Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What's a Homestead Supposed to Look Like?

What's a homestead supposed to look like? Is it supposed to be tidy and orderly like a theme park magazine shoot? Is it supposed to be devoid of any name brands and plastic? Should an L.L. Bean model be able to stand anywhere and create a cover shot? I guess it's up to the homesteaders who live there. My life is full and messy, and I think it is reflected in the farm. You will see constant attempts at order feverishly surrounding piles of crap. If you walk into my house I try to keep it tidy, but you walk outside and pieces of old toys from 30 years ago are sticking out of the mud, chicken poo lines the walkway steps, and random tools and feed bags litter like tumbleweeds. There are things being built, broken down, collecting dust and cutting open hands and thighs. I do my best to keep up with it, I really do. But most of the time this place looks like a scrappy farm on a mountain, and let's be honest, that is exactly what it is.

This is what the side of my house looks like. A woodpile that shares space with a clothesline outside the rain. A rain barrel collecting runoff for the livestock. A bag of feed set aside from a downpour. Strands of baling twine, axes set where they were last used, and an old boot from Idaho full of turkey feathers from a death weeks ago. Later today I'll go out there any clean things up. You can bet your bottom dollar it will look just like this again in a week. Farms inhale and exhale messes. You can only clean up those moments when you hold your breath!

And speaking of a lack of perfection! I got some emails and comments from folks about spelling mistakes and grammar on the blog. These were (mostly) kind letters and in good nature. I appreciate anyone who writes me with suggestions, taking time out of their lives to help. But I would just like to explain that the blog isn't a book, a periodical, or an online piece of journalism. Just like my woodpile, it isn't polished and dressed up. It is a living diary. Think of mistakes as little messes of literary baling twine and feathers of impulse. I try to be mindful, but there's no editor on staff here at the farm and I would hate to have one. I love being about to snap a photo, come into my office, write off the cuff and hit publish. The blog It will always display mistakes both in writing and in life. Stick around long enough and you'll see plenty of both. But you'll also see a woman just trying to make a creative, meaningful, life. That is the real point of all this. It just gets delivered as muddy as I am at times.

32 Comments:

Blogger NANCY LEWIS said...

If you had not already written a book, then people would probably not be as hard on you about spelling and grammar. So now you have to keep up your cred as a writer if you are going to post publicly. Sorry, this is the school ma'rm in me who also finds great beauty in punctuation and spelling...

December 11, 2012 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I grew up on a ten acre farm here in Washington state. That photo could have been taken 20 years ago on our property. I have no desire to live that life now but I still garden and can as a 30 something soccer mom. I love reading your blog. I enjoy your clear love of the life you have chosen. Thanks for sharing it!

December 11, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I grew up on a ten acre farm here in Washington state. That photo could have been taken 20 years ago on our property. I have no desire to live that life now but I still garden and can as a 30 something soccer mom. I love reading your blog. I enjoy your clear love of the life you have chosen. Thanks for sharing it!

December 11, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger janamama said...

You GO, gurl!

December 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger janamama said...

You GO, gurl!

December 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I grew up on a ten acre farm here in Washington state. That photo could have been taken 20 years ago on our property. I have no desire to live that life now but I still garden and can as a 30 something soccer mom. I love reading your blog. I enjoy your clear love of the life you have chosen. Thanks for sharing it!

December 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

Jenna your blog is perfect as it is. You inspire people to change their lives, rethink how they live,and live and breathe creatively. If people are spending their time sending you helpful messages on correcting your spelling or grammar mistakes - they have too much time on their hands and need to get busy with their own lives. Your blog is a gift - the gift of sharing your life with us (the public). You and your farm are perfect just as is because this is where you are supposed to be and you are doing what you are supposed to do. I think most of us - given all you do- are amazed that you find the time to write the blog. You Jenna and the CAF that you created are the gift to all of us. For those spelling and grammar fanatics among us - get busy and do something fruitful with your extra time.

December 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Sometimes I worry that you worry too much about what the blog and farm look like to an outsider. I think at this point you've built such a community here of people who "get" you and the farm and the homesteading life. We know that life is not a photo shoot. I love that you share the messy parts of the farm in addition to the lovely. Try to relax and trust that.

December 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Also - it's the same as what Elizabeth said the other day, "You get what you get." When I want a perfectly styled farm, I'll go read Martha Stewart. I don't most of the time - I want Cold Antler, :)

December 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

A writer I am, an editor I am not! The books come out great with no mistakes because a trained professional that isn't me spends 3 months doing just that. I don't think grammar makes a writer, passion does. I could post one perfect post a week or 20 imperfect ones.

There is beauty in perfect spelling and punctuation. But this isn't the place to get it!

December 11, 2012 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Picking up a farm sounds comparable to picking up after kids-nothing stays clean for long! And, for the record, I love your blog, as is!

December 11, 2012 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Who cares about the spelling or flow. I always see your blog as a letter from a dear friend, written in the moment. And I cherish it for the "realness" of the interaction.
Keep on being you!
And writing from the heart:)

December 11, 2012 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger polly said...

hurrah!

December 11, 2012 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger polly said...

hurrah!

