Wednesday, January 18, 2012

smoke, bracers, and great horns

Little mistakes change everything, change the whole pull of the day. On the way home from work I had planned to stop at Wayside to pick up a bucket of scraps for the pigs and some 25lb bags of feed to hold me over until Friday. The little general store always has a few sacks of layer feed, rabbit pellets, cracked corn, and scratch for folks like me. I did stop at Wayside, but other things on my mind and conversations in the store made me forget the point of the trip.

I went home and went about the pre-farm chores the farmhouse and its inhabitants demand before I head outside to the livestock. The dogs are walked and fed, George and Lilly get their fresh water and kibble too. Then I try to suss out what will feed me and what (if any) tasks can be done that night to help me unwind from the day. I had already started preparing to bottle some stout beer when I realized the pigs had just enough for a single meal and the rabbits and chickens of Cold Antler would wake up famished. I forgot the feed. This wouldn't do.

If it was just the pigs, or just the dogs, or just the chickens I would simply cook for them at home. On more than one occasion the dogs had rice and scrambled eggs or the chickens a pot of cooked pasta to fill them up till proper rations could be acquired. But I wasn't about to cook for 60. I told Gibson we'd be heading out, and he ran to the front door, tail wagging.

Back now from the errand, and all the animals at Cold Antler are either chewing, slurping, pecking, or ruminating as I type. There's a pony keg of beer I'm going to bottle soon, and after that I'll send out some emails to folks asking on workshops and ads. The mortgage payment will go out this month, and like every month, it is at the last minute, but making it. For that I am proud, and will stay up late as it takes to cover the truck payment too.

I'm taking the break now because writing to you folks has become a meditation and a chance to unwind for me. I so look forward to it. I can't haul wood or water or bottle beer while typing, I can just stand and think and breath.

So what does that extra trip on a work night mean, really? It means it will be another hour before bed, and things will slip. It means another day that an interview request goes unanswered, or a chapter isn't written for a contracted book. It means that the list of addresses to mail wool off too might sit another day. It means a lot, it took a lot.

I felt the tiredness scoop me up as I lifted the third bag of feed into the back of the truck at Wayside, and I stepped aside from it. The way you might step out of the wafts of smoke from a campfire if the wind sends it your way. You don't argue with the smoke, you know it is real and present, but you can't deal with it so you keep moving. I have learned to move tired, and move smart. The farm is covered with ice now, and slipping on a patch with 80 pounds of water in tow, or moving the full garden cart of haybales could mean serious injury. So you slow down. You hold onto things with all your weight before you take the next step. I'm a natural klutz, and my body proves it, covered with burns and scars and bruises. However, I have learned that some areas can not be cut deep or you are in grave danger. I farm with bracers on my wrists if they are ever exposed. Honest to God bracers, little leather cuffs around my wrists because I have nearly sliced them open on wires, tools, or fencing. When you farm like I do you need armor.

The winter here is always a little trying. The cold takes morale, and sometimes, lives. I lost one Freedom Ranger this week when the temperature dropped to -10. A runt without much fat on him. I removed him without ceremony and dropped a fresh load of straw down for bedding for the other 29. Tonight as I was listening to an audiobook on my iPhone during extra-late night chores I walked past the hay bale coop and was shocked by the heavy WffftWFFFTWttff of flapping wings taking off. A Great Horned Owl had been feet away from me on a fence post. I watched it take off terrified from the shock and in awe that such animals share my property (or more accurately, I share theirs). Then I remembered the catamount sightings earlier this month and took the story out of my ears. If a bird could sneak up on me out in the open, a catamount could chomp me up easier than I could order Chinese take out.

Which is what I ate for dinner. I would have cooked something but I forgot the feed. Not very authentic, not even that good, but it was the first meal of the day and I savored the spicy veggies and rice. I chewed the way Sal chews up under the apple trees in summer. I chewed like a girl who needed calories. I chewed like someone who knew their take-out days were numbered. When you change your whole plan for backyard chickens and perform their humble funeral rites, you chew different.

Thank you for reading this another day.


Blogger karental said...

Lovely post. Get some sleep. You deserve it.

January 18, 2012 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Beautiful post, Jenna. Thank you for writing it.

January 18, 2012 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Wow, Jenna, thank you for writing another day! Please be careful that you don't burn out!

January 18, 2012 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Ah, Jenna, I'd say that's as authentic as it gets! Rest up :)

January 18, 2012 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

Two things:

1: I would disagree that one Chinese takeout does anything to your authenticity.

2: eat breakfast.
Dinner should never be a farmer's first meal of the day.
At least soak oatmeal overnight or buy boxed cereal for that matter if you don't have tine for hot food in the am...

January 18, 2012 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Try not to worry about the catamount too much. They've been around upstate NY for a very long time, I can remember lying in bed as a little girl, and hearing them scream, it's quite a chilling sound. We played in the woods, and every one we knew hunted, no one ever saw one. Besides, as big as they are, they'd still much rather go after your livestock than you, but it never hurts to be aware of your surroundings.

