Saturday, December 17, 2011

a chariot of cats

A small wooden statue of the Goddess Freya watches over my kitchen. She sits on a throne with two giant cats by her side. In the old words, she was the patron of love, protection, and fertility and was pulled on a chariot by two large cats. She's a lover and a fighter, digs music and ale, and believes in animal-powered transportation. That's my kind of girl.

Freya is in my kitchen because two years ago when my world was falling apart she showed up at my door and then everything changed. I was broke, evicted from my rental farm, and scared but then a reader mailed me this simple statue in the mail and wrote words that boosted my spirit. He told me to be strong, to trust the process, and that he knew I would be okay. He wanted me to have a reminder about strong women that came before me, that have guided people since time out of mind. I love this statue. I love that it was a gift from a stranger that arrived at my door, given to inspire and invigorate my hope.

Freya pulled through, all right. I ended up at this farm a few months later, a miracle considering I had no savings, poor credit, and no idea how to buy a house. All I knew was how to want it. I trusted in the readers who supported and believed in me. I found a realtor and mortgage broker who were patient and explained exactly what I needed to do to make this place happen. I saved, planned, paid-off debts, and with the help and support of many loved people I was able to come home to Cold Antler. Everything magically fell into place for me. The sellers were motivated, the USDA's loan didn't require a down payment, the closing costs covered by the owners, and so on. The experience confirmed my beliefs in trusting a dream, putting your emotions and intentions out there, following through with hard work, and knowing it will happen. You practice those four things with all you've got and you can do anything. You'll find your home, your farm, your dream. You will make it happen. Hell, you might even arrive on a chariot of cats.

I was thinking about that statue, that story, because it is now two years since she showed up at my door and how different life has been. There have been some tough times, most not even written down on this blog, but I trust the farm and my heart to pull me through.

I'm spending Christmas here at the farm and it is causing serious repercussions with my parents. They aren't angry, but they are disappointed. They see the choice to stay up here to keep things running choosing the farm over them. I suppose I am, but not in the way they think. My farm is not as important as my family, but taking care of the farm is more important than visiting my family at Christmas. If that sounds horrible, you either never ran a winter farm alone in the Northeast or your a first-generation farmer's Catholic mother. Either way, it's tough. Even Freya doesn't have this covered.

To my family, I'm sorry. I love you so much. I wish I could send Jasper to pick you up with bells on and bring you here to spend it with me and everyone else at Cold Antler this holiday. The three dogs, 31 chicks, 28 chickens, 2 pigs, 16 sheep, 5 rabbits, 2 geese, wildlife, and wood stoves.

I'll fill you in later today about how the farm life is changing here—the projects and plans—and the decision I made to cull out Pidge from the flock. But first I need to bake an apple cake for a farm-business meeting and then go watch a cow die.

35 Comments:

Blogger sloejennfizz said...

This is a classic problem & you are not alone. There is always a transition from your family of origin to the family of your choosing. Sometimes that family of choosing is a husband, wife, significant other, life partner, child, or farm. All you can do is declare your intentions with a smile and thank them for raising you in a way that makes it possible to stand your ground in the face of external pressures. Sending you good thoughts!

December 17, 2011 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

My GSD SARdog who passed in August was Freya. She embodied all the attributes you spoke of. I hope she is watching over us.
Christmas is but one day out of 365. You are right to stay home and care for all the animals.The only way around that is to hire a house sitter. You will go visit another time. I'm surprised they don't want to spend Christmas at CAF.

December 17, 2011 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Why don't you set up a Skype account with your family, so you can sort of be together after all.

December 17, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Even a house sitter is asking too much of a person. with bad roofs in two places (barn and kitchen) every 3 inches of snow has to be raked off as it falls. Wood stoves stoked at all hours of the night. And that's if no animals get sick, hurt, or die. Not to mention the truck is going to be in the shop getting repaired, there are 30 chicks in a brooder, and the transmission is starting to stick and jam... this winter is just getting started...too touchy to leave heat lamps, wood stoves, and bad roofs in someone elses care.

December 17, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Dartford Warbler said...

You are right to stay on the farm. It is just not possible to leave all your animals in the middle of winter ( or probably at any other time!). That is pat of the commitment we make to them. If my dear friend from Wales did not sometimes house sit for us, we would never get away!

I hope that your family will understand. Have a good, warm Christmas and a happy, productive 2012. You deserve that after working so hard to fulfill your dream.

