Saturday, November 3, 2012

Howl If You Have To

The heating oil company called the other day and the man on the line sounded concerned. It was a voice I knew well, from my first winter at the farm. It was the blizzard season of 2010 when every week seemed to dump snow and below zero temperatures. Back then the farmhouse was going through a hundred gallons of heating oil a month (to keep the place at 55 degrees!) and if that monthly visit wasn't enough—there were repairs. The company replaced bad valves, installed a new ventilation system to stop a C02 leak, and knew my house so well they let themselves in the back door. That year was the first year I ever sent a Christmas card to an oil company. We were tight.

And that was why the voice on the line seemed worried. He told me he had a truck going up my mountain road to deliver oil to a neighbor and did I need oil, because the last hundred gallons I ordered was in June. The last order before that, October 2011. In the past year I had gone from a hundred gallons a month to less than 200. I told him to deliver the oil because I was down to a quarter tank and I needed it for my hot water boiler. He asked if I got a woodstove. I told him I had and it was working like gangbusters.

When I got off the phone with that man the first thing I felt was this smug pride, like I was cheating the Foreign Oil System by reverting to wood heat. But then I started to reconsider my hubris. While I d think wood heat is a more sustainable solution, it's not the greenwashing that sold me of wood. It was that return to a system I could manage. I own trees, an axe, a horse and a harness. I can go out onto my land and fell a tree, drag it in sections to my chopping area with Merlin, and season it to put into my stoves to heat my home. It's all here. It's comforting as hell and it's something else even better than that:

It's Primal.

I love, and I can't emphasize this enough, I love that homesteading has brought me back into more primal living. I love knowing if I'm not out there with an axe and a pile of wood I will not be warm. There isn't enough oil to keep this house at stove temperatures. Warmth means work, basic, hard work. It means splitting and making kindling and getting up in the black of the morning and making a fire. I love that when the fire is lit I can go out and feed livestock that feeds me. I love that even in a hurricane there was a pile of warm eggs in the highest hay bale in the barn. There's no wizard behind the curtain here, no switches or buttons. Instead of working for someone else for money so I can then go buy heat and food—I have found a way to barter and grow most of it. I am a long way from being 100% off the grid and out of debt but I am aiming for that, and working towards that, and like a fat girl in the gym sometimes just putting on the spandex is half the battle. It's the intention that gets you to the effort.

I'm a hunter now. I heat with wood. I can ride a horse to town. I own a horse cart. I have a bow and broadhead arrows. I have a stack of wood. I have stoves. I have a little bit of land on a mountain the bank hasn't kicked me off of yet. It's a start. And if it means bunching up the muscles in my collar bone and howling to keep it, I will. I like living a primal life here. I like knowing the lamb and the mutton blood. I like stalking, and singing, and chopping firewood and grabbing reins. I am where I belong and in this short gift of life I have learned some dance steps.

Watch out for the girl you'll meet in June. She's already got her hackles up.

22 Comments:

Blogger daisy said...

What a great feeling to know that you are supporting yourself in so many ways in every physical sense, and supporting so many of us reading you, in the spiritual sense. You've got it goin' on, farmer... ;0)

November 3, 2012 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

Self sufficiency is something the entire world needs to re-learn. Not just knowing how to build a fire but recognizing that in doing so(as you describe)a person is freeing themselves from dependency. Learning to grow one's own food, raise livestock, bees, harvest trees for heat, insures that regardless of what tomorrow brings - you are prepared. My parents grew up during the depression and if they hadn't been able to raise their own food, milk their cow and raise their pigs its quite likely they would have starved. Relearning the old adage of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" would stand most of us in good stead. Knowing how to make your own bread, sew your own clothes, raise your own food are life skills that most people today don't have a clue about. Yet those very skills can keep you clothed and fed no matter the state of things elsewhere. So Jenna, if tomorrow there were no more oil you could still heat your house for warmth, heat water for bathing. feed yourself from food you've either grown or butchered. Thats what I'd call a well lived life.

November 3, 2012 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

Amazing. I will see you in June. ;)

November 3, 2012 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Wayne Jones said...

I really enjoyed your post. More than the post its self I enjoyed the attitude of self dependence behind it. I hope to read and enjoy more.

November 3, 2012 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger crazymimi said...

