Friday, September 28, 2012

rain and snow

I walked around the farm in the light rain, Gibson at my side. The morning was cold enough to require my trusty green Carhartt hoodie over my work kilt. My feet were warm and dry in Meredith's hand-knit wool socks inside my brown rubber boots. A hand knit cap I made myself was on my head, as much for warmth as its weather shedding double layer of Jacob and Bluefaced Leicester. Every step was a splash and as my dog danced around my heavy feet I sighed. Things are getting stressful, scary even. My mind is reeling with fall expenses, bills, projects, and the real world of money. These are the kinds of things that can swallow you if you let them.

I can't allow the doubt or fear to take over Cold Antler. If I do the place just becomes a bubbling pit of bills and sleepless nights. You look up at your ceiling in the dark and all you can hear are the words of doubt people have been telling me since day one. You haunt yourself, and it is worse than any headless horseman (and that's coming from a New Yorker).

I understand the situation as what it is, that bills need to be paid. I tell myself the same mantra, You have always made it work and you always will...You have always made it work and you always will...You have always made it work and you always will.

I find a way through positive thinking and a lot of prayer. My goal for the day is to pay my mortgage so I don't have to even think about it during Antlerstock, so I can just enjoy the October weekend for what it is. I'll spend the whole day trying to make that happen. Contacting sponsors for ads, offering you folks discounted season passes and workshops, selling items on Craigslist, posting of facebook: whatever it takes. I know nothing happens to solve the problem unless you change how you view it, and work your rump off to fix it. So in the honor of attraction and a brighter tomorrow, here is a blog post from December 2012. I know this hasn't happened yet, but perhaps it will.

The first snowfall of the year came down fast and bright, like the ringing of a giant brass bell. What started as a cold, wet rain after dark turned as the cold came on down the mountain. I knew it was snowing as I fell asleep, not from my window's view but from the lack of raindrops hitting the pane above my bed. Snow can be amazingly quiet, even when it is angry. We are alike in that way.

In the morning three inches of perfect blessing covered the farm. This marks the end of the Days of Grace, that holy time here in the Upper Hudson Valley after the leaves have all fallen and before the first snowfall. Up until last night farmers had a last chance to catch up on all the winter prep chores that snow makes more dodgy. Tractors are oiled and under cover. Large round bales have been taken into the field to save on winter square bale efforts. Defrosters are in troughs, larders are stacked, and everyone has enough coffee to make it through the weekend, if not the month. These tasks seem like common sense, but they are mighty. they are what make a morning like this a thing of beauty and repose, and not fear.

I think back to late September when I was so scared. Money was tight, down to my last few hundred dollars. I had no idea how the horse's barn would be walled, heck, I didn't know how I would even afford the lumber. But it got done. That and the firewood, hay, bills, mortgage payments and everything else. Partially thanks to the efforts of the blog, readers at workshops, and a hundred other small measures. But also thanks to the long-awaited book deal that sent me a check in the mail. Opening that envelope at the mail box let me release a sigh so powerful the birch trees swayed as it left my lungs. No book deal is a fortune, but it is enough to cover a few month of expenses and in the world of self-employed farming writers it is heaven sent. I was so grateful to receive it the earth below me rumbled.

I know I have to head out soon to do the morning rounds but a fire comes first. It may seem selfish but it is certainly not. A fire started before the outdoor work starts means comfort promised on my return. I bedded the fire around 10PM last night, setting a think yuletide log on the fire to chew away at. By morning just a a black snake of charcoal remained but the embers below still turned red when I blew on them. With some newspaper, hand-hatcheted elm, birchbark and locust hulls I can start a new blaze in moments. The first heat of the new fire lights up my face and my spirits. To look out glass doors onto a world made new, with elements life fire at your back, you feel lucky in ways Superbowl winners only dream of. Fire now roaring, I head out in wool and wax cotton to tend my animals. They waited long enough.

After everyone else is fed I can come inside and feel that kiss of firelight, shed off my wet layers and heavy boots, and wrap myself up in a blanket on the floor in front of the stove. On top of the bun baker is a tea kettle of water and a percolator of coffee. I just need a bowl of oats and a mug and I can it there and eat breakfast in front of the stove like a child eats her cold cereal watching cartoons on a Satturday morning. I feel that same level of bliss from mindless contentment. I have food, and heat, hot coffee, kind dogs, and a day ahead of writing to do. That time between morning chores and the day's work is also a mini Holiday. A Moments of Grace, if you will. I sit there and enjoy the grog and gruel and take a moment in deep thanks that this is where life has allowed me to canter. I am home. I can stay here a bit longer. It is enough.

30 Comments:

Blogger greendria said...

