beyond readership, all my thanks
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 email@example.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.