Sunday, March 25, 2012

urban homesteading and good company

Last night I was sitting on a sheepskin in my living room when I felt an intense pain in the back of my left knee. It felt as if someone had punched that tender crook, and I kept shifting in my seat while the conversations and homebrew wafted around with woodsmoke and plates of homemade bread and local cheese. I didn't want to make a fuss, and was soaking up the good company of late-staying workshop attendees who came back for the evening's campfire, but due to inclement weather decided to settle for the wood stove and living room instead.

Dang though, my knee hurt.

I didn't think much of it though. The combination of riding, running, and farming created a trifecta of leg pain that week. Everything hurt! Sitting down required a force of will since I spent the morning before in a light seat on the top of a trotting horse for quite some time. A light seat, or half seat, or two-point position means you ride the horse, but your but doesn't touch it. Instead of sitting on your mount you use your thighs brute force and your heals deep in your stirrups to balance yourself over the beast, leaning a bit forward. This is how jockeys and jumpers ride horses, a position for action. However, I am new to this and it smarts. But this knee ache was sharper, different.

I decided to actually look at my knee and discovered a tick enjoying dinner. I headed to the bathroom to fish him out, and when I did was thrilled it was a dog tick, and a new one, and not some well-filled deer tick. No Lyme disease tonight, baby. I cleaned the puncture up and as I was applying some antiseptic I heard Meredith yell out from the living room. An owner of two giant black labs, she knew how tricky ticks can be to wrestle with and asked if I needed help. I told her I had it under control and thanked her, but when she said that my mind relaxed, unclenched. Just being asked by another person for help with such a basic problem was not the usual order of business around here. I didn't even think of asking for help, I just yanked it out and went about basic first aid. But just being check in on reminded me that there were people here, in my house, that cared enough to ask. Being asked if I was okay was such a simple brand of kindness, and if filled me up with a golden and warm feeling. The kind of thing you didn't realize you craved and missed, and when you had it finally let you relax a little. I grabbed an icepack, another cold Honey Brown from the fridge, and rejoined the revelry.

Yesterday was an event to remember. I got up to start baking and cooking at 4, and the last guests left around 10pm! It was a long day, but not in any way that could be considered bad. This is what I love to do, what I hope to continue to do for quite some time.

The workshop was probably the busiest to date. Since the topic was Urban Homesteading, it could cover a large swath of activities. We focused on a little bit of gardening work (planted early-season heirloom seeds) and the basics of starting raised beds. We talked chickens, and rabbits (Patty brought over some different breeds like her Chins and Flemish Giants) and I explained what to look for in breeding stock and handed folks a few week-old kits to hold in their warm hands.

Inside we went through the basics of starting a traditional loaf of bread, and how to prepare for super-easy, no knead crusty breads. We made cheese, and used some just-kneaded dough and pizza sauce to slice our fresh mozzarella over pizza. The day wrapped up while snagging slices of homemade pie and pizza and talking with two women from Albany about starting a vermicompost bin in their city home. I sent her off with a bucket and some red worms. You never saw a woman so happy to find out she had 400 worms in her car on the ride home.

It was a constant motion kind of day. We stopped for lunch and a prize drawing of books, posters, and a free workshop attendance, but besides the new idle moments of eating we were all running around—inside and out—to barn or kitchen. I feel like everyone who came got demonstration and inspiration, and (as usual) people seemed most happy to just relax around fellow folks with their same disease: Barnheart. People talked about their own plans and dreams, shared stories and advice. It always gets me excited too. Excited about the farm, the house, the future ahead. These workshops feed my soul.

Bev from Virginia stuck around after everyone else left to help with the afternoon farm chores. Usually after a summer or fall workshop there is a break period between 4-7 and folks can come back to a casual campfire and music, but Bev gave up her break to help me. What a blessing that was. To have a helping hand willing to refill rabbit water bottles and chicken fonts while I poured the whey into the meat birds grain bowls was such a time saver. It was not the first time that weekend I started to realize how much more could be accomplished, and how much easier it would be, with a roommate or community around. That isn't a complaint, but an observation. I'm not pining or lonely, and I'm too damn hard to live with if I was. But I could really appreciate willing hands.