You can tell in your writing, as well you should be, you are so proud of your hard work and accomplishments and we are also just as proud of you as you are. I am sure that I could not by any means do what you are doing but I have loved every minute that I have been able to enjoy the life that you live through your blog. Hearing of your confidence with every step you take forward and the bond that you and every animal you have on your farm share is totally awesome!

November 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM  
OpenID ditchthegrid.org said...

FAN-tastic post, Jenna! I'm getting ready to throw caution to the wind and move to a remote freehold at the end of the year. Might be crazy moving that far out in the dead of winter... but the place has a wood stove, and I have oil lanterns. I'm set!

November 3, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

It's a great feeling to be at least a little free from the grip of Big Oil, I know. And there is a lot of satisfaction in burning wood fron your own land that tou felled, cut, and split. Although I confess to owning a chanisaw and log splitter, but no axe. The next step you might want to consider, when time and finances permit, is an "energy audit" of your home to see what you can do to improve. Often times upgraded windows and well placed insulation can make a huge impact on the energy you burn.

All in all, I have to say you rock, Jenna! Keep up the great work.

November 3, 2012 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Kpatt said...

Rock on! At my hunting camp in northern Michigan getting the place ready for deer season....You are ahead of the curve. The post industrial world will catch up....its about taking care of yourself.

November 3, 2012 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Kpatt said...

Rock on! At my hunting camp in northern Michigan getting the place ready for deer season....You are ahead of the curve. The post industrial world will catch up....its about taking care of yourself.

November 3, 2012 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Kpatt said...

Rock on! At my hunting camp in northern Michigan getting the place ready for deer season....You are ahead of the curve. The post industrial world will catch up....its about taking care of yourself.

November 3, 2012 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Ab said...

Is something specific going to happen in June?

November 3, 2012 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Ab said...

Is something specific going to happen in June?

November 3, 2012 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Kpatt said...

Rock on! At my hunting camp in northern Michigan getting the place ready for deer season.
You are ahead of the curve. The post industrial world will eventually catch up. Primal is about independence. It's about taking care of yourself.

November 3, 2012 at 11:14 PM  
Blogger Kpatt said...

Rock on! At my hunting camp in northern Michigan, getting the place ready for deer season. Cutting wood tomorrow. You're ahead of the curve.
Primal is about independence. It's about having the land, tools and skills to take care of yourself. It's about not being a slave to the system of trading your life for tokens to buy buy buy....You're doing great.

November 3, 2012 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Working Mom Homestead said...

Well said :)

November 3, 2012 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

It's good that there are people out there relearning the basics of self sufficiency. A time may be coming when more people will wish they had.

And there's nothing better than the warmth of a wood stove and a meal you grew/raised yourself!

November 4, 2012 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Love it! I'm feeling fire in my blood as we make our way. It's different, urban but no less satisfying to pay our bills with money we MADE. Not money we earned from someone else but money we cooked up in a kettle.

So we howl and turn and walk back into our den where we can snuggle down and know that we have today because we made it.

November 4, 2012 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Tana Mc said...

I had almost this same experience a week ago! I was budgeting and trying to figure out how to work in buying propane. We heat with wood but we have company coming for Thanksgiving who will not be confortable with our farming lifestyle as it is but if the house temperature is at its normal cool temp, they will be miserable. I bought the last tank full last November. I went out to check the gauge and found that the tank is still 40% full!! We only use it to cook with.

November 4, 2012 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger spike said...

We put in a wood furnace this year. It is exciting for us. The furnace was a good solution for our family because we already have the duct work and small children. It is in our basement and we only have to load it twice a day. It's brilliant! My toes are warm because it is downstairs but the heat blowing through our duct system is even warmer than before. Our property is 40 acres with 32 of it being hard wood forest. Whenever we hear an old tree fall...we pull it down the ridge and chop it up. I used to loathe paying our gas bills in the winter. Looking forward to toasty, less frustrating winter this year.

November 5, 2012 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Yes, yes, and once again, yes.

November 5, 2012 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Great feeling to be independent of dependency on utilities, isn't it? Spent the weekend caulking and plugging holes before I insulate my farm's lean-to. Even the 30 tubes of caulk, 3 cans of Great Stuff, and 3 bags of insulation did not equal 1 month of previous utility bills. Good to know CAF and other readers are well on the path to self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
Holly in Illinois

November 5, 2012 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Bee Girl said...

I can't tel you how perfect this post is! Someday...someday I hope to be right where you are! Congrats on all you've learned and all you've done! Cheers!

November 6, 2012 at 7:28 AM  

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