Monday, August 6, 2012

beyond readership, all my thanks

I had the pleasure to spend a bit of time this past month with readers and can't express enough how wonderful it is to get to be a part of your lives. Saturday morning the Hoff family from Ballston Spa came out to help clean my chicken coop (just as fun as it sounds) and after we were done we cooled off in the Battenkill. I met the Hoffs at the Greenhorns Event back in late June and during the Q&A they asked how a family in a suburban setting could start learning and working as a unit on farms? I told them they just need to ask! And soon we set up a work day here. Saturday they were driving up my road in their minivan while I was riding Merlin down it. They waved and I turned my horse around and galloped behind them. I couldn't wait to talk and hang out with eager and excited people. I bounded into the driveway and talked from the back of Merlin for a while with them while Tim Hoff walked up to say hello to my gentle boy. I saw Joe (their shy, but talented and musical, son) if he wanted to hop up? He seemed as hesitant as he was excited at the idea of being on a horse and I promised him I would lead him on a rope just around the yard. Joe was great up there, calm and brave.

When Merlin was put away we got to work. Without complaint they shoveled and moved barrows. They worked and worked and they even brought fresh-baked cookies for the breaks! We sweated like dogs on a 90-degree day but in two hours the chicken coop was as clean as it was on move-in day and we got to celebrate by swimming against the current in a river so clean you can see your toes if the water is up to your neck. Heaven to us all.

And that's just one story. A week ago, I had a similar experience with the Hatton family from Key West. You read that right, Key West! They were on a pilgrimage to Washington County, looking for homes and farms. They lived their whole lives in one paradise and wanted another. Key West was beautiful, but expensive and crowded. It was time to change and change as a family. Ann Hatton emailed me to ask if I could suggest Realtors or places to visit when they came up and I pretty much demanded they stop here. I wanted to give them the inside tour, of the real farms and people of my adopted home. So around mid afternoon last week a Subaru pulled up with the coolest looking family I ever met. They all looked like they just got off the beach, the teenagers in long blond surfer kid haircuts and the mother and father, fit and tan and beaming excitement. We ate at the Burger Den, drove on back roads, stopped at Jon and Maria's (which they loved) and over to Livingston Brook Farm where they got a grand tour of the horses, barn, rabbits and land. At one point Ann's younger son said, "I didn't realize people lived like this anymore? Where they just knew neighbors and dropped by and helped each other out." He wasn't being anything but incredulous and I loved him for it. I can't wait till we're all hanging out again.

Every once in a while a comment here floors me in a very good way. Holly over in Illinois emailed me asking about local readers for help with her farm, and she got a happy response! That is amazing! (If you haven't gone back to that post to get her contact information, it is farmingal48@gmail.com) and this morning I saw a comment from a woman in response to the mustang rehoming movie:

Jenna, I feel such a kinship toward this movie, your blog and you, let me explain why.. several months ago you wrote a wonderful post about wanting to be in the horse world and if you want it go after it. Well I did just that having no experience I went to my local feed store (where I get things for my chickens and rabbits) and asked if they new any farm willing to take on a worker for lessons, they replied "have you tried Merry Oaks, "diamonds in the Rough"? of course I said no, but looked into it.. It has changed my life in such a profound way! I started volunteering at their equine rescue, was hired on within a week and now am part of a wonderful apprentice horse training program... That volunteers our time under the mentor-ship of a wonderful trainer to work with the rescues and performance horses! Thank you so much for giving me the courage to ask the simple question of "do you know anyone???" love you jenna! Sarah

I never met Sarah, but because of this little website she went up to a counter and asked a question that changed her life. She never thought she could work or be with horses because of assumptions about money, time, and so forth. She found a way and is now mentoring under a horse trainer! I have a feeling that like me, she won't be able to live a life away from horses now. I was able to do for her what Patty Wesner did for me, make a dream possible.

Sometimes people write me to tell me they finally got chickens, or closed on their farm, or are moving to a ranch in Oklahoma...Some ask for advice, support, or how to convince their husband chickens aren't disgusting. I love being a part of their story, even just the email-getting part. It means so much to me and keeps me reading. I want to hear all your stories!