This is not an advertisement or lame motivational speech to others! This is just me, sharing this moment, on this blog that I love...I just put 50 buck in the donate button. Rather than do it anonymously and humbly, I'm telling all of you about it. Because I am proud of it! And I wanted to share my feeling of pride with this blog. 50 bucks is a lot or a little. For me, it's akin to supporting NPR, give what I can, when I can, to keep it going, for me to enjoy daily. I highly value what you do here, Jenna! Best wishes!

September 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Twilicat75 said...

I have followed your journey almost from the beginning. I have faith that Cold Antler will remain a success because despite certain setbacks along the way, it always has been. You do magical things with your farm and have helped me so much with my own journey to homesteading and sustainability. Thank you for keeping your faith. I thought maybe you could stand to hear how special and wonderful what you have done and will continue to do really is to all of us. Big smiles and bright hearts!

September 28, 2012 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Katie Falkenberg said...

I have no doubt that come December, this post will be a reality. One step at a time. And remember the truth in your mantra! This too shall pass.

September 28, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger KCBEG said...

I just doanted as well,,,you are my tithe this month. (one of them). I respect you and your hard work and determintaion to live YOUR life and make YOUR dreams come true. You are an inspiration to many! Many Blessings!

September 28, 2012 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger melldot said...

Thank you so much for your timely post. You lifted my spirits today! Now I'm off to continue making winter preparations for my farm and flock. Thank you! Keep the faith:)

September 28, 2012 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger KCBEG said...

I just donated as well. I chose you as one of my tithes this month, because your words move me. I admire and respect you for your hard work and determination to live YOUR life and make YOUR dreams come true. You are an inspiration! Many blessings.

September 28, 2012 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Mayleen said...

I'm right there with you: $60 in the bank this morning with 3 horses, 6 dogs, 3 cats, 3 goats, 3 sheep, 37 chickens, a daughter, and some peas sprouting! But it DOES always work out - I learned a great phrase once: EWOP = Everything Works Out Perfectly. When it's rough, dark, and bitter, I EWOP it. Of course the tricky bit is that we don't always know what Perfect is... but when we look back, we see how it was! Be strong, have faith, burn a little incense, and breathe. You will continue to thrive - so mote it be :)

September 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Keep writing it down Jenna, be 90% of the 2%.

September 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I have grabbed onto a couple of lines from the recent movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - "Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright now, it is not yet the end."

September 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with taking on a part time job. As a matter of fact I work full time plus have a part time job at a local hardware store, just so I can get a sizeable discount on hardware- And a farm needs A LOT of hardware.

I love my farm, but I would not want to be there 24/7-or the worry of paying bills. I worked from home when my kids were little.
Never again! I like a balance of working away and being home, but to each his own!

Heather in PA

September 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Ab said...

Would it really be such a tragedy if you had to go back to paid employment, even part time, for a little while? I know it isn't what you want to do but it is an option.

September 28, 2012 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

If I could donate, I would. I just got pellets delivered and paid my mortgage (two things that I wasn't sure would happen just a few days ago). You are an inspiration to all of us and I send prayers of financial abundance to you, my friend!

September 28, 2012 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

If I could donate, I would. I just had pellets delivered and paid my mortgage (two things that didn't look like they would happen just a few days ago). Since I can't send money, I send prayers of prayers of financial abundance, my friend. You are an inspiration to all of us!

September 28, 2012 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

Jenna--your fear is very familiar to me, and I feel its panic daily as I read your blog lately. I don't have an official farm (yet!) but I do have gardens and lots of animals to tend to, and I know it's extremely time consuming, if you want to do it right. I also teach classes for a local adult education program. Despite being low on time, I manage to pick up extra cash by doing the odd jobs I'm good at--interior painting, freelance writing, cleaning, pet sitting, and cooking. People will pay others to do almost anything as long as it means they don't have to do it themselves. It might be worth trying to pick up just an odd job or two, be it a few freelance articles or taking care of someone's dog or chickens while they're away for the holiday. Since I've started taking on odd jobs, I've been able to sock away more money to have in reserve for when I DO finally find my farm. In the meantime, it's helpful for when I need to replace a tire (like yesterday...ugh) or have the water heater looked at. I know it eats into valuable time you could be spending on farm repairs, maintenance, etc...but it might be worth letting those things slip for a day or two while you bring in some extra cash. It's true, though--everything is going to be fine. At the lowest, loneliest point in my life, I was lost and down to my last thirty dollars in Portland, Oregon. I got on a train, looked out the window, and right there, spray painted on a brick wall in huge letters was the phrase: "EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY." For the first time in days, I smiled. I'm still here and no longer stranded in Portland, so that graffiti artist was clearly right.

