Tuesday, November 8, 2011

this farm, now

I drove home from my Vermont day job in a dented, scratched, and fender-missing American pick up truck with a sheep dog hanging outside the window. WGNA is on the radio, Albany's Country Station and I was only mildly surprised that I knew all the words to Aldean's Big Green Tractor, to which I sang loudly with Gibson until Zach Brown's Keep me in Mind came on next, and I sang louder. My 26 minute commute home soon had me passing the little white number 6 school house (Jackson Town Hall) where the voting signs were out and the parking lot was full. I would drive back to vote after 16 sheep, 3 dogs, two pigs, a flock of chickens and a pony were fed and a fire was lit in the living room stove. I pulled into my driveway where an American flag was lit up by a porch light and a 12 gauge shotgun was loaded under my bed. Once chores were done I headed back to town hall to vote for neighbors I knew from phone calls and conversations in town. I pulled up next to my vet's pickup, and let Gibson wait in the truck while I filed in circles with a sharpie under the red, white, and blue privacy banners my taxes (I assume) paid for, and was happy it was whimsical. I came home, worked out, stoked the fire and turned on my "new" $65 EBay eMac in the kitchen to see to this blog business right before I whip up a small pizza and turn on an episode of the West Wing. I have a crush on Josh Linemen, he's my kind of guy. I love the West Wing and I voted tonight because I am my mother's daughter. I farmed because I'm my own woman.

In the fall of 2007 I was on my back deck with a fiddle in Sandpoint Idaho. I probably just got back from the office, on my bike I bought off a neighbor in Knoxville. It was only 4 miles up a mildly-dangerous highway to my rented farm. I had two dogs now, 5 chickens, two rabbits, and a few raised bed gardens. My plans for the night was a quick dinner of pasta and sauce and then a quick run into town to meet some friends at the Panida for the Banff Mountain Film Festival's showing of some seriously intense outdoors films. Everyone else in Sandpoint looked like a Patagonia model. I looked like a girl trying to change from design student to farmer, in awkward clothes and pants that didn't fit right. I started wearing a wool hat I got at an outfitter in town. I was losing the cool I worked so hard to achieve in college. I only talked to friends from the east on the phone.

In the fall of 2005 I was leaving another night at the television network (HGTV) in Knoxville and headed home to my city apartment. Jazz was waiting for me, sitting on the couch in the living room or on my bed or under my Ikea desk from my college dorm room (under my original $1200 eMac). I'd change into jeans and Chaco's and we'd go for a walk around 4th and Gill, my little hipster Victorian neighborhood and call up a friend in town to meet at the Sundown in the City concerts in Market Square. My Morning Jacket, Blues Traveler, Bela Fleck...all sorts of Knox-appropriate bands would play for free in that brick and soil city and I'd jump into Tomato Head for take out and see who wanted to see Amy Mann at the Bijou? Man, I loved that town. I loved that life. I loved living in the middle of all that energy and music and then packing up the Subaru with Jazz and heading into Walland to Brian's house to hop into the back bed of his black pickup and go drive into the Smokies for nothing more than a hike and conversation. When I realized I could take a dulcimer or fiddle into the forest with a dog and a friend, I no longer missed the city as much.

In the fall of 2004 I was just starting my senior year of college. I was in love, at my thinnest weight in years, and driven like a mad woman to become a Philadelphia designer at an achingly-cool design firm. I subscribed to HOW and Comm Arts magazine and was on the phone with this little old man in New Jersey who was custom-making my portfolio, which I would soon be showing off to future employers. I felt like I had art and the whole world by the balls, and all I wanted to do was run into some city and soak in the travel, art, and maybe get a dog. I cared too much about how I looked, what I wore, what people saw me drive, what I listened to, how I ate, who I voted for and what my peers thought was worth paying attention too. I had two ferrets in an apartment. Their names were Father MacKenzie and Eleanor Rigby. Graduation day came and I was the only person in my class heading south. I was terrified in ways you can not even imagine.

Things just change. It keeps getting better.
This feels the most correct, though.
This farm, now.


Blogger Melina said...

I know what you mean. In 2003 I lived in Brooklyn Heights and studied design in Manhattan. One thing that never has changed I always wanted a cause. Farming real food seems to be the right cause.

November 8, 2011 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger julie said...


November 8, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Melina said...

Oh yes and back then my favorite shoes were high heeled boots. Now I worship my wellies.

November 8, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger the other riverdale farm said...

that was great.

November 8, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger the other riverdale farm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 8, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Simple Pleasures said...

My motto for many years has been, "in life you can only count on one thing, change". Good or bad it comes. Great post, great reflection!

November 8, 2011 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna, what happened to your truck,will it pass inspection without being repaired? Love the blog, keep writin and taking us on your journey and a journey it has been. Hugs to the pups, enjoy the restful time of winter, I just got a seed catalog in the mail today so im sure spring is coming and time for planning is now- cheers

November 8, 2011 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger crashdown said...


November 8, 2011 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

One of these days,you will live on a larger farm. Happy as a clam, writing for a living; with a shelf full of awards for your writing, books and blog.