When all the animals were tucked in for the night, Bev and I headed inside the farmhouse. She asked, as we were walking through my broken-glassed front door if it was weird having strangers over like this? In my home? Helping feed chickens? While walking inside and hanging my hat on my grandfather's coat rack (now covered with an array of waxed cotton jackets, wool hats, arrow quivers, and wool hoods and shawls instead of his proper hat and jacket) I told her no. It really isn't. People who come here all have the same exact interests and dreams. They want to scruff dog's ears while planting peas. They want to hold chickens and rabbits, eat good food. I smiled then, thinking of how the hay delivery came around noon, and Rory Whitman pulled up with 30 bales on the back of his pickup. Not one person didn't help move those bales. What would have taken me well over an hour with a single farm cart took us less then ten minutes. None of the hay got rained on. It is dry in my barn as I type.

I was tired, dog tired really, by the end of the day. But when I am tired and the day's work is done it is so nice to have people and dogs circling around with good food and beer. Last night there was two women from New Jersey, another from Boston, and two from Virgina in my living room. All of them found me online, and from that cold electrical box they found their way to a wood stove's glow in upstate New York. It never ceases to amaze me, how many connections happen with keyboards on lunchbreaks and end up toting hay bales for a character in a book. My leg hurt, my whole body ached, but the barely carbonated beer was sweet and filling and I felt happy as could be. Not a bad life, up on this hill. Not bad at all.

I can't wait to share it with more of you.

14 Comments:

Blogger Peggy said...

Oh how wonderful that day sounds! Maybe one day I can do more than dream and read about these days.

March 25, 2012 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Thank you for sharing it with us. Truly.

I remember those times on the farm during foaling season. As stable manager it was my job to wait out the births, sometimes into the dawn's early light. I always prepared to keep vigil by myself. Just taking in the vibes of the horses and the night sounds.

It amazed me how the students' parents would drop whatever plans they had to witness the blessed event and to keep me company. They'd bring dinner, snacks, libations, and good humor.

They wanted to be assigned tasks. Scrub water buckets, prep the next days feed, wash tack and say soothing words to the mare in question and sweep down the aisle. We even had a couple have a lighthearted argument (at least I think it was lighthearted) over who would call the vet.

We bonded as new life emerged. Always in awe of those first emerging hoofs and encouraging Mama through the hay drops.

Thanks for bringing back that memory. I had lost somewhere.

March 25, 2012 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Kuri said...

I don't usually comment as I'm always afraid of putting my foot in my mouth but I just wanted to let you know that your blog inspires me to keep trying. I truly love that time of day when I check to see if there is a new post. This post in particular made my day better and started me to dreaming again. Thank you from Illinois.

Jennifer

March 25, 2012 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger kringsrud said...

Ahhhh..... my kind of day. Thanks for sharing yours.

March 25, 2012 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger E said...

Wikipedia seems to say you can get sick from all ticks.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ticks

March 25, 2012 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks, E

March 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I know you say you're not easy to live with, but I'm surprised you haven't mentioned considering a farm intern/apprentice to help around the farm. There is a growing amount of people out there with Barnheart that want to learn farming first-hand. I'm sure there'd be plenty of people jumping at the bit to help you for the summer. Plus you get the added bonus of having someone around, extra help when things get crazy. Though some farm interns are paid a stipend, others are just provided room and food for a certain amount of hours worked (say 10-20 hours/week).

March 25, 2012 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Roe said...

Jenna - Thanks again for a great workshop. You worked non-stop to answer everyone's questions and you were so sweet and patient. I am now back in NJ and enjoying my Barnheart book and brainstorming gardening ideas for my seedlings from the workshop and more! I look forward to another workshop at CAF in the future. All the best to you and yours.

March 25, 2012 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Abby Herberg said...

Careful with the tick... you should get a bout of antibiotics from your doc to be safe. All tick types are carriers.

March 25, 2012 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger Abby Herberg said...

Careful with the tick... you should get a bout of antibiotics from your doc to be safe. All tick types are carriers.

March 25, 2012 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Great post, Thought that the tick probs were just here on my patch lol. At least it was you and not a guest attacked!
Have you thought about the woofer programme (http://www.wwoof.org/)for extra help?

March 26, 2012 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'm not here 4 days a week. I don't feel comfortable having a live in intern here more than I am!

March 26, 2012 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

I wonder if you could get a local teen to help out one day a week in exchange for...something. Once Merlin's trained up, maybe riding time for a horse-crazy girl? I know, liability, etc. But you're good at bartering; there's got to be something a young man or woman could learn about or gain from you other than money. Just takes finding the right person.

March 26, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Cait said...

How do you tell the type of tick? Oddly enough we found & removed one from our dog this evening. We might take it in to the vet to have it tested but are a little paranoid now!

March 26, 2012 at 9:29 PM  

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