December 11, 2012 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger polly said...

hurrah!

December 11, 2012 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

our farm is a mess too. I am hosting a family week next summer and am trying to prepare them for what they will encounter, but still, I know some will be disappointed, others will be OK with it. you know that pink stuff in The Cat in the Hat, well that's what happens with stuff around here, it just goes from one pile into another. then farm friends come over and take some and we invade their piles and take some and so it goes. piles of crap moving around Washington County from one farm to another. so we'll never make the cover of Country Living, but we're all OK with that.

December 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

Stacey: do you know that M. Stewart has WHITE painted walls in her horse/donk barn and they are washed daily? When I read that and looked at the pics I thought how very sad that so much wasted energy is going into cleaning a barn but one thing about being in America, you can live the way you want and call it what you want and somewhere out there you will find your audience. personally I have found comfort in associating with the down and dirty farm folks out here. none of us have had to serve prison time by doing things the way we do and I think that counts for something.

December 11, 2012 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Perfect editing (in writing, life, etc.) is the antithesis of spontaneity ;) I love that you share the less-than-perfect bits!
-Jaime

December 11, 2012 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

Thats what farms look like and I think its beatiful like a snap shot in time of what was happening at a certain time in space. Even our small vegie farm out of the backyard looks like that a tool here a bag of fertilizer here half and old zucchini that I must have cut up to feed to the chickens, old seed trays everywhere! Dont stress the small stuff!

December 11, 2012 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Jenna, you have just defined Life in General: "constant attempts at order feverishly surrounding piles of crap." That goes for all of us, not just homesteaders. And Eileen is absolutely right; your blog is perfect as it is. All I want for Christmas is 20 passionate, "imperfect" blog posts from passionate you.

December 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

If I wanted picture perfect and over edited copy I would read a Martha S. blog or mag. We like u because u write from the heart and live on a working farm. I have been to your farm, it's not as messy as you make it sound. I have seen way worse. You live a life that many of us readers envy, be proud!

December 11, 2012 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Alicia-Marie said...

Some words of wisdom from my grandmother: "You are perfectly imperfect." I have found that some people focus too much on the details behind the details. You are you. That is what matters.

December 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

i laughed a LOT at this - i'm so glad you wrote it! yes our farm is messy too but i know where everything is...even if that shovel doesnt belong out there laying in the yard. i still can find it. and get get a lot of "helpful" grammar corrections too - folks dont know that i do most of my writing at about 5am. there's no grammar or spelling at that hour. just coffee. and sometimes bitterness. dont defend yourself, Jenna. just be.

December 11, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger time4trees.mb said...

I am an editor for a living and can't help but notice the occasional errors. I do, however, love your blog just the way it is. No corrections necessary. :)

December 11, 2012 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Paul Molnar said...

It appears Blogger may have eaten my first comment (I got an error page) but I shall give you the Cliff Notes version - "Ignore the nit picky buggers and keep writin!

December 11, 2012 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Well, all I can say is, I am so glad I read this. Now I don't feel so bad about the shape of my poor little messy farm these days. Or any days, actually. It is a farm and it is full of animals and humans, doing animal and human thisngs that don't always get cleaned up when they should. Our new wood shed is on the driveway with lots of wood chips and various implements scattered about. Lots of animal stuff strewn about as well. And lots of animals all over. Life happens. So don't ever think you have to clean up for us. Because if you ever came here, you'd think you were at home. And that's how I want folks to feel when they come here.

December 11, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger R'Eisen Shine Farm said...

I actually just looked around at the farm and the disarray and shook my head because though I'm constantly trying to mitigate the mess, mud and overall madness- it's somewhat of a losing battle. farming is dirt. and that dirt follows us around claiming it's little place in the world- mostly where i could of sworn i just cleaned...

December 11, 2012 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Carol G said...

Toys in the mud are historical evidence of stories. Errors in writing are evidence that you love to write more than you love to sleep. If you weren't tired, your brain would pick up on the errors a little better! I like your blog as is.

December 11, 2012 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Big Sky Chicken Ranch and Victory Garden said...

I dunno, that picture looks pretty darn tidy to me! When folks come to my place I just explain: it's a "WORKING FARM" and we also LIVE here.

December 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Noël McNeil said...

I loved this! Sometimes I wonder what my friends think when they come to visit me. Farms aren't as neatly kept as many suburban homes and aren't supposed to be. We have way to many things to tend to to be able to have all our things in perfect order. Cheers to you for keeping it real!

December 12, 2012 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger Rural Revival said...

I'll take chicken poop lined walkways over suburb perfection any day.

December 12, 2012 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Ever seen an Amish clothes line? It is on a heavy duty pully such as sold by Lehman's, my favorite non-electric place to shop. They run the line from the house or pole up to the silo, building, ect. They also use, as I do, a regular line in the yard between two T posts. Metal does not rot and lasts at least two generations. Our posts have 4 lines, plenty of room. In the summer, hanging baskets can be hung from the cross piece of the post. And hanging clothes can be attractive. Maybe hunky Brett can help you with the line? If you are worried about being too scrappy.

December 12, 2012 at 9:59 AM  

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