and cleaning the house. Raven went to work making signs for everything from the book sale and raffle tickets to the toilet (Please Put Down Seat: Border Collie Has a Drinking Problem). I have since left that sign on the toilet. A humble homage.

By 8:30 most things were set and I was finally showered. The buffet of donuts, quiche, coffee, and pie was set out in the kitchen. Jamie Elfrank and her new Beau, Vaughn, arrived to help with parking and registration. I handed Vaughn a mug, and explained to him the parking area that was bush hogged down by the bass pond. He took on his role with authority, remaining outside to let the earliest visitors know the drill. Raven and Mikaela took over the registration table, and as each visitor arrived (starting at 9:15) they were welcomed, handed a waiver, and explained the house and farm rules. Then they signed the guestbook and got a copy of the Backyard Homestead as a supplement to the workshops and lessons they would be part of in just a few hours. Inside the house, Cathy Daughton was setting up for Cheese making and Brett was out back getting his saws and axes ready. After brunch and introductions, they would be the first presenters.

Soon the farmhouse was full of guests. People from the night before and new faces and names, people I only knew as avatars on the blog. Jess and her man Riley arrived from Ontario, Risa and Mark from Brooklyn, and Shannon from San Diego. There was a nice mix of urban and suburban folks as well as countrified couples like the women of Wind Woman Farm and Back Acres. I delivered pie and quiche to Raven and Mikaela and did my best to stay on top of the coffee pots, but soon realized I wasn't needed in the kitchen. In the miracle that is homesteading workshops, someone always is willing to lend a hand before you even know you need it. Diane and Cathy kept the kitchen working, grabbed mugs from the cupboard, and handed out napkins and spoons.

It was running as smoothly as it could. I was relieved in ways I usually take for granted. In a few moments everyone would convene out front for introductions and a small tour of my backyard operation and pastures. I scarfed a slice of quiche and headed towards the front door while Raven and Brett rallied the troops. Here we go...

Photos by Tim Bronson.
He'll post a shop you can order Antlerstock Prints/downloads from soon.

21 Comments:

Blogger Jamie said...

I love reading about the weekend in these installments and seeing how everything went through your eyes :) can't wait for the next one!

October 21, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
OpenID barntalkblog said...

I agree with Jamie, I love reading it, too!

-Autumn

October 21, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger E said...

You are a remarkable, determined, admirable woman!

You've created all this from your vision - I was going to say single-handedly but that doe your friends a disservice. What I mean to say is alone but in the best sense, not some pathetic "every woman needs a man" sense.

October 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I live on the Eastern Shore of MD!! I wonder if Raven and I live close by?

October 21, 2011 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I agree with Jamie. Reading the account through your eyes is really fun. It is like reliving it. We got an estiamte today on taking down our dangerous trees. I'll have my log splitting skills ready. I can't WAIT to get my hands on that axe.

Oh, and Antlerstock was the PERFECT 17th wedding anniversary for us. Our little cabin on the Battenkill river was fantastic. We were 10 feet from the river's edge. The outdoors and hard work is how we met and this kind of weekend reminds us of how we came together in the first place.

Loved it!!

October 21, 2011 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Agree with Jamie great reading.

October 21, 2011 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

congratulations on such a successful event!

i love the pumpkin/mum picture, quintessential fall.

October 21, 2011 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger kwalk said...

Hi Jenna!
I stumbled on your blog a few months ago and instantly became a daily visitor. I'm intrigued and inspired by the things you're accomplishing at Cold Antler Farm. I would have LOVED to attend Antlerstock, if only upstate New York and Northern California were a liiiiiittle closer...
In any case, thanks so much for sharing all the bits and pieces of your days. Keep it coming!

October 21, 2011 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Agree too—it’s neat seeing Antlerstock through your eyes!

*Kate, happy chopping!
**Jenna, just ordered my fiddle!

October 21, 2011 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I am drinking in all that Antlerstock was. Your vivid descriptions bring it all to life. I almost sprayed my monitor when I read about the boder collie with the drinking problem. I literally laughed out loud with a mouth full of tea. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful event. Your are such a gifted young lady, I hope you know that.

October 21, 2011 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Kate you and Jason are going to NAIL IT!

AWESOME!!!!! Lara!!! Did you get that book i was telling you about?

October 21, 2011 at 6:56 PM  
OpenID victoriascribens said...

Also delighted to be hearing all about this! I've been reading along for a while but haven't commented much recently -- but one day I'll come to Antlerstock myself, if I can make it there from Nova Scotia. I just want to say how much I learn from you; not just about farming and making your dreams real, but about writing down the bone. Thanks.

October 21, 2011 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Busy Beavers said...

You are actually in Central NY. Upstate NY is about 2 hours north of you.

October 21, 2011 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Rolf Wirkki said...

I so wish I could have been there. I miss Washington county. Some day soon
maybe I can get there at least one more time to visit family, and perhaps your farm.

October 21, 2011 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Nope, where I come from anything north of NYC is "upstate!"

October 21, 2011 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

I too am enjoying seeing Antlerstock through your eyes! It was such a thrill to be there; Riley and I learned so much, (I could NOT get him to stop talking about soap/soapmaking! ;) he's excited to try out his kit! And I can't stop dreaming little hen dreams! My only regret (especially now reading about your pre-worry) was not getting my sh*t together the day before our travels to bring some homemade treats to share! :( Perhaps next year....? ;) lol

October 21, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus—got it! Wayne has a couple for the mandolin I ordered too!

October 22, 2011 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger kaelak said...

I miss all you guys already - I feel like we all became old friends in 2 days. :)

October 22, 2011 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger Raven said...

Ok, so I usually don't read the blog. Like I said to those of you I met at Antlerstock, "I get it unplugged". But last night Mikaela told me that I was somewhat mentioned (thanks, pal!) so I read. And then I read the comments...

Everyone is exactly right, our girl Jenna is an inspiration and we are lucky to have her. I feel especially lucky to have her in my life as a friend and confidant. If I ever started a blog about being a middle school art teacher, I would be writing this exact same post about how she came in and started filling glue bottles at the crack of dawn. Girlfriend, I've said this before, but let me say it in writing: You are amazing and I'm proud of you!


P.S. @ Katiegirl: I'm in Church Hill. IS that close?

October 22, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Mik and R: can't you come up again this winter or spring? I'd love some company in the cold months. I'll feed you and we'll just hang out farm style

October 22, 2011 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger kaelak said...

Jenna: Yes - absolutely (I'm totally speaking for Raven too)! Although you're going to laugh at me for being such a wus about the winter cold...

October 22, 2011 at 9:10 PM  

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