September 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thank you for all the kind comments, emails, donations and suggestion! I can assure you right now I am doing everything I can to make ends meet. I just finished a book from a 3-year-old contract. I have and do pet and farm sit. I am working on three freelance web gigs. I am selling ads, making writing contracts, and pursuing a 5th book.

Getting a off-farm job would not be the end of the world but it would be the end of my dream and I AM NOT giving up on it just five months into trying. I will get through this rough patch and come out of shining. You have my word.

I think some readers think when I write about money I am asking for it. I certainly am not. Donations are appreciated, always, but no part of me is asking for a blog to hand me money. I do not depend on any sort of hand outs to make the farm work. About 2% of my income comes from random donations, the rest comes from workshops, speaking events, writing, and sales.

So I am not asking for money. I will however, continue to promote my workshops, classes, and events with gusto. And I will write about the very real issue of money.

I of course got emails from angry readers about this post. If reading about money makes you bristle here, for any reason, then you best read another farm blog that will just snow you a picture of a smiling llama and a sweater pattern. This blog deals with a farm, but also a real dream that is messy and complicated. Money is a real part of farming and an ever realer part of making a dream happen. I won't stop writing about it.

September 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

1/2 I love that you wrote a blog post about a future that hasn't happened yet but which you know you deserve and will work towards getting! It's just like writing out that scary life path thing that you posted about earlier. I'm finding that this technique works so well for psyching myself up to do just about anything! It doesn't even matter if I ever succeed. I just adjust course and keep going.

I've been taking little pockets of time here and there to just freely, happily imagine little snippets of what my future wonderful life will be like (not that it isn't wonderful already, but this doesn't stop me from being excited about how it will be wonderful in different ways later). I actually spent 15 minutes the other day sitting on my couch and actively daydreaming about how awesome I will feel when I get a phone call from whatever future music school saying that I've been hired for my first 2-3 year contract as a professor. I wrote some of it down, but mostly the picture was in my mind.

I shall now tell it to you 'cause why not? I had so much fun with it. I'm just blurting it all out so it's not edited, hope you enjoy anyway.

I dreamed about the season, the weather, just like you did in your post. In my case it will be around March -- could be wrong but I believe that's around when universities make their hiring decisions for the coming fall. It will be a bright but cold day. Trees are just beginning to bud. I will come home in the early afternoon from doing errands in town. I will be back in the town where I live now after having been away touring, studying, and doing interviews for various teaching positions. I have been back here for a few months teaching privately, performing a bit here and there, reconnecting with old friends and loves, and doing interviews and waiting patiently for that phone call.

[I gotta tell ya, I'm so confused about tenses now because I feel like this all somehow will happen, is happening right now, and has already happened. Dreaming is so magical, it transcends linear time.]

September 28, 2012 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

2/2

Anyway...

I come home, take off my coat and shoes and scarf and gloves. I look through my mail. I'm about to check my email, when the phone rings. Yeah, it's that phone call. The secretary of whatever future university says I'm hired for three years. I'm so flipping excited. She says more details will come by email and mail. Good thing, because it's not like I'd be able to remember anything over the phone, being so excited. If I have a roommate who's home I shout out to them. I immediately send a quick text to my dearest friends. I post a Facebook status about it. I make a Facebook event for a few days from then inviting everyone I know in town to my place and then to a pub to celebrate. I email people who still don't have Facebook.

The rest of the summer I spend tying off loose ends. I move in mid-July to the new wherever-town and get settled in. I look for a place to live, get acquainted with the school and with its procedures, plan lessons, join a couple of groups and clubs around town to meet new people.

Back to our world – this story, or something like it, is about 10 years away. I have no business being a professor tomorrow, or in a month, or in a year or two or likely even five. But I *know* I can do this eventually!

A very tiny, dying voice, one that really has no more influence over me anymore, one that I just smile at and hug, knowing that it will change and get better, says very meekly that I am being presumptuous and indulgent and silly for thinking all this. But even that voice doesn't believe what it's saying anymore! It actually wants to believe what I believe. which is this: these dreams are all beautiful and true already, and in physical reality I am slowly making them come true as well, day by day, by working towards them. I am not expecting any person, force, deity, whatever, to do anything for me that I should be doing myself, but I am also very happily interdependent with others and know that I will ask for whatever I need when I know I need it.

And you have helped me so much. A million thank yous for that brilliant attitude of yours. And just wait until I tell you when this all "actually" happens.