You're wise to slow things down. Even at your age you can't run full tilt all the time. Hope you can get some rest tonight.

January 18, 2012 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger bree said...

I can feel your day. How interesting reading about what that one lapse of memory meant this evening. Thank you for writing this.

January 18, 2012 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger downeast becka said...

live to write another day...
you and soulemama are often the bookends to my day and keep me connected with my inner and outer farmgirl...

January 18, 2012 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thank you, folks. i like knowing people read, your comments make me so happy.

I juice in the morning, and eat fruit and veggies here and there. Night is when I really eat, and tonight it was quick and dirty. oh well.

January 18, 2012 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Phew. One foot in front of the other, eh? Maybe this caution about moving slowly, carefully, will cure a bit of the klutz in you. Maybe one day you'll suddenly find yourself moving with agility and assurance as you sling sheep on shearing day.

Maybe not. But keeping your feet on the ground is nice, at any rate. Sleep well, Farmer Girl.

Love me some fragrant, greasy lo mein. :)

January 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger Katie Swanberg said...

Jenna, we'd follow your adventures no matter where they go. You ARE authentic. Even if you eat Chinese takeout. Full disclosure: I had corn dogs for dinner the other night but have a cupboard full of organic food. Go figure.

January 18, 2012 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Mary R. said...

Jenna - To me an authentic life is one without hypocrisy. One thing you are NOT is a hypocrite. You are doing great and your intent to live a more authetic life inspires me to do the same. This does not mean I will give up pizza delivered to my door every now and again. It means I will tell the universe my intent to live more authetically and I will make better and better decisions with time. I will never be perfect. Neither will you. I am okay with this and I hope you are too. Your forgetful moments make you human and hearing about them makes me feel better about my such moments. You are an inspiration and I can't even begin to explain how much you have taught me.

January 18, 2012 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

Another commenter's suggestion about oatmeal was very wise. It is a great thing to have for dinner when you want something quick, warm and nourishing.You can add fruit, nuts etc. to it too.
It would be very hard having a job and also running a farm and I admire your strength and determination.

January 18, 2012 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I have all kinds of stickers on my car, like "Who's your farmer" and "eat organic" and a few farmer's markets. And I do grow most of our food. But sometimes I just want something "bad" but oh so stickin' good! I know people see my stickers on the back of my car as I drive through Chick'fil'a or Arbys, but I don't care. It's only once in a while.

I was walking this morning with hay out to the goat barn and almost slipped on the icy boards I have for paths. That would not be a good thing to do out here by myself. So I have to be more careful. I never thought about wrist braces. Good idea.

Be careful and I hope you have a good night. And I read your blog every day. Love it!!

January 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I suggest judicious application of a crockpot.

That said, I'm a sucker for Chinese takeout ^^

January 19, 2012 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger julie said...

You are not alone on forgetting the odd bag of feed. Think my dogs actually look forward to the rice and egg days lol.

January 19, 2012 at 4:31 AM  
Blogger Raining Iguanas said...

No advice, just a little pat on the back for "living" your life and not sitting around waiting for it to come and find you.

January 19, 2012 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Rita said...

Jenna, It all sounds to much. Take a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side write a list of what means the most to you. On the other side things you could do without. We did this and it helped and continue to do it as the years pass by. We are at that place again. Bullies at work are unbelievable consequently there will be a change in job for us here. A big deal but we cannot go on this way. If what you are doing isn't profitable don't do it. It isn't worth your health. Right now we are going through everything. We'll have a large garage sale in the spring and take the rest to Helping Hands. We see the possible need for a move in our future. I don't want to pack up things I don't love and don't use. I'm selling books on the internet when I can. At one point one of us saved 1/2 our income for two years so we could go 2 years without income. I could go on and on. You are to important to let this work ruin you. You are a good person and I like your blog.

January 19, 2012 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I loved these responses!

And the farm is a lot, but I really don't feel like the animal/vegetable side of my life is to the too-much part. That said, there are some serious lines that need drawing here too.

good advice, and thank you all.

January 19, 2012 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Joe and Jeannie Family said...

Love the peak into your busy life. One thought for hauling heavy loads how about a sled? It worked for Dick Proenneke in Alone in the Wilderness (if you haven't seen that PBS show(s) you MUST!).

January 19, 2012 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger becky3086 said...

I know sometimes when I get too much going on at once my brain tends to glitch on me and I forget some of the littlest things. Things I know every day. It irritates me to death. I'm also real bad about not slowing down. I get afraid that I'll get behind and things won't get done. That is what happens when you have to do it all, sigh.

January 19, 2012 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

as long as you keep writin', i'll keep readin'! (and i'm sure i'm not the only one!)

January 19, 2012 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

and you know, the only people who would even think to judge someone in a takeout line drive-thru are people who feel the same way!