December 17, 2011 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

With Skype, you can video call your family, set it up for an hour or so on Christmas eve....

December 17, 2011 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

I read your blog on a daily basis and just love it. We also have a small sheep farm (getting a bit small annually due to working so much) and find in your blog a kindred spirit.
I understand needing to stay home on the farm. We don't ever vacation though Ireland has been calling my name for a visit for years. May you have a blessed Christmas on the farm with the animals.

December 17, 2011 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...

I am as old as your parents and I know what they are going through BUT you are all grown up now and you have the right and responsibility to separate from your family. My youngest brother lives in Japan. He doesn't bring his family home for holidays. My youngest sister lives in California. She makes Christmas for her family on the West Coast. Kelpie and Collie has the right idea. Set up a Skype account! Not as good as the real thing but better than a phone call. It will be okay. Your Mom should have the faith to know that it will be okay.

December 17, 2011 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

After the initial disappointment, your family will understand and be proud that you are a responsible daughter.

I'm going to see my family the day after Christmas this year - and stay in my new home by the sea with Sasha and "Auntie Mame."

By giving the love you give to your family, farm, and animals, the Universe will hear you.

Sending you Solstice warmth and Christmas blessings!

December 17, 2011 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

I completely understand why you are staying home. Anyone with livestock would. They are like children, completely dependent on you for their care. Maybe someday your family will come to appreciate Christmas on the farm and they'll join you every year. For now, you have to plow your own field and stick to your own path.

December 17, 2011 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

If I were you, I would be disappointed in your family. Sorry, but families give and take, and it doesn't sound like your family is willing to change the way they do things. Why can't they come to you for Christmas? Even the day after Christmas? You've got responsibilities and animals to feed, and it sounds like it would be easier for them to come to you. Have they ever visited you for a holiday?

Just a stranger's $.02.

December 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Cait said...

We are in the same dilemma with holidays shared between our families out of town and our farm of 27 sheep, 2 llamas, 3 cats and a dog. We are running two flocks (lambs too young and ewes who are breeding), giving different feed rations, sorting them into different pens for the night hours and so on. "Easy" enough for us to do ourselves but too much to ask of someone, especially over Christmas.

I'm not sure of our plans yet as we had a death in the family a year ago so there is still a lot of pressure to be with my family (and 3 hours from the farm) on Christmas day. One day we hope to transition to holidays on our own farm; whether its this year or one to come.

December 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

It will be ok, Jenna. Your family will still be there. Surely they are aware of your responsibilities. Maybe they can spend Christmas at Cold Antler sometime. The farm would be WAY more fun.

I received Barnhart for Christmas. Planning on putting it under tree even though I am reading it now. Very entertaining. I grew up with goats and had a small goat business at our pervious property. Your description of raising a kid is fantastic. Goats are intelligent, clean animals and can keep a fence row clear. They provide milk, meat (or both), and are easy to sell.

Would you care to share your apple cake and pumpkin pie recipe? Would you have time to post? I imagine other readers would be interested.

December 17, 2011 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger karen said...

It is always hard to be away from family at the holiday but in many cases such as yours it just cannot be helped. My daughter has chosen to live out west and our new tradition is to spend the first week of December with her and her family. Flights are inexpensive that week, holiday insanity has not yet arrived but we are in the holiday spirit. Is it the same as spending Christmas day together? No-but it is a time to be together that is cherished. Have faith that you and your family will find a holiday tradition that will have meaning to all of you. Wishing you a wonderful holiday-Karen from CT

December 17, 2011 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Living rurally in the cold cold northeast I understand your hesitation to leave over winter. Even without animals to care for, if I leave and we have a drop in temps with wind my pipes will freeze because I have only woodheat - no furnace - so it makes no sense to spend a day or two with family and the rest of the winter with an ailing or dead plumbing system. Stay firm in your resolve - you will get through this!

December 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I'll not be with my parents for Christmas, I'll be with my husband's family at a resort and we'll be attempting the first holiday missing our sister and nieces. Can't skype from where they are.

I don't know how the holiday will feel, sad I suspect, but the promise of Christmas and the solatice is light, not having everything that you want just the way you want it. The sun will come back, our crops will grow and we will have people to share all of these things, babies will keep being born, we are not forsaken, those are our blessings. As I remind myself of that I feel better.
May you have a Merry Christmas with friends and animals well-fed and comfortable. Take Care.

December 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger redbird said...

I’ve never thought of Freya like this—I like your interpretation and believe I’ll adopt it.