September 28, 2012 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

One last thing. I am so glad you wrote about December 2012. That month is going to be... so awesome :-D

September 28, 2012 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

Okay, I know I need to stop bursting onto this post so much but these are the last two things I will say here, I SWEAR:

I was just reminded of where else I've heard of people writing out coherent stories about wonderful futures that haven't happened yet: the Transition Towns movement. If have you haven't heard of it, the big idea is that cities are going to become viable, mostly self-sufficient, sustainable, ecological places to live -- ecosystems of their own. Not at the expense of any other. Anyway, one thing Transition people do is write about what their cities are going to look like, say, 25 years from now, no dream is too big or idealistic. It's amazing and inspires everyone to actually work towards that.

Of course, the idea of dreaming and then doing is probably older than time itself :) I just love that people are rediscovering it in so many different ways.

Okay, and the second thing is about money. I appreciate that you write about money. Money is real and important and I believe will be here to stay, and it's time we go to face it and be honest about it, something those angry emailers may not be ready for yet.

It sounds to me like you're at a point where you want to be in more of a co-creative relationship with money. For this I recommend the book Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein (it's available online). It's a very interesting, accessible book that taught me about the overarching history and structure of money and economics in our world. It then went on to explain, in beautiful depth and with a variety of angles, how we can practically change the money system to make it work for us on this planet, in ways that allow us humans to use all our amazing gifts and technologies while at the same time being respectful of and connected with each other, and with other animals, plants, and ecosystems.

September 28, 2012 at 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Alyssa said...

You'll get through it, Jenna - you always do. Your creativity and determination will lead the way. Have you thought about opening/rejuvenating your Etsy shop?

September 28, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

You give me hope, Jenna. It's ok to feel swamped, and overwhelmed. I pray that you always find a way to turn that around. Heck, I [ray that I can do that, too.

September 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I guess you know you've arrived, at least in blogworld, when you get angry emails about your posts. Oh, people...

I for one appreciate the honesty that you always display here. Making a farm work isn't all unicorns and lollipops. It is work, and it can be hard. And who doesn't worry about their mortgage, seriously?

September 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

I'm with Mayleen! You've come this far, Jenna - just keep going, one prayer, one day at a time. October's almost here, which I think will make you feel much better :)
-Jaime

September 28, 2012 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

P.S. That is a beautiful photo of you and Jasper.

P.P.S. I wish your way of living was more the "norm." When I think of a talented writer and farmer such as yourself struggling to pay the bills, I feel a bit sad. Of course your path isn't the easy one, but I wish it wouldn't be quite so hard in terms of the financial aspect!

September 28, 2012 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger macbew said...

I didn't assume you were asking for a handout just because you wrote a blog post about being strapped for cash.Personally I'm glad you wrote about it.I would love to have a farm someday and you're helping me and I'm sure many others see the reality of not just the good things about it but also the hardships.Thanks for this post as well as the posts about the good days.

September 28, 2012 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

even farm bloggers who post a pic of a smiling llama and a sweater pattern stress about money though they may not post about it...

September 28, 2012 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in a small predominantly Czech immigrant farming community near Schulenburg TX. The farming community was extremely tight knit - along the lines of what you, Jenna, talk about - your tribe - your people. In the late 50's there was a terrible drought much like what has been recently experienced. When late summer/early fall came there was no hay to harvest. I remember cracks in the ground so wide a child's foot (mine) would go into it. Times were desperate - people faced losing farms that had been in their families for generations. The farmers shared what feed they had even though it meant less for themselves in the long run. Then a farmer in upper Louisanna or Arkansas - I can't remember offered hay at an affordable price - if they could come and get it. I remember the convoy of asssorted trucks, trailers, that headed out to get that hay. Those that couldn't pay - a way was found to cover them - I remember the cattle breaking through the fence as we waited for my dad & uncle to return with hay and the sound they made rubbing against the windows because they were hungry - as a child I was scared - but my Dad said to me - we'll come through this - we all will. The hay arrived, the animals were fed and eventually rain returned. I don't think anyone lost their farms that year. Thats what community is about. Its not who your friends are when things are going great - its who is there when it all goes south. I don't know what makes some people today show such a dark side of themselves with negative input. If everyone who has ever beeen touched by this blog, uplifted, invigorated, repurposed or just entertained sent you the coins in their pocket - your mortgage would be paid for at least the next few years. You share the ups and the downs and you challenge your followers to reach for their own dreams and let us all live vicariously while watching your own unfold and you give generously whenever you yourself are asked. you are going to make it Jenna and come this December and all those that follow - you'll make it. I count myself among those of your tribe - your people. And those who are will see one another through.

eileen hileman

September 28, 2012 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

The darkest hour is the one just before dawn.

September 29, 2012 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Now look you went and did: you went and inspired others :)

September 30, 2012 at 12:09 AM  
Blogger Jane -Clare said...

Dear Writer,

I am praying for you.

Jane

July 17, 2014 at 2:20 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home