I don't know if this is normal or not, for a writer's readership to be so interactive, but for me it is and it is so important to me. Do not hesitate to email, comment, or speak up at a book event or here at a workshop. I crave it as much as you. I want to meet you as much as you may want to meet me. PLease know this blog is not a window into my life, it is an invitation to be a part of it. Come to workshops, stop by on your vacation, write an email, ask to work. If I don't need the help, I can find you someone who will.

Sometimes I get really behind on emails and don't respond so just KEEP SENDING THEM, and I will eventually, I promise! I've worked out barters, weekend work events, workshop trades, so much because people asked or inquired. You could be sitting in an office in Philly right now or midtown Manhattan and be here next weekend in the Battenkill River or milking Bonita. This blog is not just something you read, it is something you can do. My life is open to teach and share in my story and the best part is when some one out there gets something out of it. It makes this place all worth the work to me.

Are most blogs like this? I only read a few, but they are all farming related so it could be the nature of the beast. When you write about an activity the readers also participate in at home, relating to each other is easier—the distance doesn't seem to effect the understanding. When I mentioned cleaning out the chicken coop people in Arizona and Montreal both knew exactly what that meant. You can jump on the back of a horse on Long Island or New Zealand and the experience in words communicates just the same. We all understand ideas of work and appreciation, and I think it creates a community that is pretty darn great. The Hoffs and the Hattons have completely different lives and families, but they both want to be here in Washington County, taking care of something larger than themselves.

I find this honorable and beautiful, this community we are forging. We are all technically strangers, but soon as you get any of us in a room, we are family.

Thank you.

16 Comments:

Blogger Karen Rickers said...

So wonderful!

August 6, 2012 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

One of the many things I love about you is your sense of community. It is obvious that you love the land and the community of people who live near you:) What is different in your blog vs. majority of others is that sense of caring/sharing/doing for neighbors to help them survive...whether it be their farm, bookstore, gas station, etc...I think you are an old soul, and are doing what is natural to you, sharing of your time and love of people. And asking for help when needed which encourages the rest of us. Moving to my farm in spring 2013, and asked by a neighbor if I had a job lined up there (2 hours away from current home). I said, "Yep, I am going to farm!" Dead silence from neighbor...then, "have you wanted to do this for awhile?" All my life, all my life! Time to soar:)

August 6, 2012 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger feathers217 said...

My day just doesn't start right until I have checked in on your site , Jon Katz & Chicken in the Road. It is so inspiring to be a part of your farm life , and it brings back so many memories of my childhood growing up on my Grandparents farm in N.C.Primarly a tobaco farm but my Grandfather also grew veggies & such to supply his curdside market ,"Mike's Curbmarket" named after his youngest of 8 kids.My Grandmother canned veggies , winter stews & preserves for the market as well as for family. Harvest days & slaughter days ment that family members from far & wide would be coming to help & share in the bounty. Butter being churned , sauerkraut being processed , hogs be processed for the freezer for winter- as well as other hunting bounties. It would go on for about a week and everyone that came left for home with a great share of all the hard work. We kids would wonder the woods , play in the creeks and now & then sneak into the barn where Grandpa also kept his bottled up home made Moonshine. Yep we would regret that later on & into the next day but what the heck , it would be a whole year till we got to see one another so have a great time !
So reading your blog & a few others I stay connected some what to my memories of youth, it's wonderful & I admire each and everyone that has choosen & made happen a simplier life , back to the land. I must add Dear Jenna , you are one of a kind ! Most your age are looking for that quick result & modern living life style. You have made a dream come true & live true to yourself and taking the time to share it all with us here. I applaude you young lady , you are an inspiration to what the simple life could be , if we allow ourselves to dream. ~Thank You~

August 6, 2012 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Mary Schroeder said...

Wonderful post!

August 6, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Probably my favorite thing about Antlerstock was how natural everyone seemed to feel together, even though we had all just met. That's really something special!