The opposite end of the family problem weighed me down for a while, on Christmas especially. My parents are looking forward to spending Christmas alone in Sedona this year, brother and sisters are off and having fun with friends, and it’s a good thing we’ve all come to grips with since having of whole family get-togethers are kind of avoided most of the time due to a sister with major drug problems that just won’t go away and other complicated issues—I used to get sad about this—the fact that being with family on holidays like Christmas wasn’t very possible or fun anymore like when I was small. Then on one Christmas I was spending alone I woke up that morning and realized what a picture perfect snowy day I could spend with my tree, good books and music, a faithful dog, no arguments or tension, a phone call to my sister I’m closest to who was also spending the holidays alone, and then dinner at a neighbor’s and it was like a breakthrough. Some people would have paid major money to spend Christmas in that environment and it was all mine. Since then the holidays have been just fine.
Christmas will be a good one for you— I imagine the farm is quite the backdrop for a Christmas morning. Best wishes.

December 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Rainsong said...

I find it awesome to be loved so much that I am missed, even wooed by those who love me to come for the holiday. Of course there are reasons you cannot. It is not sin against the catholic god nor against your chosen god to care for those who depend upon you. I often try to imagine what it must have been like during the holidays and on into January for those who crossed the country in an ox drawn cart. There was no going back for a visit. At least you and your parents have the phone, videos, and other modern social help. My son is an EMT and a hospital triage guy, holidays are not the time to visit. My husband was a fireman. He might or might not be home for roast beast. The holidays are busy for them. Love always finds an untraditional way. That too is part of the process...so is the depression of giving up tradition (guard against that). Maybe instead of some ultra modern connection, you can find time to look at that big ol'christmas moon and take comfort that you both see that ancient light shinning down at both your homes. That moon became a precious connection when a son was in jail for over 4 months including the holidays. We could not see him or touch him, but he could see that moon from his slit of a window. At night, taking care of animals, I’d pause, click off the flashlight and look up at the moon that I knew he could see too. I AM, creator of the moon, would comfort both of us, carrying our love for each other, even saving it in a warm bundle until our eyes met that moon.
Happy Holiday Jenna (keeper of the manger)
Debs....worshipper of the great I AM. (from the tiny sub-urban farm, The Toy Box)

December 17, 2011 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

Jenna, don't worry...all families go thru this kind of thing. In our family it is when the kids get big enough and don't want to leave their Christmas presents to go to Grandma's house for dinner. So you nicely and lovingly declare that you are staying at your own home this year and will visit as soon as possible. Traditions are hard to break, but nothing lasts forever, and everyone will get used to the new traditions you are starting now. Love the Freya connection. For me it is Lakshmi, Quan Yin and Mary...Those are the Goddesses that watch over us here...

December 17, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog said...

I truly admire you for standing tall in what is right for you this Christmas, Jenna. I had to do something very similar, disappointing family, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

December 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

They'll get it after a couple of years. My parents were the same way at first but even though they don't agree (there's nothing to agree about - animals have to be fed) they don't have a "problem" with it anymore.
You gotta persuade them to come to you for Christmas one time. The way you are cooking now sounds like it would be a delicious Christmas feast.

December 17, 2011 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

Maybe your parents can possibly come visit you next Christmas? That way you can tend the farm and be with your human family too.
The Skype idea is excellent.

December 17, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger LindaSue said...

Jenna, thinking of you. Since losing our son xmas has never been a holiday we "celebrate". We have constant pressure from his family to coma and be with them for xmas. Never that they would come and spend it with us. It always causes such big arguments between us. It is always his family. We have not gone to visit any of my family because it always's has to be his family. They don't even ask if we are going to see my family. Very selfish on their part I think. Now they are getting older so the ploy is they won't have that many left and we should feel sorry for them and go.
We won't have any animals till next xmas and then I will be safe from having to go.
So your problem is an ongoing one with many folks. Skype is an excellent idea.

December 17, 2011 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

Just like this time last year, I fail to understand your family's non-understanding of your lifestyle.

I feel like if you had kids and a husband and couldn't afford to travel, or you had a special needs kid/sick child it wouldn't be an issue for anyone.

Instead you have a farm, an equally valid excuse and in many ways, an even more admirable one.