November 8, 2011 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Just today I told a friend of mine that 10 years ago, my paycheck wasn't safe if I wandered into Macy's. Now, it's not safe for me to wander around Tractor Supply Company. I make most of my own clothes, and I'm upset that it's too dark for me to work in the garden when I get home at this time of year.

One thing I do know, I know myself much better now and I LIKE myself much more. Thanks for the thoughts.

November 8, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger JeanineH said...

Keep at it! DO what you believe in. I'm still battling the "go big or go home" mindset with my own family members... they're all 'might as well go whole-hog with thousands of acres / head of livestock and make a go of it, whether you've got 100K or 1 million in bankrupt is bankrupt' when I have no intention of 'competing' with the big guys in my farm, my life, put in a garden for myself, maybe a market garden, raise some animals to fill my freezer comfortably (and the pantry once I get my pressure canner)... to get by, without waiting on "something" from "them". If I want it I'll work for it.

November 8, 2011 at 10:29 PM  
OpenID letthismindbeinyou said...

Awesome! Change is wonderful, especially when it's the kind that just keeps centering you. Keep on keepin' on, farmsister.

P.S. Love your ferrets' names. My 13yo LOVES that song.

November 8, 2011 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Nice perspective.

I sometimes find myself thinking back to what I was doing on “a night like this” years back. Growing up and right out of college things were often a hard struggle. It seemed like things would never get better; time seemed to be ticking by so slow and it seemed that this life I’m living now would never come. There have been a lot of moments lived and zip codes lived in between then and now, but progress and feeling good in this skin is being made here too. Often I have to smile at my former self…here and now is a good place to be and makes me excited for future Novembers at the same time. I wouldn’t go back in time for anything!

November 8, 2011 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

I loved reading about the changes in your life. How one metamorphoses over the years, as the important things in life start to be highlighted. You've come a long way in quite a short time. I had to go Google Josh Linemen of course, but now I'm confused as there are more than several of him. Do i take it he's the dark haired guy wearing a necklace and flashing his muscles in the surf?! I ask this as several others are not quite so . . . appealing?!

Onwards and upwards . . . you've given me an idea for a blog post now too.

November 9, 2011 at 4:10 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...


I spelled it wrong

November 9, 2011 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger Suzie Thomas said...

They have a lot of options, too, not just the cabinets they have in stock at the store. I recommend having a professional measure your kitchen for you, especially for countertops, because new kitchen countertops won't fit correctly unless you have PERFECTLY straight walls.

November 9, 2011 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Did I miss something? What happened to the Dodge pickup?
I didn't know any place in NY voted on paper ballots with felt tip pens like we do in Maine.

November 9, 2011 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

I can very much relate to this post; having lived on the west coast (twice) a northeastern island, way down south and back up to New England. Slowly and finally in an old fishing town by the sea, it is starting to feel right at nearly 50.

November 9, 2011 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Oh, the truck just got "jennaed"

I hit a parking lot divider at the Mother Earth News Fair during a bad pull-into-a-spot move and it ripped off the fender flare. Then I hit a mailbox during cider pressing. then Gibson are the roof and I had to duct tape it back together.

hard life, being my truck. I still miss the Ranger.

November 9, 2011 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger Catharine said...

Oh the Panida at Sandpoint. I was actually thinking of moving to Sandpoint and then read your first book, went to visit, and now I'm making it happen May 2012. I'm planning on buying some land and setting up my own homestead operation with goats, sheep, chickens and a horse. Thank you for inspiring me and helping me cement my dream of moving to northern Idaho to live more simply. You are amazing.

November 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Just lovely. A lot of this "evolution" over the years is about shedding where we came from and finding who we really are. It's wonderful to see that you are happy with who you have become.

November 9, 2011 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Whosyergurl said...

Wonderful post. I, too, wrote a similar post about how once my closet was racked with suits and how big my dry cleaning bill was. I now wear second hand and deeply resent dry cleaning in any form. We evolve. We grow. Thank goodness!

November 9, 2011 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger E said...

Please store your firearms in a safer place than "loaded under my bed".

November 9, 2011 at 11:29 AM  
OpenID outdoors1968 said...

I don't see why it would be a problem for a single woman with no kids to keep a loaded shotgun under the bed. It provides homestead security.

An unloaded gun is a very ineffective weapon for self defense.

Loved the post, Jenna!

November 9, 2011 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

What an interesting and exciting evolution you've had - so many changes! Makes me think I should try the same exercize, although I'm sure that I'll have far fewer changes than you list. It shows that it pays to be open and fearless.

November 9, 2011 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger jim said...

i don't see the prob with keeping a loaded gun under the bed- most of my family and friends keep loaded guns in the house-as noted an unloaded gun in not much of a deterrent- better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6. [just keep them in a place where small children can't find them]

November 9, 2011 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Zev said...

@outdoors1968 -- I agree completely. We keep our shotgun loaded by the bedroom door, with nothing in the chamber so there's no danger of it "going off" (as if guns have minds of their own) until you pump the slide.

November 9, 2011 at 7:47 PM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I read this post a couple days back, but it keeps popping to mind making me think back on my own journey.

Beautifully written and thanks for the food for thought.

November 10, 2011 at 10:28 PM  

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