January 19, 2012 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Get yourself a pair of ice grippers. I had to succumb to using mine last night and this morning. As with me, if you fall and knock yourself out or break something important there is no one who will notice until you don't show up for work.Absent a real calamity, getting soaked by a pail of water wouldn't be fun either.

January 19, 2012 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger grinder said...

Whew. Got it completely.

Chineese takeout is not inauthentic.

I always see animals like a Great Horned Owl as a gift. When I'm in that place of crazed get-it-done and I see one (most famously a Great Blue Heron ON THE CHARLES RIVER IN BOSTON!) then I'm reminded to calm down and feel peace. I'm glad that you all ate last night.

January 19, 2012 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Oh we know this feeling so well. It takes SO LITTLE to derail your day, it's remarkable. Our big problem is how far we are from town. If we need anything at all, that's 2 hours gone (at least). Our strategy lately is to keep our "to do" list very small. We can always opt to do more, but if we take too big a bite up front it just sets us up for failure (and guilt).

And I hear you about the injury thing. I'm a klutz too, and the only way I avoid it is to just take as long as it takes. I get things done a lot more slowly than the average person, probably, but I just can't allow myself to get hurt or sick. I REALLY don't have time for that!

Hang in there, and by all means, enjoy your take out. I'm all for modern conveniences. It's fine to let them pinch hit for you now and then - that, to me, is what they're for.

January 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

@Grinder - we get blue herons on our pond from time to time. I can't NOT stop in my tracks and stare...mesmerized. They're just stunning!

January 19, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger jim said...

ice grippers, a sled, and the wrist protection are all great ideas. i took a tumble in the barn the other day and knocked the wind out of myself. a friend got between a horse and a dutch door and broke a bunch of ribs. stuff happens- with a little forthought tho a lot can be prevented--the old saying ---an ounce of prevention is better then a pound of cure.========luck

January 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 19, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

my property echos with the calls of barred owls. i often know they're around before i hear them because the crows tend to get loud and mighty defensive. birds of prey are amazing creatures.

just a thought, your sleep and eating schedule appear to be the opposite of what most professionals suggest, especially when it comes to weight loss. get yourself a vintage egg cooker and grab a hard boiled egg or two in the morning as you head out the door. they're so easy and you don't have to watch over a pot of water. feed the shells back to the chickens, the pigs, or even your dogs!

January 19, 2012 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger E said...

Get a good set of ice grippers and use them on your boots.
A cheap way to help make it thru the winter!

January 19, 2012 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Wabi sabi!!! I live by that! I wish I had time to pop over to help this weekend. I've joined the CSA for next year, so I think maybe those who live close enough to come visit could come help with packaging up and labelling for next year? CSA workshop or two? I am a decent drive away, but I would do it. A "neighbor" doesn't just have to be right next door!! :-) Hang in there and keep on keeping on. Hugs, Lynne

January 19, 2012 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Wabi sabi!!! I live by that! I wish I had time to pop over to help this weekend. I've joined the CSA for next year, so I think maybe those who live close enough to come visit could come help with packaging up and labelling for next year? CSA workshop or two? I am a decent drive away, but I would do it. A "neighbor" doesn't just have to be right next door!! :-) Hang in there and keep on keeping on. Hugs, Lynne

January 19, 2012 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Jburd said...

I enjoy your blog every day. Inspiring! thanks for sharing your life with us.

January 19, 2012 at 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a snowy time here in the Northwest and this ancient person is reveling in your "Made from Scratch", wishing it wouldn't end. So reading some of your day stretches out listening to your spirit.

January 19, 2012 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I put the Yax Trax on my barn boots tonight, after nearly sliding into the llama paddock while carrying a full bucket of water. Like you, I'm out here by myself and have had a couple of scares that caught my attention, like getting knocked down and run over in the pasture when I had horses, at 10:30 at night. There's no way to prepare for every possible risk, but we do our best.

January 19, 2012 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Yak Trax are the bomb!!!

Be sure to get the kind with the spiral wires on the bottom (like above). I can walk on glare ice with those things.

Nice tip about the wrist braces. I could even use my teen's skateboard wrist guards. LOL

January 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

Your honesty is what makes reading this blog so refreshing, like another reader, you and Soulemama are the bookends to my day also, not a day goes by that I don't check in on you at least 3 times, cuz you always suprise with thought provoking frequent posts :) I love your forthrightness, and how much reality you bring to the daily grind~ Keep your chin up!

January 20, 2012 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

Sounds like the owl was "listening" for it's next meal. It probably heard your meat birds. Hope you covered the ventilation hole with wire.

"An owl's hearing is as good as – if not better than – its vision; they have better depth perception[citation needed] and better perception of sound elevation (up-down direction) than humans. This is due to owl ears not being placed in the same position on either side of their head: the right ear is typically set higher in the skull and at a slightly different angle. By tilting or turning its head until the sound is the same in each ear, an owl can pinpoint both the horizontal and vertical direction of a sound."

January 20, 2012 at 7:26 PM  

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