I support you, Jenna. For what that's worth. :-D

December 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

I find it strangely reassuring that 24 people would post the same story over and over again about how hard it is to grow up and change.
I, of course, experience this same story.
Part of the wonderfulness of this blog is how reassuring and supportive the commenters are of each other and Jenna. Well, for the most part.
Blessings to all of us as we travel the holiday journeys whether we stay home and nurture children or animals or visit family or friends near and far.
And blessings to you, Jenna for creating this platform for people to care for one another.

December 17, 2011 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Bethany said...

I completely agree with chesapeake. If your holiday absence was related to the traditional husband and children set up, I presume your parents would be more likely to understand or make efforts to visit you. This is a common issue faced by many of those who are, or choose to be, ChildFree. Your farm is one of the loves of your life and chesapeake is right- just as valid and important.

Setting and holding boundaries is a lifelong lesson. Although especially difficult when they disrupt or unbalance family dynamics, boundaries are often the healthiest things we can do for relationships.

I live in Alaska, spent the last two Christmases up here with only my husband and dog, and they were some of the best holidays I've had. I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling celebration with your own farm traditions.

December 17, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

I bet Christmas at CAF is magical! I'm sorry to hear your family is yet again choosing to miss out on that. But I agree with sloejennfizz--there's always a transition period. It may just be more heightened for you because of the demands of farm life.

-Jaime

December 17, 2011 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Mama Forestdweller said...

Oh, this kind of thing can be so hard - sending love and hope that they can be understanding. I've certainly had my share of this kind of thing with our families over the years...

I was thinking about how, back when most folks were farmers, work had to be done every day, even on Christmas, and I imagine it was just understood. When I worked for a goat dairy we all knew someone had to take the shifts that day - the goats didn't care what day it was, they had to be milked no matter what! I guess unless you've been there, it's hard for people to understand.

I hope you have a beautiful day on your farm and that your parents can give you a break on this one!

And it's weird - a few weeks ago, I had a dream of Freya flying over a beautiful farm field and blessing it...maybe it was yours?!?

December 17, 2011 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger crashdown said...

You know, your farm sitter doesn't *need* to stoke a wood stove at all hours of the night--you have a perfectly good working oil furnace, and you can flip the switch to turn it on whenever you like. Heating your house entirely with wood is a choice on your part, not a necessity. If you put someone else in charge of your farm, it would be a perfectly logical time to do so.

December 17, 2011 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger JeanineH said...

well that was weird, I was tossed an error trying to post a comment... but with my connection I`m used to typing them in notepad and copy pasting when I`m ready to post... so.

All this back and forth, it's a farming blog, this happens on some farms (including mine).

With all the different words that have been tossed out to represent what it takes to take the cow to an edible form and some of the other things... a big one that came to mind is CULL.

There's a town just down the road being over-run with rabbits but "no one" wants to deal with them, yet when a solution is offered (trapping)... I dunno it goes back and forth. If they are harvested they could be useful to a needy family as a meal, if they are culled they`ll just go cut the numbers to what they think they should be and call it a day.

Where`d they come from...
a good number of pets that were let loose when they were no longer wanted. Solving their problem initially causes a much bigger one down the road.

I appreciate the honest display of farming, and I DONT consider the neighbour with a dozen combines to be farming, but that`s just me.

December 18, 2011 at 12:54 AM  
Blogger TransFarmer said...

I take it there were too many fighting comments on the other post

December 18, 2011 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger unhappybirthday said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 18, 2011 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger unhappybirthday said...

What happened to the steer harvest post? I just now read it in my RSS feed reader and enjoyed it. Wasn't crazy about the photo (ha), but you obviously had a reason for sharing it. I'm betting that some people got all up in arms over that post and that's why you took it down. That's a shame. Like it or not, this IS a farm blog, people.
Try not to let the naysayers get you down, Jenna.

December 18, 2011 at 5:57 AM  
OpenID dogear6 said...

Jenna - I have the same problem. My daughter breeds mastiffs on the side of her full-time job and she cannot find a dogsitter for 25+ dogs. Her Dad and I know this and we simply plan to spend our holidays traveling to see her.

The rest of our family is not sympathetic. They expect her Dad and I to travel and see them (although they will not travel to her or us) and they are very vocal that they would not be doing all the traveling.

I've pointed out that I'm not giving up holidays with my child because I have to travel to her. It's the new reality of my life and that's how it is.

Your family may get used to the idea given more time. The early stages of independence are always hard.

December 19, 2011 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Truckload Shipment said...

Why is it in the kitchen? Would it be lovely in the living room too? Since this is the first place a visitor will enter in most house.

April 18, 2012 at 2:30 AM  

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