Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This farm is my sanctuary, a place I long to be when I'm away and a place I am so comfortable in while I'm here it is hard to leave. These are not the lyrics to the beginning of an agoraphobic's sonnet, nor is it the confessions of an ex-urbanite. This is nothing more than something I have come to know, and happily accept. My house and the outbuildings and land around it is my theme park, vacation destination, gym, therapist, and church. It is where I work hard, make music, raise animals, and fight to remain a part of. It repays me with food, experiences, comfort, safety, and an endless source of inspiration and creativity that wells out of the damn ground so much that sometimes I roll my eyes at my own writing.

This place is magic.

My house is, quite literally, a dream come true. It's not perfect by any means and please do us both a favor and remove any bucolic certainties you may have formed over the months and years. A lot of Cold Antler is rough, unpleasant, smelly, muddy, decaying and in need of repair. This is not a movie set, and I am fairly certain Martha Stewart would run from it, screaming. But it is paradise to me, and the scruffy parts are what make it so. Because tonight this place is a soup of mud, feces, scrub grass, and puddles in the driveway deep enough for the geese to swim in. But tomorrow....Oh darling, tomorrow there will be a few inches of snow and this place will transform. The tree through the front window, just past the lamppost in the front yard will make my farm feel more like Narnia than a few acres on a small mountain in Washington County. I look forward to it, so much ribs are pulsing back and forth in my chest, faster than breath.

Here's why. Walking outside on your own North Country farmstead on a perfect early-winter snow blessed morning is so crisp, so full of promise, and yet so perfect you are both thrilled to get to work and embarrassed your own chores will remove the veneer of purity covering the place. You know in a few moments dog piss, mud, footprints, hay straggles, and animal hooves will cover this place, rendering it perfectly scrappy. But there are these seconds of poetry while you stand just outside your doorway, covered in wool and red plaid, looking up at your sheep on the hill, their breath clouds of warm air rising from otherwise motionless mounds and you think even the livestock have chimneys. All of us secretly warm inside, powerful and young, ready to split firewood and feed ponies soon as we can gather the strength to fill the place with tiny sins. It's a thrill, this standing before the work in the snow, and I can already feel my ribs tingle.

P.S. The address works. Thank you for the dulcimer cd, Michael! I am actually stringing up my Tennessee Dulcimer tonight!

P.S.S. The winner of the Plan B workshop prize is alewyfe!


Blogger JeanineH said...

Congrats Alewyfe! Talk about suspense waiting to see who won.
Not near the entries that usual "contests" on here get, which surprises me a bit. If you want to be farming, you ARE going to be planning ahead not running to the grocery store 3 times a day and letting your animals run out of food before you go about getting more or are snowbound and can't go get more?
It comes part and parcel. It's not "lunatic fringe" we're talking it's a bit of basics look after you and yours so you don't have to turn refugee in the local football stadium....

December 6, 2011 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Congrats, Alewyfe!

December 6, 2011 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger e.m.b. said...

"and you think even the livestock have chimneys. All of us secretly warm inside, powerful and young, ready to split firewood and feed ponies soon as we can gather the strength to fill the place with tiny sins." Great piece of writing...so beautiful. And I know exactly what you mean...

December 7, 2011 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Oh, Jenna, I dare say you did just write a piece of poetry! That was beautiful.

December 7, 2011 at 1:23 AM  
Blogger Muffy Sainte-Marie said...

Wonderful. Inspiring. I believe in you!!

December 7, 2011 at 3:12 AM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

Your posts paint pictures in my mind and that brings so much joy into my life. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

December 7, 2011 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

These imperfections you speak of, are they new? I don't remember any of them when I visited last May. I do remember a pretty faded red barn filled with animals, feed and hay. I remember seeing a poultry house for chickens and geese who were free ranging. I remember a lovely view from your living room window and a VT Bun Burner in the corner. I remember a nice flock of sheep on the hill side. Did I miss some imperfections that really matter? I didn't see any when I showed my sister in law CAF over Thanksgiving either. It all looks pretty darn nice to me and count the fact that Martha would run as a blessing.

December 7, 2011 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

You are really somethin'...

December 7, 2011 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I LOVE those moments. Just makes me sad sometimes that we get so few of them here - maybe one or two a winter. Ahh well.

December 7, 2011 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna -did you ever send out the
"just in case" books------

December 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Yup! I sent them out!

December 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats alewyfe!

Hooray for the address working! I am still working on my Christmas cards, expect one from me!


December 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

I'm workin' on a small package to send your way as well! :) Glad to hear the address does indeed work!

December 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

Jenna, You made Farmbrian again! Congratulations!

December 7, 2011 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger John Taylor said...


Great post. Glad to see the address is working out. I had sent you a book to the job address, hope you received it.

Grace and Peace,


December 7, 2011 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Victoria Nidetch said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 7, 2011 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Victoria Nidetch said...

Jenna, you paint magic with your words.

December 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger alewyfe said...

Fantastic! That's so exciting... Thanks Jenna! And as always, beautiful writing.

Ooh, thought of another preparedness problem... we buy our coffee in bulk 2 or 3 times a year from an organic/fair trade roaster in michigan (cheaper when you get over 10#), so we have plenty on hand... but all our means of grinding are electric (small one to do 2 days at a time, or champion juicer attachment for whole bags when it's the guy's turn to bring the office coffee). I know one of our friends has a turkish hand-mill that can do one cup or two of super-fine (he's an espresso guy) at a time... he's only a 20 minute bike ride away, but if we're snowed in, might want to grind up a weeks' worth and vacuum-seal it, or keep an eye out while thrifting for a good hand-cranked one. Or I guess if I got desparate, a pillowcase and a rolling pin would do... haha.

December 7, 2011 at 2:04 PM  

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