August 6, 2012 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I loved this post. You & your story are such an inspiration to so many people from all over the world. It is so amazing to me that there are so many people who are dreaming of owning a farm and so many who have taken the bull by the horns and are looking for their new homestead. I know that I would never trade my little farm for anything but a bigger farm. No city life for these homesteaders!!!!!
I sometimes think that we are quickly heading back in time to the simple years (more work, less pay but tremendous satisfaction) and this is a good thing. The economy is terrible and it may have convinced people that they need to hunker down and live a simpler life.
Jenna, you have encouraged & taught so many dreamers with severe Barnheart and we are keeping you in our hearts.

August 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM  
OpenID meatbagz said...

Hey now-I was Joe's English teacher for a brief time last year! He-and his family-are great...I'm glad they found you!

-Kate

August 6, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Toronto Girl said...

I grew up on a farm and miss it terribly. I now live in a high-rise in a large city. I can't move to the country any time soon, but your blog has inspired me to start balcony gardening. I have a rose bush, lavender and several tomato plants. Does anyone now any good websites or books relating to container gardening? I'm planning on going much larger next year and hopefully using all the space on my balcony.

August 6, 2012 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Trish said...

Jenna, I too am so glad you choose to interact with us, your readers. Your openness and honestness is refreshing. I hope you know what a gift you give to us every day. You give me hope. You give me courage. You give me knowledge. I appreciate you and am grateful for you! Someday, I would love to meet you and for just a bit be in the direct orbit of your aura!!

August 6, 2012 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Mary Schroeder said...

Toronto Girl - look at http://www.windowfarms.org/
just to give you some ideas at least - could be you could build your own variation or purchase from their website if you like.

August 6, 2012 at 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Shelby Edwards said...

I've been reading Cold Antler for a bit now...not sure how I stumbled across the blog, but I agree it's about community. There's real power in sharing it all as it happens. I read this blog and a few others and just this week negotiated a deal for my very own place out in the country. Nervous as hell because tomorrow is bank day. By dinner I'll know if it's mine. Like you, it's just these two hands and faith that if I don't now how, I'll figure it out and I won't be alone in it. Wish me luck and keep sharing everyone!

August 7, 2012 at 1:48 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

This is a great post because it really shows the sense of community forged between people that need and depend on each other. This is one of the things that strongly pulls me towards owning a homestead in a rural area. The work and the experiences make you stronger, but so do the people. That is very different to my experience with the city. In the city, the typical interaction is more negative. People believe themselves too busy or too important to empathize or to help.
Today, my family lives in a big city, with a small yard, but we are taking advantage of it to grow what we can, and try to live better lives. We hope (mostly me and the kids, but my wife is coming around) to be able to move somewhere like you've described within a couple years. Until then, we'll be making do with what we have.
BTW, I've been reading your blog off and on for a coule years. It has been really helpful to hear your experience, especially to see how much drive you have to reach your goals. I don't know of many people who have worked as hard as you to get where they are; you should be very proud. Keep writing, it definitely makes a difference.

August 7, 2012 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Sarah Mc said...

Jenna! imagine my surprise to check reader this morning and see a post from you sharing my comment! I Ive wanting to get in touch with you for awhile I will email you ! I feel you and I are soul sisters (the female versions of Eustace Conway) Anyway thanks for sharing my comment I hope it inspires someone else to "ask" ever since I started reading your blog I have been "asking" and it has changed my life and attitude!Sarah
daughteroftheplow@gmail.com

August 7, 2012 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger maddogmusher said...

I just got two dairy goats! I have been waiting for years and you have inspired to live my dream now!!! Make it happen.

August 7, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Z. said...

Thank you for being so inspiring, and thank you for accepting me into your story too. I can't wait to see what happens! (Shouldn't life be more like good books anyway? ...well, as long as I'm not Tess of the D'Urbervilles - then I'll definitely pass.)

August 8, 2012 at 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I admire your invitation to everyone to be a part of your life, not just to use your blog as a window into it.

I am interested in future forms of community and recently am experimenting with a blog

I like the form you are developing. It is essentially formless yet it works to clean a chicken house. Well done.

August 10, 2012 at 7:51 PM  

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